D-backs can't snap out of Chase Field funk

BY foxsports • September 15, 2012

PHOENIX – Again this year, Chase Field is grading out as one of the best hitter's parks in baseball. It ranks behind only recidivist Coors Field in the National League.

Despite the inherent benefits, it has not been a supportive home environment lately.

The D-backs' 3-2 loss to the Giants on Saturday was their 12th straight home game in which they scored four or fewer runs, tying a franchise record set in 2004.

"You always get concerned when you are not winning, period, when you need to win," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

"Not really sure I have to answer" to the offensive struggles.

Justin Upton hit his 14th home run in the fourth inning and Paul Goldschmidt singled in a run with two outs in the eighth inning, but the D-backs got only three runners as far as second base against Barry Zito and the Giants' usual assemblage of relievers.

The D-backs scored 22 runs on 43 hits in taking two of three games in San Francisco at the beginning of last week, but they have only four runs in the first two games of this series entering Sunday's game against Ryan Vogelsong. They were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position in a 6-2 loss Friday, but they had only two such opportunities to try bto generate runs for Wade Miley on Saturday.

"It's just the flow of the season. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. You just have to grind through it. We had some runners in scoring position (Friday) and didn't get it done. Kind of the same thing, we didn't get the big hit," Upton said.

The D-backs (71-74) stayed with 4 ½ games of St. Louis for the second NL wild card when the Cardinals lost at Los Angeles. They have five teams to overtake with 17 games remaining.

The D-backs, whose offensive production is most linked to home runs, have hit only seven homers in their last 14 games, three by Upton, three by Aaron Hill and one by Jason Kubel. It has been a tough recent stretch for Kubel, who has eight hits in his last 64 at-bats to drop his batting average to .255, the lowest it has been since April 22.

"You have to drive the ball. That's how you get runs. We haven't done that as much. We haven't hit the ball out of the ballpark as much as we normally do," Gibson said.

With hits coming infrequently, the D-backs looked to manufacture runs Saturday, but San Francisco catcher Hector Sanchez put a stop to that with two remarkable throws when the D-backs tried to steal a base.

Sanchez put a throw the only place it could be, on the leg, at the bag, to nail Paul Goldcshmidt attempting to steal second base in the fourth inning. Second baseman Marco Scutaro caught Sanchez's knee-high throw against Goldschmidt's leg as he slid in. Goldcshmidt's 16 stolen bases lead major league first basemen.

After Miguel Montero walked to open the ninth off Sergio Romo, pinch-runner Tyler Graham attempted to steal second on the second pitch to Chris Johnson. Sanchez again threw a strike, this time from his knees, to get Graham.

"We forced the issue, and they made some plays on us," Gibson said. "We're trying to manufacture for sure. We felt we had a good opportunity in those situations. He got us."

Miley, a top contender for the NL Rookie of the Year, did nothing to damage his resume despite the loss, which dropped him to 15-10. Miley gave up eight hits and a walk in seven innings, the only trouble coming after Angel Pagan's leadoff triple in the first inning and on Buster Posey's two-out, two-run homer in the fifth.

Pitching on six days' rest because of the recent spate of off days, Miley threw a season-high 116 pitches, and he did some of his best work late. After Joacquin Arias reached on an infield error by third baseman Johnson to open the sixth inning, Miley got Hector Sanchez to hit into a double play started by Johnson in a seven-pitch inning. After Pagan singled with one out in the seventh and moved to second on a ground out, Miley struck out Pablo Sandoval on a slider at Sandoval's feet.

Miley's ERA rose slightly to 3.10, but he still leads NL rookie qualifiers in victories, ERA, strikeouts and ratio of hits and walks per inning. He is tied for the lead in innings with Houston's Luke Harrell.

"He's been as consistent as any pitcher on our staff. The pitching gave us a chance to win. We just didn't do what we needed on the other side of the ball," Gibson said.

Zito had not been much of a puzzle to the D-backs in his career entering the year, but they have had trouble squaring him up this season. Zito is 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA against the D-backs this season, and the Giants have won all four of his starts against them.

"I don't know if they are shutting us down or … you'd like to think you could make an adjustment and beat him," Gibson said of Zito. "He locates great. He has good sequences. I don't want to give him too much credit. At the same time I think we should be better able to make adjustments and get more runs off him."

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