D-backs' bats silenced again; no panic yet

BY foxsports • July 14, 2012

CHICAGO -- Friday's game was not the kind the Diamondbacks wanted to open the second half of the season, and Saturday's game made for the kind of series they did not want.

In starting pitcher Joe Saunders' return from the disabled list against the Cubs on Saturday, the D-backs again scored just one run, losing 4-1 to drop the three-game series to one of baseball's worst teams.

As much as D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has stressed over the past few days the need for better efforts from his starting pitchers, the team's inconsistent offense is proving just as much of an issue.

"We scored two runs at Wrigley Field in two days," Gibson said. "That's not what you expect to do. We've got to be better than that."

On Saturday the D-backs grounded into three double plays, went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and twice ended innings with strikeouts, both times with runners on base.

"That's not going to get it done," Gibson said.

From the time Justin Upton scored on a fielder's choice in the first inning Friday to the time Chris Young homered Saturday for the D-backs' lone run, the offense went 14 innings without a run.

The offensive drought is particularly frustrating for the D-backs because, heading into the All-Star break, they seemed poised to break through on an extended run. In winning three straight games to take a four-game series from the Dodgers, the D-backs scored five or more runs in each game. The previous six games, they did so just twice.

"It's like we either score a lot or we don't score hardly any," Saunders said. "We've just got to kind of find a happy medium and I think we'll be just fine."

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster baffled the D-backs for six scoreless innings Saturday, and the D-backs gave him plenty of credit afterward. But Saunders had a decent day as well in his first start since June 16. He had been on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation.

Saunders gave the D-backs six innings -- slightly better than the five Ian Kennedy provided Friday -- and allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits. With the run support the starters were getting just before the break, that effort might have been enough for a win.

These D-backs, though, have struggled all season to maintain momentum. Each time it seems they are putting all the pieces together, something like a two-game losing streak to the Cubs happens.

"Last year we would find a way to scratch back in the ninth inning and find a way to win to keep that thing going, but this year a little bit of that magic is lost," third baseman Geoff Blum said. "Trying to get that momentum has been a little bit tougher for us this year."

Blum nearly changed Saturday's game dramatically in the ninth inning with what was probably the team's best-hit ball outside Young's homer. After Cubs closer Carlos Marmol allowed a double and walked a batter, Blum, the tying run, sent a 2-2 slider deep into right field -- but not so deep that Cubs right fielder Reed Johnson couldn't make the catch while crashing into the wall.

While back-to-back losses to a lesser opponent never go over well in a clubhouse, Saturday's loss made for a noticeably more subdued mood.

"It's never good when you lose," Saunders said. "But it's like I always say: When it's tough hitting, the pitchers have got to step it up. And when the pitchers are doing poorly, the hitters have got to step it up."

There's still plenty of time for that dynamic to emerge with the D-backs no more than six games out of first place in the NL West by the end of the day Saturday, so panic isn't setting in. Should the offensive inconsistency continue, the D-back will likely have to make some changes to solve the problem, but that time isn't quite here yet.

"It's two games (out of) the break," Blum said. "I don't think anybody in here's freaking out, but we'd like to get on a run and feel good about ourselves."

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