D-backs take care of Astros, must build on it

BY foxsports • July 21, 2012

PHOENIX -- Against a last-place team with two wins in its last 18 games and a starting pitcher on a six-game losing streak, anything but a win Friday might have made even the strongest believers question whether the Diamondbacks can still turn their season around and reach the postseason.

The believers can keep on believing for at least for one more day, as the D-backs took care of business with a 13-8 drubbing of the lowly Astros.

Any team hoping to reach the playoffs has to expect results like that against a team that has now been outscored by opponents 100-49 in its last 19 games. Still, the offensive outburst in the D-backs' first home game since July 8 was the kind of rebound effort they needed following Thursday's demoralizing loss in Cincinnati.

"It was discouraging yesterday the way we lost the game, but we've gotten up off the mat several times this year," manager Kirk Gibson said before Friday's game. "Sometimes you just ask yourself what are your options, and you've got to keep getting up."

It had to be easier getting up off the mat against a pitcher like Bud Norris, who has been little more than a punching bag amid a seven-game losing streak, which is tied for longest active skid by a starter in the majors. In that stretch, Norris has actually posted two quality starts, but the first game and last game of the streak saw him surrender nine runs. He has a 12.58 ERA in those seven games.

The circumstances may have been just right for the D-backs in the opener of a 10-game homestand, one that could see them surge back into the NL West race or fall from contention and become sellers at the trade deadline. They needed to start with a win.

"You always want to win at home, and we started off on a good note," right fielder Justin Upton said. "Hopefully we can just carry that momentum. Yesterday was definitely a tough loss, but we've moved on from that and we got ourselves a win tonight."

Upton played a key role in the win, blasting a two-run home run to right field in the third inning to break a 2-2 tie. It was his first home run since June 23. Shortstop Stephen Drew also drove in three runs for his first multi-RBI game since June 12, 2011.
Drew and Upton have been the subjects of rampant trade rumors the last two weeks, with Drew now seen as almost certain to be dealt before the deadline. He shook off that talk before the game and was just happy to be a major contributor in a win for the first time in a long time.

"Nights like tonight, you've got to have them," Drew said. "It was fun to be a part of."

The challenge now, as it has been all season, is putting together a meaningful streak. The D-backs have had a few nice winning streaks, but they have yet to string together a stretch significant enough to get them any closer than four games out in the NL West since May 4.
"I think we're capable of (going on a run)," Gibson said. "It's frustrating that we haven't yet, but again we just have to hold out the belief that it's in there."

A three-game sweep of baseball's worst team would be a solid start. And taking at least two of three from the Rockies, the NL West's worst, after that would be a good way to keep it going.
The D-backs will eventually have to win games against NL contenders, but for now must take care of business against teams like the Astros and avoid results like they saw in recent sweeps by the Padres and Cubs.
"We realize that the longer we go on (without a significant run), the tougher we make it on ourselves," Gibson said. "But it's no reason to panic or to change anything drastically. We'll just try to play more consistently, play better."

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