D-backs focus on small picture
MAY 28, 2014 2:20a ET
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks have a plan for their recovery. They will take it step by step, one small ascent followed by another.
The D-backs' initial goal is to catch San Diego in the National League West, and while they lost ground with a 4-3 loss to the Padres at Chase Field on Tuesday, players have embraced the idea offered by hitting coach Turner Ward on Monday.
"Turner brought up a good point. We need to play for something, and right now the way it stands, we are playing to catch up to the Padres," third baseman Eric Chavez said.
"Instead of just hoping we play better, a general statement, now we have something to play for: 'Let's go catch San Diego.' I have never really thought of it like that before, but you have to play for something. Hopefully we catch them and then we set a new goal. That's the only way you can overcome the season that we've had."
The D-backs (21-33) rallied from a 3-1 deficit behind a strong performance from Wade Miley to tie the game in the seventh inning. But they left the bases loaded, and Padres first baseman Tommy Medica's solo home run in the eighth was the difference.
Despite the loss, the D-backs have a chance to win the series Wednesday after taking the first game on A.J. Pollock's walk-off homer in the ninth inning Monday. The D-backs are 12-11 since April 30, and a series victory would be the sixth in their last eight series.
Martin Prado had his first homer of the season to give the D-backs a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and he has been driving the ball of late, a good sign. In addition to his homer, which came in his 214th plate appearance this season, Prado was 3 for 7 with a triple and three RBIs when the D-backs took two of three games from the Mets last weekend. He had two hits, including an RBI double, on Monday.
"He's been coming," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's getting a little more comfortable, staying back, swinging the bat more aggressively in certain counts. That's kind of what he did last year. We hope he is on his way."
While the D-backs will not catch the fourth-place Padres (24-29) this series, they can edge closer. It would be a step in the right direction. After being swept by the Dodgers in Australia to open the season, the D-backs have been out of last place only one day this season, after games of April 1.
The D-backs are hardly the only team struggling at this point. Boston and Cleveland, which made the American League playoffs in 2013, are in last place in their division. Boston has 22 victories. So does Cincinnati, which also made the playoffs in 2013 and will begin a four-game series here Thursday.
"You see Boston's situation?" Prado said. "Good teams, they struggle, too. We are a good team. Like everybody else, when you have hard times, you move on and try to work hard and do the little things, do the things you can control, lifting weights, getting ready for 'BP', taking your grounders, basic stuff.
"People start making adjustments. We started turning everything around. There were a lot of people talking. They don't believe. We do. We're professionals. Personally, I like when people tell me that I cannot do things. It just encourages me to work even harder to prove they are wrong. Just hoping from now on to keep the same pace, winning series, to see where we are at the end of the season."
The good month began with good starting pitching, and Miley supplied more of that in striking out a career-high 11 on Tuesday. He pitched backwards at times, using his breaking stuff early in counts before finishing with his fastball, and it worked. He got eight third strikes on his fastball, and seven were looking.
"They are a fastball-hitting team, so we had to throw more off-speed than normal," Miley said. "We'd start guys off off-speed, slow, and almost get them looking soft. That way you can kind of tie them up hard."
The Padres had half of their 10 hits in the third inning, five singles accounting for three runs. Everth Cabrera had a one-out single, and he took second when right fielder Gerardo Parra's throw behind Cabrera skipped past Paul Goldschmidt and could be handled by Miguel Montero. Four singles later, it was 3-1.
"He needs to throw that ball to second base," Gibson said. "He's an emotional player. He's trying to do something good. He has a good arm. That's a hard throw to catch when it is short-hopping the first baseman. We'll talk about that."
DID YOU NOTICE?
Paul Goldschmidt has reached base on catcher's interference three times this season when he did it again to prolong a seventh inning rally Tuesday. Goldschmidt's late swing at an Alex Torres fastball caught catcher Yasmani Grandal on the side of his left hand. Grandal was removed and x-rays were negative, although he is expected to miss a few days.
STAT OF THE GAME
52 percent -- number of outs recorded via strikeout by Wade Miley, the first D-backs' left-hander with 11 since Randy Johnson on Aug. 22, 2008.
* J.J. Putz threw a bullpen session Tuesday, with another tentatively scheduled for Friday. He is likely to need a rehab assignment after missing three weeks already, so he appears several weeks from returning.
* Medica's game-winning home run was the first earned run D-backs reliever Evan Marshall has given up in his nine major league appearances since being recalled from Class AAA Reno three weeks ago. The ball landed in the first row of the left field seats on a night the rood was open. Curt Schilling would have hated that. "I took a little advantage of the Arizona air," Medica said.
* Mark Trumbo is scheduled to hit in the cages Wednesday, a first since going on the disabled list April 24 with a stress fracture that was expected to sideline him for 6-to-8 weeks.
A.J. Pollock has hit leadoff the last three games, not quite a trend but not far off. Two were against right-handers before the D-backs faced left-hander Eric Stults last night. "He's shown more power," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Also gets on base. He can steal a base for you. You know he is going to settle up there (in the lineup) somewhere at some point in his career. We're getting to that point." Pollock drew two walks in five plate appearances after getting three hits, including his walk-off homer, from that spot Monday.