Ziegler's 'incredible run' ends with messy 9th inning
MAY 14, 2014 8:07p ET
PHOENIX -- All good things must end, or so the saying goes.
Such was the case for Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler on Wednesday, as his streak of scoreless innings came to an ugly end against the Nationals, who rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-1 win and the series from the D-backs.
Ziegler entered the game with a streak of 18 1/3 scoreless innings over 19 games, tied for the second longest such streak in team history. As much as it might have seemed bound to end sometime, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wasn't thinking that way when he made the call to the bullpen Wednesday.
"I thought he was going to get outs," Gibson said. "He's been on an incredible run for us, and he didn't have his location today."
Ziegler entered in the ninth inning looking to hold a 1-1 tie and give the D-backs the chance to win a fourth straight series. Instead, he got just one out and gave up four runs on three hits and two walks.
"I felt like I had decent stuff," Ziegler said. "I just didn't execute my pitches well.
"It's tough for (Brandon McCarthy) and for everybody else. We played hard today."
Ziegler's meltdown cost the D-backs a shot at a win behind a dominant outing from McCarthy. After retiring the first 12 batters he faced, McCarthy finished with one run allowed on two hits over eight innings. His lone mistake came to Washington outfielder Jayson Werth, who homered in the seventh inning.
Taking McCarthy's place on the mound, Ziegler had to battle from the beginning. A 10-pitch at-bat against Denard Span ended with a walk.
"Give credit to Span," Ziegler said. "He fouled a bunch of decent pitches off, waited until I made a mistake and got on base to start the inning. After that, I felt like the pitch to (Anthony) Rendon was a pretty good pitch. Tip your hat because he drove it the other way."
Rendon's double to the right field wall gave the Nationals runners on second and third with no outs. The D-backs opted to intentionally walk Werth in hopes of getting a double play -- a common occurrence with Ziegler on the mound. Instead, Ian Desmond singled home two runs, and Tyler Moore plated a pair two batters later.
Ziegler had not allowed a run since April 4, when he gave up a pair against the Rockies -- his only runs allowed prior to Wednesday's outing. He entered Wednesday's game with a MLB-leading 23 relief appearances, leading to postgame questions of whether he might be fatigued.
"Probably," Gibson said. "We've asked him to do a lot, no doubt about it. That's always the risk. He's had a pretty good run. It's hard not to go to him in that spot."
Wednesday's appearance marked Ziegler's fourth in five days. He denied any fatigue and the possibility it played a role in his outing Wednesday.
"I felt fine," Ziegler said. "My body felt good, arm felt good."
The loss behind McCarthy's stellar start continued the D-backs' season-long trend of struggling to get all facets in sync. It didn't help either that they managed just one run on six hits, five of them against Nationals starter Doug Fister, who took a no decision.
Still, McCarthy's outing, which was the first of his career with two or fewer hits and eight innings, displayed continued improvement from a rotation that was primarily at fault for the team's woeful start. Following Bronson Arroyo's complete game on Tuesday, it gave the D-backs their first back-to-back outings of at least eight innings with no more than one run allowed since July 6-7 of last season.
"I'm happy that we've certainly been better," McCarthy said. "It was rough the first few weeks when we just felt like five outcasts. ... At least now we're contributing again and having some better performances and taking us deeper into games."
But in a starting pitchers' duel like Wednesday's, relief pitching proved the pivot point.
"They had a good pitcher, we had a good pitcher," Gibson said. "Our guy who hasn't given it up gave it up today."
DID YOU NOTICE?
After Nate McClouth reached on an error, stole second and moved over to third to give the Nationals a scoring chance in the sixth inning, Aaron Hill preserved the D-backs' 1-0 lead with a difficult diving stab and toss to first to end the inning. The lead, however, disappeared the next inning on a Jayson Werth home run.
STAT OF THE GAME
4 -- Times outfielder Gerardo Parra has been caught stealing this season after getting picked off in the third inning Wednesday. That stands as second most in the National League.
-- McCarthy's lone mistake came when Werth crushed a high fastball to center field. It was the ninth home run McCarthy has surrendered this season, most on the team lead and second most in the NL.
-- Gibson said despite Thursday's off day, the D-backs will likely keep the starting rotation in turn, meaning Wade Miley, Chase Anderson and Josh Collmenter will start against the Dodgers.
-- General manager Kevin Towers said top prospect Archie Bradley, on the disabled list at Triple-A Reno, could begin throwing again in 4-5 days after being shut down April 29 with an elbow strain. Towers said the D-backs will not rush Bradley and predicted he could be pitching in games again by mid to late June.
The D-backs get a day off Thursday, and they might need it ahead of a three-game series with the Dodgers. The two teams have met eight times already this season, including twice in Australia, with the Dodgers winning seven of those contests.
"I think we'll play them better now," Gibson said. "If you remember last year, it was just the opposite. We beat those guys thoroughly in the first go-arounds, and then it turned around."