No Saunders no problem as D-backs down Cubs

PHOENIX (AP) — Joe Saunders threw a few pitches in the bullpen and felt tightness in his shoulder. A few more pitches, same thing.

Maybe he slept on it wrong, maybe it was a fluke occurrence. Whatever it was, one thing was certain: Saunders wasn’t going to make his start.

The way Arizona’s bullpen pitched, the Diamondbacks didn’t need him.

Josh Collmenter was effective in a last-minute start, Brad Ziegler tossed two scoreless innings and David Hernandez worked out of a late jam to help the Diamondbacks cobble together a 6-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night after Saunders was a late scratch.

“It was frustrating for me to not be able to contribute to the team tonight, but they played great,” Saunders said. “They pitched their butts off and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

With Saunders struggling to get loose, the Diamondbacks turned to Collmenter, a one-time starter who had been moved to the bullpen. He gave up a long homer to Geovany Soto and struggled with his control, but got Arizona through four innings.

Ziegler (4-1) took over from there, allowing two hits in two innings, and Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth before throwing a perfect ninth for his second save.

Combined with Jason Kubel’s two-run homer and Miguel Montero’s two-run triple — not to mention two hits by relievers — the Diamondbacks scraped together an everybody-contributes win, their eighth in nine home games.

“Nine innings of one-run ball, 10 strikeouts from our bullpen, that’s a pretty impressive effort for our bullpen,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “Add a couple of hits from the bullpen, it was quite a night for us.”

Chicago right-hander Jeff Samardzija (5-6) struggled after a strong start and lost his third straight outing. His teammates didn’t give him much help, struggling with Collmenter’s quirky delivery and stranding 11 runners. The second-worst team in the majors, Chicago has lost six of nine.

“Same old story: We had our chances to get back in it or bust it open and couldn’t get that big hit to do it,” manager Dave Sveum said. “You take the lead and they come right back. We had our chances. You can’t have bases loaded a couple of times and get nothing across. You aren’t going to win many ballgames.”

With Saunders out, Collmenter got another crack at starting.

The over-the-top right-hander struggled through most of the spring and his first four starts before being bumped to the bullpen. Collmenter took the demotion well and has thrived in his new role, posting a 1.45 ERA with 18 strikeouts and two walks in 18 2-3 innings.

He did his part on short notice against the Cubs, escaping a jam in the second inning by striking out Luis Valbuena and Samardzija after walking two to load the bases with one out.

Collmenter worked around another walk in the third but left a 1-2 pitch up in the fourth that Soto sent about 25 feet above the yellow line for a 1-0 Cubs lead.

Collmenter was done after four innings, giving up three hits with six strikeouts and three walks, which wasn’t too bad considering he hadn’t planned on starting.

“Mental it’s probably way tougher than physically for him,” Ziegler said. “He can get loose and go out and pitch. You go out to the bullpen and relax for five or six innings and all of a sudden he’s got to turn it on right away. For him to go out and get four innings into the game, that was huge for us.”

Samardzija had Arizona guessing until the fourth inning, when Kubel, swinging on a 3-0 pitch, lifted a two-run homer to left-center. The Diamondbacks cobbled together another run off Samardzija with two outs in the fifth: Ziegler’s first career hit, Willie Bloomquist’s squibbed single to the right side and Aaron Hill’s run-scoring single that extended his home hitting streak to 14 games and the lead to 3-1.

Samardzija created problems for himself in the sixth, walking the first two batters to set up Montero’s two-run triple that put Arizona up 5-1. The right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings, the second time in three starts he’s yielded at least five earned runs.

“I feel better than what I did,” Samardzija said. “It is just that those times when you get runners on base you really need to bear down and make your pitches, especially with runners in scoring position.”

Justin Upton added a double in the seventh inning off Jairo Asencio that scored Bloomquist, who made a heads-up play by tagging up and moving to second on Hill’s long fly to center.

The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth against Bryan Shaw, who replaced Craig Breslow, but Hernandez got David DeJesus to hit a weak grounder to second to end the inning.

Hernandez had his first career hit in the bottom half before closing out the ninth to become the first Diamondbacks player to have a hit and a save since Jose Valverde on Sept. 20, 2003, at Milwaukee.

“This was a true team win,” said Hernandez, who jokingly posed with his bat for postgame interviews.

NOTES: Ziegler’s first career hit came in his second at-bat. Hernandez’s came in his fourth. … Chicago has lost 26 of 35 since May 15. … Cubs LHP Paul Maholm will be looking for his first win in seven starts against the Diamondbacks on Saturday after winning four straight games from April 21 to May 9. … Arizona RHP Ian Kennedy, Saturday’s starter against the Cubs, is 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in his past two starts. He matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in his last start at Chase Field against the Rockies on June 5.