PHOENIX (AP) — The Diamondbacks are confident their offense is going to come around. They’re just hoping it happens before they fall any further in the NL West.
Rookie Junior Lake hit his first major league homer and drove in three runs Monday night to power the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the D-backs and make a winner of Chris Rusin, who was filling in following the trade of Matt Garza.
Arizona fell to second place in NL West, a half-game behind surging Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks have lost four of their last five games, scoring nine runs in that span. In the loss Monday night, they managed six hits against six Cubs pitchers.
“Everyone is trying their best, but in this game, you fail more than you succeed,” said shortstop Didi Gregorius, who went 3 for 3 with a walk and run scored. “Look, we’ll come back tomorrow and find a way to get it done.”
The Diamondbacks are hitting .194 in their last 10 games and just .143 with runners in scoring position over their last seven.
“We’ll get over this,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “Right now, things are not going our way, but the guys are hustling.”
Starter Tyler Skaggs (2-2) fell victim to the long ball in the loss.
After catcher Dioner Navarro’s solo blast gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second, Chicago added a pair in the fifth. That’s when Lake slammed a 2-0 pitch into the bleachers in left-center field with Rusin on base.
“Overall, I thought I threw OK, and a few pitches did not hit the location,” Skaggs said. “(Lake) swings the bat well, and I left that home run he hit over the plate. I felt good and, for the most part, got ahead of the hitters.”
Rusin (1-0) was a last-minute substitute for Garza, who was traded Monday to the Rangers for five minor leaguers. Rusin appears to be the Cubs go-to pitcher after a trade. When Scott Feldman was dealt to the Orioles, Rusin stepped in but did not receive a decision in an 8-7 loss to the Athletics.
On Monday, he held the Diamondbacks scoreless until the sixth inning and picked up his first win of the season.
“I wasn’t really pleased with my fastball command, but I guess I was effectively wild,” Rusin said. “The things that got me through the five innings were getting my second pitch for strikes. I was able to throw my off-speed for strikes, which got me back into counts and be able to get weak contact and got me through the five innings.”
Rusin, who was 8-7 at Triple A Iowa, retired the first seven hitters in order. With one out in the third, Gregorius slapped a single to right, but he was stranded when Tyler Skaggs struck out and A.J. Pollock fouled out to the catcher.
Rusin allowed just two base runners through the first five innings, the single by Gregorius and a walk to Cody Ross with one out in the fifth. Ross was doubled up when right fielder Cole Gillespie grabbed Gerado Parra’s sinking liner in right and fired to first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the double play.
Rusin left in the sixth with runners on first and second and no outs. Martin Prado’s sacrifice fly scored Gregorius, and Paul Goldschmidt drove in his 79th run of the season with an infield single up the middle.
The Diamondbacks had several opportunities to score again but couldn’t capitalize.
Pinch hitter Eric Chavez flied to center field with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh with Arizona trailing 3-2, and with two out in the eighth, catcher Miguel Montero struck out with the tying run at third.
Plate umpire Doug Eddings warned both benches in the fourth inning after Skaggs hit Navarro on the right knee. Immediately after Navarro was hit, Eddings pointed directly at Skaggs and then at both dugouts. While Navarro received a visit from Cubs’ trainer P. J. Mainville, Eddings went to the mound and spoke to Skaggs.
NOTES: To make room on the roster for Skaggs, the Diamondbacks sent lefty Eury De La Rosa to Triple-A Reno. … Rusin’s previous appearance against the Diamondbacks was a 7-2 win at Chase Field last Sept. 30. … With a 4-for-5 night, Lake, recalled from Triple-A Iowa last Friday, is now 9 for 17.