PHOENIX –- When the Diamondbacks beat Eric Stults in San Diego on June 3, Gerardo Parra let an elderly woman sitting in the front row of Petco Park touch his bat to bring him luck. He homered for the final two runs in a 6-0 victory. Nothing approached that level of good fortune Friday.
Needing to mount a good run to get back into the NL West race, the D-backs managed only three singles in seven innings off Stults in a 5-0 loss at Chase Field, failing to build off a doubleheader sweep against Miami on Wednesday.
Parra’s was one of three homers off Stults on June 3, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero also chipping in, but Stults had the upper hand in the rematch. The D-backs got only one runner to third base, and to make it worse, Stults also drove in three runs, all with two outs.
“We beat him up pretty good last time. He made some adjustments. Just better location. He threw all his pitches where he wanted to. He had us out front. We really didn’t hit too many balls hard,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
Only one team has faced more left-handers than the D-backs this season, and they are 25-21 against them, among their conquests being Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Mark Buehrle. Yet soft-tossing lefties have been a problem at times, and Friday was one of those times.
“He stayed off the barrel. He mixed his pitches up well. When we did it the ball hard, it wasn’t finding any holes. You could say good defense. Good positioning by them. Good shifts,” said Chris Young, who had two of the D-backs’ four hits.
“He was able to throw strikes with his breaking ball early in the count, stay off the barrel with his cutter. Next thing you know, it was quick inning after quick inning. You’d like to find a way to make the adjustment.”
Young’s leadoff single in the first inning was one of the hardest balls hit off Stults (4-2). Young lined a ball off third baseman Chase Headley’s glove (and wrist) and stole second with one out, but he did not advance.
By the time the D-backs got their next hit in the fifth inning, San Diego had four runs and nine hits off left-hander Patrick Corbin.
Chris Johnson and Gerardo Parra singled to open the fifth, but the D-backs only got a runner as far as third, even though they were given a extra out when third baseman Chase Headley turned a potential double play grounder into a forceout when he ran after Johnson between second and third instead of either tagging the bag and throwing to first or immediately throwing to second.
The D-backs (64-62) lost a game to NL West leaders San Francisco and Los Angeles and St. Louis, which is leads in the second wild card chase. The D-backs are seven games behind the Giants and 5 ½ behind the Cardinals.
“We can still keep it going. This is one loss, but we can still win the series. I wouldn’t say the momentum was gone because one game is lost. You kind of take it series to series,” Young said.
The D-backs entered the series with an 8 ½-game lead over San Diego in the division, but that number was deceiving given current form. The Padres are 37-29 since June 9, and only the Giants (37-28) have a better record within the division since. The D-backs are 34-32. It is the fifth time in sixth series that the D-backs have lost the first game, putting them in catchup mode too often.
Corbin threw 70 pitches while giving up nine hits in four innings, the first time he has struggled since rejoining the starting rotation Aug. 1, when the D-backs turned down trade offers to build from within. It is the game thing they are doing with Tyler Skaggs.
Corbin had the most trouble with Stults, who had a two-run single in the second inning and a run-scoring double in the fourth, both on fastballs that caught too much of the plate. Stults’ single to short center field with the bases loaded in the second inning came after Corbin walked Everth Cabrera with two outs.
“The two fastballs I left up. Didn’t really locate. As a pitcher, you’re just going up there trying to put the bat on the ball and drove in some runs. That’s not something I want to do is go out there and let up to a pitcher,” Corbin said.
Corbin was looking for a swing-and-miss on a 3-2 breaking ball to Cabrera, who took the pitch to set up Stults’ single.
“Just frustrating. Didn’t have my best stuff today, and paid for it,” Corbin said.