D-backs’ momentum stalls with walk-off loss

LOS ANGELES — The Diamondbacks were this close to finishing their mission here Sunday, which made the ending all the more frustrating.

Two outs from taking three of four games from Los Angeles as a momentum-building run-up to a series in San Francisco, the D-backs’ stinging walk-off loss cluttered their path to a possible postseason berth that much more.

“This one here stings,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said simply. “Big, big loss for us. We have to pick up the pieces and move on.”

Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run double into the right-field corner with one out in the ninth inning gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-4 victory, the first time closer J.J. Putz had failed to nail down a save since May 22, when the Dodgers scored two runs in the ninth inning of an 8-7 victory at Chase Field.

Most of the Dodgers’ names have changed since then, including Gonzalez, who was acquired from Boston two weeks ago and likely will be a fixture for the suddenly flush Dodgers, who finally have some cash to spend after several years as a sleeping giant. Putz had not been scored on in his previous 24 outings, which tied a franchise record.

“It wasn’t long enough,” Putz said of his lengthy run.

“Got ahead of Adrian right there and tried to elevate to get him to chase. I just didn’t get it up.”

The D-backs (66-69) finished with a split in a series they entered believing they had to win, and they trail the Giants by 10 1/2 games in the NL West as they enter a three-game series against at AT&T Park on Monday afternoon.

The D-backs have nine more games remaining against the Giants, which gives them plenty of opportunity to make up ground. At the same time, their better chance at the postseason is as a wild card. The D-backs are 8 ½ games behind the Braves and 6 ½ games behind the Cardinals, the two wild-card leaders with a month left in the season. The two wild cards meet in a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing.

“There’s no sense sugarcoating things,” D-backs shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. “We’ve got ourselves in this situation where we are going to have to play better than we’ve played all year long at any point in time. It can be done. We have guys in here who certainly are capable of doing it.

“But we’re also realists in the fact we are going to have to play near perfect coming down the stretch, especially with a big emphasis on these (Dodgers) guys and the Giants. We can somewhat control our own destiny when we play the Giants.”

The math remains on their side, but it is more of a shadow ally at this point.

“You can only look at the math so long before you look at reality and the fact that we have to go, and we have to go now,” Bloomquist said. “It really needs to be a sense of urgency. We can’t be eight out with nine to go and say we have a mathematical chance. That’s ridiculous.”
The D-backs received another strong start from NL Rookie of the Year candidate Wade Miley, who gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Setup men Brad Ziegler and David Hernandez shut the Dodgers down to keep the D-backs ahead 4-3 entering the ninth.

While the D-backs gave up only 10 runs in the four-game series, their offense scored only 11. Miguel Montero had a two-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday for a 2-1 lead off Chris Capuano. John McDonald drove in the other two runs, the first with a homer in the second and the second with an infield single in the seventh.

“We have to get the bats going, some way, somehow,” Montero said. “How do we get them going? I don’t know. It takes a couple of guys. Hitting is contagious, man.”

The D-backs have 11 games remaining against the Giants and Dodgers, but those are the only opponents in the final 27 games with winning records. At the same time, the other playoff contenders have some schedule issues.

Los Angeles has six games remaining against San Francisco, three at AT&T Park starting Sept. 9 and three more to end the season at Dodger Stadium from Oct. 1-3. The Dodgers also have the most difficult non-division schedule remaining, with a 10-game stretch starting Sept. 13 that includes a four-game home series against St. Louis and a six-game road trip with stops in Washington and Cincinnati.

The Cardinals end the season with three-game series against the Nationals and the Reds but otherwise have a relatively easy road. The Dodgers’ are their only other opponent with a winning record, and they play six against the Astros. Like the D-backs, the Giants have a division-intensive schedule the rest of the way, with seven games remaining against the Rockies and six with the Padres.

“I look to sweep everybody right now. If you don’t sweep, at least win the series,” Montero said.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a lot of work. But it’s not impossible, you know. We just have to gear ourselves, play hard and leave it all out there. If we make it, good. And if we don’t, there are no regrets.”