For a team which says it remains in contention for a National League Wild Card spot, the Diamondbacks appear to play with little sense of urgency these days and tend to exist on life-support.
In the past five games, the offense has been non-existent and scored but seven runs in this span. Plus, the starting pitchers have won only two games since Aug. 17.
In the latest tale of woe, the D-backs dropped their second straight and four of its last five games in a 4-1 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays before 21,014 Monday afternoon in Chase Field. With the defeat, the Diamondbacks have lost eight of their last 12 games.
Though starter Brandon McCarthy turned in a quality start and his eighth career complete game, the offense was missing-in-action. Managing just one run for the game, the D-backs made Jays’ starter Esmil Rogers and four relievers look like a combined Cy Young.
Coming into the game, Rogers was 3-7, a 5.03 ERA and allowed 25 earned runs in his last five starts.
This time, the native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic held the D-backs scoreless when he was lifted in the seventh inning. At that point, he surrendered only one hit and was an one-out single to Martin Prado in the second. Prado was subsequently wiped out in a double play.
The Diamondbacks managed to score one in the ninth, but Jays’ closer Casey Janssen induced Paul Goldschmidt to ground into a game-ending, double play. Goldschmidt stepped to plate with runners on first and second, and represented to tying run.
“We did not make any adjustments and for a guy that’s struggled like Rogers, you have to wait him out,” said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. "You saw how quickly (Toronto manager John) Gibbons pulled Rogers. You have to grind it out and make it tough on him. We didn’t do that.”
For his part, McCarthy was creditable.
If not for a shaky second inning, McCarthy deserved a better fate. Here, he allowed a one out double to Moises Sierra, who scored on a single from Kevin Pillar and Pillar came across on a triple by Anthony Gose.
Following Gose’s hit, McCarthy allowed only one base runner until the ninth inning. That’s when he hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitched ball with two out in the third. From that point, McCarthy retired 16 straight until the final frame.
In the ninth, Jays’ second baseman Ryan Goins led off the ninth with a single and Encarnacion followed with his 35th home run of the season.
Encarnacion continued his love of hitting in Chase Field. On May 21, 2010, he hit three homers in one game in the stadium, including two off of Dan Haren.
“Thought I did a good job of coming back from that tough second inning,” McCarthy said. “In that stretch where I retired those hitters in a row, my sinker was working. I tried to move it around and had good movement on the pitch.”
The combination of the D-backs’ anemic offense and perhaps Rogers’ best effort of the season continue to hang a dark cloud over the Arizona clubhouse.
“We have not been consistent,” said Goldschmidt after an 0-for-3 and walk afternoon. “We have a win here, a win there but nothing really together for a long stretch. It would be nice to get out early with some runs, but unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with the win.”
A TALE OF TWO EXPECTATIONS
At the start of the season, the Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays appeared on a like track.
Each had exalted dreams for the campaign ahead. As the season winds down, the teams appear on a similar path. While the Diamondbacks cling to life support for any post-season hope, the Jays are buried in the American League East standings.
In realistic terms, neither team will qualify for post-season play, but the course of the season for Toronto has been especially arduous.
Coming into play on Labor Day against the Diamondbacks in Chase Field, Toronto was in fifth place, 19.5 games behind division leader Boston.
That accounts for 13 games under .500 and the Jays could finish with a below .500 season for the second straight year and third time in the last five years.
In the off-season, owner Phil Lind and media giant Rogers Communications opened its checkbook and dished considerable money to right the ship.
The result was as disheartening as it has been demoralizing.
In 2013, the Jays have had one winning month to date, and that was in June (17-9). Otherwise, the money given to shortstop Jose Reyes (6 years, $106 mil), pitcher Mark Buehrle (4 years, $58 mil) and R. A. Dickey (5 years, $37.5 mil) appears to be flushed down the toilet.
In addition for 2013, the Jays are handing $14 million to Jose Bautista (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) and $10 million to Edwin Encarnacion.
“We’ve taken our knocks, no question about it,” said Jays manager John Gibbons before Monday’s game in Chase Field. “Disappointing, frustrating. Injuries hit us but you have to move forward. Right now, we’re playing some guys who will give the organization a look into the future.”
MEETING OLD FRIENDS
With the Blue Jays in town for three games. second baseman Aaron Hill is reunited with his former Toronto teammates.
After spending parts of seven seasons with the Jays, Hill was dealt to the Diamondbacks at the trading deadline two years, and helped Arizona capture the 2011 National League West Division title.
“I stay in touch quite a bit with several guys,” Hill said without naming names. “I had some great years there and it’s fun to see many of those with whom I played. Now, they’re on the other side and I wish them well.”
For his part, Hill is remembered for his contributions to the Toronto organization. At the same time, the need to change scenery also enters into the equation.
“(Hill) was always a very good player and great teammate,” said John Gibbons, the Jays manager before Monday’s game. “Sometimes, you need a new look and fresh start.”
Hill’s best year with the Jays was 2009 when he hit .286, hit 36 home runs and drove in 108 runs. His highest average in Toronto was .291 in 2007.