D-backs end road-heavy stretch on down note

SAN DIEGO — The Diamondbacks finished the most road-heavy portion of their 2013 schedule with the unshakeable impression that you cannot fight city hall. Two days after the D-backs thought too much was made of their part in a brawl in Los Angeles, they believed a critical call was overlooked in a 4-1 loss to the Padres on Sunday.

David Hernandez was certain he threw an inning-ending third strike to Chase Headley with two outs and a runner on base in the eighth, and the TV replays indicated his fastball caught the lower inside corner. Home plate umpire Dale Scott disagreed, however, and four pitches after Headley walked to first, Kyle Blanks hit a hanging curveball into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.

“It was a strike,” Hernandez said. “There was no question on that one, but what can you really do? Get upset? That doesn’t help anything. You just have to move forward after that. I made some good pitches to Blanks. I just left a curveball right in his bat path. If I bury that pitch, he is going to swing over the top of it.

“As a reliever, you have to erase the pitch before and erase the outing before.”

It was a difficult way to end a 17-game stretch that included only three home games around trips to the Midwest and the West Coast, although there were plenty of reasons to believe.

The D-backs (37-32) split the first 14 games and defined themselves in the 2011 mold with six comeback victories, including two in Chicago against the Cubs, one in St. Louis and two more against the Dodgers. They followed the Tuesday brawl and loss in that game with a 14-inning comeback win Wednesday. 

The Diamondbacks had only six runs and 17 hits in three games at Petco Park and uncharacteristically lost leads — one run, three runs and one run — in each game as the Padres stretched their winning streak to six games and closed within two games of the D-backs in the tight NL West.

“We have to redeem ourselves, restore the way we play the game. We got a little away from that,” manager Kirk Gibson said.

If they were jet-lagged or otherwise out of sorts from the trip that started with a rainout in Texas on May 29 and included a brief stop at home for three games against San Francisco last weekend, they refused to use that as a reason for the sweep.

“We’ve had a lot of stuff happen to us on this trip. It’s a series that is going to sting, but we have to put it behind us,” said Willie Bloomquist, who had three of the D-backs’ hits in the series.

“We’ve played well on the road all year long. This series was just a simple case of two teams that played each other tough and they came out on top. I don’t look at it any more than that. Both teams played tough. Both teams played hard. The just got the timely hits. Our offense will get going. I’m not too worried about our offense getting going. We hit balls right at guys.”

Ian Kennedy had the D-backs’ only RBI off Padres starter Clayton Richard, lining a single past Richard with one out in the third inning after Cliff Pennington doubled and stole third.

Kennedy pitched as if his looming 10-game suspension was the furthest thing from his mind. He has never had much trouble with the Padres, and that was the case again Sunday.

Kennedy gave up a leadoff home run to Will Venable in the third inning and not much else, striking out six in six innings in what could be his last start before Major League Baseball hears his appeal. Kennedy is hopeful that his 10-game suspension will be reduced, and there is reason to believe it could be. In the meantime, he lowered his career ERA against San Diego to 2.98 in 13 career starts while remaining 7-2 because of the no-decision.

“It (the suspension) is out of my hands. I just kind of want to put it behind me and go out and pitch,” Kennedy said. “I felt good throwing the ball. They a tough team. They foul balls off. They have long at-bats.”

Kennedy had two of his best outings of the year on the last two legs of the trip, giving up two runs in Los Angeles before being ejected in the seventh inning Tuesday and just one run Sunday. The 10 runs he allowed in St. Louis on June 6 will keep his ERA high for a while (it is 5.21), but he believes he is making progress.

“We always come back to the execution part. I’ve been executing (pitches) a lot more early in counts, and my off-speed is a lot better,” he said.

Gibson was happy with what he saw from Kennedy, but not so much with the result.

“That’s the Ian Kennedy that we need. We had good enough starting pitching to win the series, but we didn’t do it. We have to move on.”

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