PHOENIX — Miguel Montero summed up Saturday succinctly.
“It was a bad beat,” he said.
The Diamondbacks played a game quite unlike themselves at Chase Field on Saturday, a 6-5 loss to the NL East-leading Nationals in which they could not hold a 4-1 lead behind their best pitcher and top NL Rookie of the Year candidate Wade Miley.
The D-backs self-destructed in the fifth inning, when the Nationals scored five runs, two unearned, for a 6-4 lead that stood up. Miley gave up four hits and threw a wild pitch in the fifth, and the defense behind him committed two errors and left second base uncovered twice.
“You make it hard on yourself like that,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “We scored five runs. You keep giving runs away, now you have to score six. We just played poorly.”
Aaron Hill hit his 14th home run, Chris Johnson got his 18th RBI in 12 games on a sacrifice fly, and Montero tripled in a run and scored another as the D-backs scored four runs in the first three innings to put the Nationals’ seven-game winning streak in jeopardy. All that changed in the fifth.
“It got away big-time,” Montero said. “It was a mess. You just have to move on and come back tomorrow and try to play better.”
The D-backs (57-57) lost for the sixth time in eight games and dropped to .500 for the first time since the Mets’ R.A. Dickey beat them to close out a 10-game homestand July 29. They will finish this short three-game homestand Sunday before a six-game road trip to St. Louis and Houston.
The D-backs had their chances in the late innings after closing to within one run on Ryan Wheeler’s two-out, pinch-hit double to drive in Gerard Parra in the sixth inning.
Aaron Hill led off the seventh with a double to deep center field, but he did not move as two Nationals relievers got a strikeout and two groundouts. Mike Gonzalez then walked two of first three D-backs he faced in the eighth but retired the next two batters on a fly ball and a strikeout, escaping an inning in which 16 of the 23 pitches he threw were balls.
The D-backs were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings, 2 for 12 in the game. Montero’s run-scoring triple and Stephen Drew’s single in the two-run fourth were their only hits in those situations.
“To play as poorly as we did, it hurts that much more,” Gibson said. “We’re capable of much better.”
Washington’s fifth inning started harmlessly enough, as Steve Lombardozzi beat out a bunt single and was sacrificed to second by Edwin Jackson (7-7).
But things got out of control quickly. Jayson Werth doubled in Lombardozzi with one out, and Danny Espinosa reached when Chris Johnson could not handle his chopper between third base and shortstop for an error. The ball caromed into short left-center field, and when both shortstop Stephen Drew and second baseman Aaron Hill chased after it, Espinosa alertly ran to second. Ryan Zimmerman’s single to left drove in Werth and Espinosa to tie the score at 4-all.
Zimmerman took second on a short wild pitch and third when catcher Miguel Montero threw the ball into center field trying to get Zimmerman at second. Mike Morse doubled in the go-ahead run, and Miley was removed after he walked Adam LaRoche.
Jesus Flores singled to center off Brad Bergesen to drive in Morse. LaRoche was about halfway to third after Flores’ hit, but he managed to scramble back to second when the bag was uncovered. That mix-up did not hurt, fortunately, as Bergesen got the next batter to pop up to end the inning.
“We made mistakes there. After that we shut them down and tried to claw back. It’s frustrating,” Gibson said.
Miley (12-8) leads National League rookies in victories and strikeouts, but he said he did not have his best location.
“It’s very frustrating. The team gets you four runs early, and it’s on me. You get four runs. You’re job is to hold the lead, and I didn’t do it,” said Miley, who gave up nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.
“I wasn’t executing pitches. I was staying middle” of the plate. “It got ugly. It was like a merry-go-round out there. I wasn’t commanding the ball at all. I was getting away with some stuff early. A team like that, they hit fastballs. You can’t throw fastballs down the middle and expect to get away with it.”
Miley did not use the sloppy defense as an excuse.