PHOENIX, Ariz. — Don’t look now, but here come the St. Louis Cardinals.
That’s right: Once an afterthought, they have now become a very real threat to the Arizona Diamondbacks after their seventh straight win pulled them to within four-and-a-half games of the second wild-card spot, a spot where the D-backs currently stand.
The D-backs lost for the third game in a row and fifth time in six games overall as Kyle Schwarber and Alex Avila homered to help lead the Chicago Cubs to an 8-3 victory in front of 39,131 fans at Chase Field on Friday.
Schwarber and Avila went back-to-back in the sixth inning, a half-inning after the D-backs had closed to within a run, 3-2.
The Cubs added three insurance runs in the eighth.
John Lackey (10-9) won his fifth straight start. He went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits, including a pair of home runs to David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Once Lackey exited, manager Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen, summoning five different relievers to ensure the victory and end a two-game losing streak.
Facing the Cubs for the first time, D-backs starter Taijuan Walker (6-6) struggled from the get-go. He was tagged for two runs in the first and another run in the second before setting down until Schwarber and Avila greeted him with home runs to open the sixth.
Overall, Walker was charged with five runs, four earned, on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He also hit two batters.
Walker, who turns 25 on Sunday, has now gone eight starts without a win.
Entering the game hitless in his last 23 at-bats, Chris Herrmann singled in each of his first two plate appearances. In fact, they were the only two hits Lackey allowed through the first 4.2 innings. Herrmann recorded a base hit to left field and beat out a ground ball to Bryant at third base. It was Herrmann’s eighth multi-hit effort of the season and first since June 24 against the Phillies.
Sixteen games. That’s how long it had been since Peralta homered, but the drought ended with two outs and a runner on in the fifth inning. His shot to right field, which came on an 0-1 offering from Lackey, pulled the D-backs to within a run, 3-2. Peralta finished 1-for-3 with a walk, and is now batting .304 (58-for-191) with seven home runs, 27 RBI and 16 walks in his last 50 games.
So, what happened to that promise to not pitch to Goldschmidt, Cubs?
With one out in the sixth inning, Goldschmidt jumped on the first pitch, a 90.9 mph fastball, from Lackey and lined it over the right-field fence for a solo home run, making the score 5-3 Cubs. Going back to his three-homer effort at Chicago on Aug. 3, Goldschmidt has hit four home runs in his last seven at-bats against the Cubs.
Last week in San Francisco, Walker did not walk a single batter in six innings. Tonight, he walked two in the first inning alone, including a four-pitch free pass Avila that brought home the game’s first run. The Cubs added a second run on a passed ball when Herrmann got crossed up on a breaking ball from Walker, who threw a total of 33 pitches in what was an 18-minute half inning.
In each of his first two at-bats, Bryant singled. The second, a line drive to left field, drove home Jon Jay from second base to extend the Cubs’ lead to 3-0. Bryant connected on a 3-2 fastball — clocked at 95 mph — for his 49th RBI of the season, the second-most on the team. Bryant, who finished 3-for-3 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch, has now hit safely in eight straight games and 11 of his last 12.
It was the sixth time this season that Cubs batters hit back-to-back home runs, the fifth time involving Schwarber. He got it started with a leadoff shot, blasting a 1-2 fastball — clocked at 95.4 mph — onto the right-center field concourse. Then, again on a 1-2 pitch, a 76.6 mph curveball, Avila took Walker deep; the ball hitting three-quarters up on the batter’s eye in straightaway center field.
That third and final out proved elusive at times for the D-backs. The Cubs’ first three and last three runs were all scored with two outs. A three-run eighth inning was highlighted, or lowlighted, by the fact that Javier Baez was able to score all the way from first base on an Ian Happ single to right field. All three runs were charged to T.J. McFarland, who has now allowed 14 runs in his last 10 appearances.
STAT OF THE GAME
3: For only the second time this season, the D-backs have lost three straight home games; previously done June 28-30.
HE SAID IT
“A couple of early runs had us playing uphill baseball, and that seems to be what’s happening here,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It seems like we’ve been getting scored upon early on and we’re really having to grind out things and play catch-up. It’s just how the season works, there’s up-and-downs in how things work. We’re equipped to handle anything, it’s just playing uphill baseball today was something that we couldn’t overcome.”
–Walker threw a first-pitch strike to 14-of-24 batters faced; plus, he reached a three-ball count seven times
–Ketel Marte went 0-for-3 with a walk, snapping a 10-game hitting streak, the second-longest of his career
–With a first-pitch temperature of 103 degrees, the game was played with both the roof and panels closed
–It was ’90s Night; the D-backs held a free postgame street concert featuring Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath
–Earlier in the day, the D-backs welcomed MLB Network’s Intentional Talk for a live broadcast on the field
A pair of left-handers will battle in game two of the three-game series on Saturday, August 11. It will be Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester with first pitch scheduled for 5:10 with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
Corbin (8-11) has lost back-to-back starts, including at Chicago, following a two-game winning streak.
Most recently, he dropped a 6-3 decision at San Francisco, allowing six runs—only three earned, however—on seven hits with two walks and a season-best 10 strikeouts.
Corbin is 3-1 in four career starts against the Cubs with that loss coming earlier this month. In what was arguably his worst defeat of the season, Corbin was tagged for three home runs among the 10 hits he surrendered which led to eight runs, seven earned, in just three innings, his shortest outing of the year.
Meanwhile, Lester (8-6) is unbeaten in five starts since the All-Star Break, though he’s not factored in the decision in either of his prior two mound appearances.
All-time against the D-backs, Lester is 2-0 with a 4.94 ERA in five starts.