With another D-backs loss, NL West tightens

Gibson says D-backs must adjust after another loss to Padres opens up NL West race.

SAN DIEGO -- It has been awhile since the National League West had an all-hands pennant race, and halfway into June is not the time to call one. But things are tightening up a bit.

The Padres pulled with three games of the NL West lead with a 6-4 victory over the first-place Diamondbacks on Saturday -- and San Diego is still in fourth, also behind San Francisco and Colorado. The Padres have won five in a row, and now four teams are within a good week of first place.

Not that it is troublesome to the current leaders.

"You sign up for that," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

Willie Bloomquist echoed that sentiment, saying, "We knew coming into it it is anybody’s ballgame. We knew that day one of spring, and it still stands."

After Miguel Montero hit a two-run home run off Padres right-hander Jason Marquis to give the Diamondbacks a 2-0 lead in the first inning and Wade Miley threw three hitless innings, the D-backs appeared to be on the right track.

But Miley could not stop the bleeding after a fielding error by shortstop Didi Gregorius early in the Padres’ five-run fourth inning, an inning capped by Yasmani Grandal’s three-run, 442-foot home run, and the D-backs had only two more hits against Marquis before scoring one run off closer Huston Street in the ninth.

So Ian Kennedy will take the mound against Clayton Richard in an attempt to avoid a sweep Sunday as the D-backs look to find a way to get their bats going against a pitching staff that has shut them down with off-speed stuff the first two games.

Gibson was not as troubled by the losses as the way they happened. Like left-hander Eric Stults in his complete game Friday, Marquis used his changeup to keep the Diamondbacks off-balance. The D-backs have nine hits in the series, with Montero’s homer and two doubles by Gerardo Parra their only extra-base hits.

"We have to play a better game tomorrow," Gibson said. "We have to make some adjustments. People just keep doing the same thing to you and you just keep acting like you don’t know what is going on there -- that’s bad.

"After they stung us with five runs, I didn’t like our at-bats at all. We should rebound better than that. A lot of off-speed stuff. You have to be better than that. They came in with a game plan and stuck with it last night and today."

The slight speed bump at the plate could be seen as part of the ebb and flow of the season, one that with the emphasis on divisional play always has the potential to go down to the wire. Even though the D-backs have not been healthy all year, they have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Giants and Rockies. They have 11 games left against San Diego, 10 against San Francisco and nine against Colorado, not to mention 10 against L.A.

The last time this much uncertainty ruled the NL West was in 2007, when the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres played it down to the final weekend. Arizona clinched the division title when Brandon Webb beat Colorado on the final Friday of the regular season in Denver, and the Rockies beat the Padres in a one-game playoff for the wild-card berth after San Diego lost its final two regular-season games and Colorado won its final two.

The division was so strong that the D-backs and Rockies both made the NLCS, which Colorado won before losing to Boston in the World Series.

The Diamondbacks could use Miley to return to his 2012 form to make a push like that, or like the one they made in winning the division by eight games in 2011. After winning 16 games and finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, Miley has not found that same consistency this year. He has lost five of his last seven outings and has given up 35 earned runs in his last 53 1/3 innings, a 5.91 ERA.

Chase Headley had an RBI single and Logan Forsythe a sacrifice fly on high changeups for the first two runs in the Padres’ fourth before Grandal hit a hanging slider into the second deck of the left-field seats to give the Padres a 5-3 lead. It was the first homer of the year for Grandal, who missed the first 50 games while serving a suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy.

Kyle Blanks added a line-drive homer down the left-field line in the sixth for a 6-3 lead, the 11th homer off Miley in 83 1/3 innings this year. He gave up 14 homers in 194 2/3 innings last season.

"He was throwing the ball good," Montero said of Miley's early performance. "When things go wrong, they go wrong. He just had probably a couple of bad pitches, and he got hit."

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