D-backs ‘frustrated’ as hitters’ funk continues

ANAHEIM, Calif. — When you are in a funk, these kinds of things happen. A fly ball lost in the sun turns into a double, then a run. A look-what-I-found grab starts a double play. A foul popup is not quite foul enough to go out of play, and a juggling circus catch ensues.

Magic Kingdom? Hardly.

The Diamondbacks’ interleague road trip that concluded with a 2-0 loss to the Angels here Sunday was more about designated pitching than it was about designated hitting.

Angels right-hander Garrett Richards and closer Ernesto Frieri, rescued from San Diego earlier in the season, limited the D-backs to four hits. It was the third time the D-backs were shut out during a 2-4 road trip that began Tuesday in Texas. They scored 16 runs in their two victories and one in their four defeats.

“This is kind of a recurring theme for us,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Not to take any credit from (Richards), but we obviously need to make some adjustments. We have to be more consistent. Certainly, that’s our responsibility to correct that. Guys get frustrated, and a little bit of bad luck.”

Richards, making his third major league start, gave up four singles in a duel with Ian Kennedy, who was nearly as effective while giving up six hits in a complete-game loss.

In the end, the game revolved around Albert Pujols, the Angels’ $240 million free-agent signee who made huge contributions on both sides of the ball.

Pujols drove a changeup over the left-field fence to open the fourth inning to give the Angels a 1-0 lead, and he short-hopped a hard shot by Josh Bell with a runner on first base to start a double play in the fifth. Had the ball gone through, the D-backs would likely have had runners on first and third with no outs and the top of the order up.

“Reality is, it’s self-defense. He made the play. That was a tough break for us,” Gibson said.

Pujols also made a decisive catch on a foul popup to end the eighth inning after the D-backs put runners on first and third on singles by Willie Bloomquist and Jason Kubel. Justin Upton fouled a 2-0 pitch near the D-backs dugout, and Pujols leaned over the restraining fence to try to snag it. It hit his mitt and popped out before he grabbed it in the air for the final out to preserve a 2-0 lead.

That came a half-inning after the Angels got their second run, which came across after Upton lost Erick Aybar’s fly ball in the sun after tracking it near the right-field foul line. The ball hit the chalk and bounced into the stands, giving Aybar a double. Mike Trout’s two-out double drove in Aybar to make it 2-0. 

Frieri got the final three outs after Montero walked to open the ninth.

“We struggled offensively with our consistency,” Gibson said.

“I really don’t have any answers for you right now. Guys obviously start pressing, as well. It’s frustrating. We’ll regroup. We have come out of these things before. We knew it would be a tough trip. We hoped for better results.”

The D-backs had 17 runs and 41 hits in the six games, but most of their success came in an 11-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday and a 5-0 win over former teammate Dan Haren here Friday. They had two hits through seven innings off Richards on Sunday after breaking up Ervin Santana’s perfect game in the seventh inning Saturday.

Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis also rolled through a D-backs’ lineup on the first game of the trip, retiring the first 16 batters he faced before Aaron Hill singled in the sixth inning. Left-hander Matt Harrison took a no-hitter into the fourth inning the next night before Upton singled to center.

It was a quick reversal of form, as the D-backs were on their best production binge of the season entering the trip, scoring 37 runs in a five-game winning streak that closed out the previous homestand.

“Guys are grinding. Maybe pressing a little bit,” said Chris Young, who drew one of four walks off Richards. “Whatever it may be, we still have to make the adjustment a lot faster than we are.”

A constant on the trip was exposure to new pitchers, although both sides faced it. The D-backs had not played either the Rangers or the Angels since 2009, and a lot has changed since then.

“It comes into the equation a little bit, for sure,” Young said of facing an unfamiliar arm.

“Since you have never faced him, you don’t know how he is going to approach you. How his breaking ball breaks. What kind of life he has on his fastball. What kind of approach you have to have against him. You are kind of going through that as the game goes along.

“When you play guys in the National League, you know the life they have on their pitches. You know what type of approach they are going to have against you. You are able to go into the box with a lot better plan instead of just trying to see pitches your first at-bat and allow that to prepare you for your second at-bat.

“I think it probably got to us a little bit. I think it got to the Angels as well. They weren’t able to make too many adjustments on Ian. They got the two big hits, and that was pretty much the ballgame. We just couldn’t make the adjustments.

“At the same time it is not an excuse. Everybody is playing interleague ball right now, and we feel like we are good enough to face guys whether it is their first time in the big leagues or a guy we have faced 20 times. We just weren’t able to do it today.”