Diamondbacks 2, Nationals 0
Joe Saunders has had more than his share of early-inning trouble
Unlike earlier in the year, he’s finding ways to wriggle out of
Saunders kept his string of solid starts going by escaping two
jams in seven solid innings, combining on a four-hitter that lifted
the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals
on Saturday night.
”With his experience, he’s wiggled out of a lot of those
situations and he did it again tonight,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk
Gibson said. ”We’d prefer to not have those situations early, try
to correct that somehow, but Joe has been very good at that.”
He needed to be after Arizona didn’t put up much offense for the
second straight night.
The Diamondbacks had just four hits, their only runs coming on
an early triple by Stephen Drew and Xavier Nady’s late double off
hard-luck Nationals starter Livan Hernandez (3-7).
Of course, they didn’t need much the way Saunders was
Shaking off a pair of two-on, one-out jams in the first three
innings, he retired the final 14 batters he faced and held the
Nationals to two hits to win his third straight start. He had
plenty of juice to keep going when he was lifted for a pinch hitter
in the seventh inning, but had nothing to worry about with David
Hernandez and J.J. Putz in the bullpen.
Hernandez worked through a tough spot in the eighth and Putz
bounced back from his first blown save by closing out the ninth for
his 17th save, pushing Arizona back into the NL West lead with its
18th win in 22 games.
”It’s huge when they’re picking us on when we’re not getting a
lot of offense,” Drew said after his 50th career triple. ”At the
same time, we’re getting timely hitting with the RBIs.”
Coming off a three-game winning streak, Washington has gone flat
with the bat.
The Nationals were stymied by Diamondbacks rookie Josh
Collmenter in a 4-0 loss Friday and followed that with second
offensive clunker to spoil another quality start by Hernandez for
their second back-to-back shutouts in a month.
”To me, it’s about the good pitching in general – we are not
winning ballgames when we pitched so well,” Nationals manager Jim
Riggleman said. ”Everybody feels that on the club. Myself right on
down to the coaches and player all feel terrible about the way have
squandered some chances to win ball games when we pitch this
Saunders had a lot to do with it.
The left-hander had a miserable start to the season, going 0-5
with a 5.02 ERA his first nine starts. He finally broke through
with a win at Colorado on May 24 and was good enough in his last
start, allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings in a 15-4
win over Florida.
Saunders found himself in a sticky spot right off the bat
against Washington, facing first and third with one out. He worked
out of it, striking out Michael Morse then getting Wilson Ramos on
a lazy flyout with the bases loaded.
Saunders did it again in the third inning, this time by striking
out Morse and getting Danny Espinosa on a nubber to the mound. He
got into a nice groove after that, retiring the next 12 batters
before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh
with a 2-0 lead.
”I was tired of going out there and not contributing, keep the
team in ball games and losing one-run games,” said Saunders, who’s
lasted at least six innings in seven straight starts. ”It was time
for me to say, hey, turn this around.”
Hernandez was nearly as good.
Arizona finally got to him again in the seventh inning, though,
when Nady followed Chris Young’s leadoff single with a run-scoring
double to the corner in left.
Hernandez allowed two runs on four hits, but got one run or less
support for the seventh time in 13 starts to remain winless in
seven outings since April 28.
”Livan has been pitching his (backside) off and it is
unfortunate the we couldn’t come through and support him as an
offensive,” Nationals center fielder Rick Ankiel said. ”But
that’s the way baseball goes.”
Washington also was shut out in consecutive games by the Mets on
May 18-19 in New York.
NOTES: Nationals OF Jayson Werth returned to the lineup after
missing Friday’s game with a sore left elbow. He wore a pad on the
elbow after being struck by a pitch in Thursday’s game against
Arizona, finishing 0 for 1 with two walks and a hit by pitch. …
Saunders had four assists on defense, including a nifty play on a
sacrifice bunt by Ian Desmond in the third inning, snaring his push
bunt near the line and backhanding it to first.