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Diamondbacks drop first series of season as losing streak hits four

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Ketel Marte throws his helmet down after striking out against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 12, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — It was bound to happen at some point. That it happened six weeks into the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks should be proud of their accomplishment. Yet, at the same time, disappointed.

For the first time in 2018, the D-backs lost a series.

Their run of success—10 series victories and two ties—ended Saturday afternoon, when the Washington Nationals took a 2-1 decision from the D-backs in front of an announced crowd of 29,028 at Chase Field.

The Nationals have won the first three games of the four-game series.

Overall, it was the D-backs’ season-high fourth straight loss.

It was a lack of offense that once again doomed the D-backs. Timely offense, to be specific. The D-backs had a handful of scoring chances but produced only one run.

Give credit to Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg. He held the D-backs scoreless in six of the seven innings pitched, before the bullpen finished the job.

Strasburg (5-3) won his third start in a row, allowing one run on five hits with one walk and nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings. He was backed by RBI from right fielder Bryce Harper and third baseman Anthony Rendon; the latter on a fielder’s choice to snap a 1-1 tie.

The two runs were both charged to D-backs pitcher Troy Scribner (0-1).

A high pitch-count limited Scribner to just 3.2 innings. He walked six in what was his D-backs debut and first big-league start since Aug. 2017.

THE GOOD

Held without an RBI thus far in the series, center fielder A.J. Pollock was due. And he delivered in the third inning. After a two-out walk to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Pollock lined a 3-2 curveball into the left-center gap. Goldschmidt, who was running on the pitch, scored easily from first base to tie the game at 1. It was Pollock’s team-leading 33rd RBI.

Twice the D-backs threw runners out at home plate. It happened in the fourth and fifth innings. First, second baseman Howie Kendrick on an attempted safety squeeze and then shortstop Trea Turner when shortstop Nick Ahmed fielded a ground ball and threw to catcher John Ryan Murphy, who applied the tag. The Ahmed play was among the many outstanding plays he had.

Once again it was relief pitcher T.J. McFarland to the rescue. Called upon at the start of the fifth inning, McFarland shutout the Nationals over the next three frames, scattering three hits with one walk and two strikeouts. The effort lowered his ERA to 2.10. Four times now this season McFarland has made an appearance of at least three innings.

THE BAD

With bases loaded and one out, the D-backs failed to capitalize in the first inning. Left fielder David Peralta and utility man Daniel Descalso opened with back-to-back singles, Goldschmidt reached on a fielder’s choice and Pollock was hit by a pitch. And that’s where the ride ended. Right fielder Steven Souza Jr. flied out to shallow right field, while second baseman Ketel Marte struck out, swinging and missing on a curveball.

For the second straight game in the series, the Nationals scored first. In the third inning, Harper followed Turner’s leadoff single with a double into the right-field corner. Turner motored around the bases and touched home plate well ahead of the throw to put Washington ahead 1-0. Harper hit an 0-2 changeup from Scribner for what was his team-leading 29th RBI.

Five of the first nine outs Strasburg recorded were strikeouts, and they were all right in a row. From the final out of the first inning to the first out of the third inning, Marte, Ahmed, Murphy, Scribner and Peralta all walked back to the dugout without putting the ball in play. And with the exception of Murphy, who took a called third strike, failing to offer at fastball, all went down swinging.

STAT OF THE GAME

0-for-8: The D-backs went hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position; they are now 1-for-18 in the series

HE SAID IT

“It’s been a theme, there’s no doubt about it,” manager Torey Lovullo said, referring to the team’s recent lack of offense. “Sometimes good pitching can shut you down the way it has. We have a very offensive team that’s loaded with potential to just explode at any time, and we’ll wait for that moment to happen.”

NOTED

Scribner threw a first-pitch strike to 12-of-21 batters faced; plus, he reached a 3-ball count seven times

Peralta extended his hitting streak to six consecutive games (.346; 9-for-26) with his first-inning single

Descalso went 1-for-4 and is now batting .352 (18-for-51) with eight walks over his last 19 games

Pollock went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch and is now batting .321 (27-for-84) over his last 22 games

Souza Jr. earned his first career ejection, flinging the bat after a called third strike in the eighth inning

D-backs dropped to 6-2 in their last eight home Saturday day games since 2007 and 26-21 all-time

D-backs last played a home Saturday day game back on June 22, 2013 against the Cincinnati Reds

With a first-pitch temperature of 85 degrees, the game was played with both the roof and panels closed

UP NEXT

The series concludes with a pair of right-handers on the mound, Zack Godley and Jeremy Hellickson They’ll do battle on Sunday, May 13. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 with pregame coverage beginning 35 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

Godley (4-2) did not factor in the decision in his last outing at Los Angeles, and he has not won since beating the Nationals on April 27.

For his career, Godley has done well against Washington, going 3-1 in six games including four starts. The three victories are the most he has against any single opponent, also Colorado.

Meanwhile, Hellickson (1-0), a former D-back, is coming off his first win. He shutout San Diego on two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in a season-best 6.2 innings. The effort ended a run of four straight no decisions.

Hellickson, who spent the 2015 season in Arizona, has never beaten the D-backs in five career starts.

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