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Boxberger blows seventh save of season in D-backs’ loss to Braves

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Boxberger works against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 5, 2018, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

PHOENIX – Arizona Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray locked horns with former D-backs prospect Touki Toussaint in what started out as a pitcher’s duel on Sunday, but Arizona’s bullpen was once again a liability as they faltered late and dropped the finale of the series to the Atlanta Braves 9-5.

After seven consecutive no-decisions, Ray came in to Sunday’s game with a 2-0 record and a 1.08 ERA in his last three starts.

The left-hander started the game hot, with strikeouts of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Johan Camargo in the first. He threw 12 pitches in the inning, nine for strikes. His dominant performance continued in his seven-pitch second inning that included a strikeout of Tyler Flowers.

Meanwhile, Toussaint, the D-backs’ 2014 first-round draft pick, was having an equally successful day for the Braves. After walking Jon Jay to start the game, he was quietly effective at keeping the D-backs off the base path for the next five innings with the help of a nasty curveball.

Toussaint allowed a single to Jay in the third inning and a walk to Paul Goldschmidt two batters later, but neither runner scored. He then gave up another single in the sixth to A.J. Pollock and a walk to Daniel Descalso which ended his day.

The 22-year old was brilliant in his return to Arizona. He went 5.2 innings, allowing two hits and two eventual earned runs after he was pulled from the game. He struck out four and walked five. He also had a single at the dish.

Ray didn’t allow his first base runner of the day until the fourth when he walked Acuna, who was caught stealing on an absolutely perfect throw by Alex Avila to Eduardo Escobar at third. He also walked Camargo but was able to get out of the inning without allowing a run.

Ray had a no-hitter through 5.1 innings, but his pitching counterpart Toussaint broke it up with a single in the sixth. That was immediately followed by a two-run home run by Acuna.

Ray went 6.0 innings, allowing just the two hits and two earned runs from the sixth inning. He walked four batters with six strikeouts. Despite the stellar performance, it will be Ray’s 13th no-decision of the season.

“I felt like me and Avila were on the same page the whole game. He did a really good job behind the plate, and we stuck with a game plan,” said Ray after the game.

“I felt momentum was on our side. It just didn’t work out today,” he added.

After the D-backs offense finally got Toussaint off the mound in the sixth, they were able to capitalize with a Nick Ahmed single that scored Pollock and Descalso to tie the game.

David Peralta, who had the day off due to ankle bruising, added to the big inning with a pinch-hit RBI single that gave the D-backs a late lead. Jay capped things off with an RBI single of his own that further extended Arizona’s lead.

However, the D-backs bullpen was once again unreliable as relief pitcher Jake Diekman allowed a run in the bottom of the eighth, making it a one-run game.

Then, in the top of the ninth, closer Brad Boxberger came in for the save but it wasn’t a warm welcome. He gave up singles to Tyler Flowers and Ozzie Albies before allowing a three-run home run to former D-back Ender Inciarte to put the Braves up 6-4.

This was Boxberger’s seventh blown save of the season. Lucas Duda and Camargo added to the lead with two more home runs in the inning off relief pitcher Yoan Lopez that put the game out of reach.

THE GOOD

– Ray’s first five innings of efficient, hitless baseball was reminiscent of his dominant All-Star form we saw last season prior to his oblique strain.

– D-backs starting pitchers have 80 games this season with 5.0-plus innings pitched while allowing 2 runs or less.

– With his walks in the third and seventh inning, Goldschmidt now has a franchise record for walks at 652, surpassing Luis Gonzalez for first place. He also has reached base safely in ten consecutive games.

– Peralta is hitting .409 in his last five games. He currently leads the Majors vs right-handed pitchers with a .328 average.

THE BAD

– Boxberger blows his seventh save in 39 opportunities. His save conversion percentage is now .820.

– Toussaint, who Tony LaRussa once said would be a “serviceable-to-good major-league pitcher” in “five or six” years, held the D-backs offense to two hits and two runs in nearly six innings of work.

– The ninth inning was an absolute disaster. The bullpen meltdown didn’t allow for the offense to mount a comeback in the bottom half of the inning.

STAT OF THE GAME

7 H, 6 ER – The seven hits and six earned runs allowed by the bullpen in the ninth inning.

HE SAID IT

“It’s definitely frustrating. Nothing’s kinda going my way. Balls are being hit just out of the reach of our defenders, and the ball is kinda bouncing the opposite direction of where I want it to go. Definitely frustrating, but part of the game.” – Brad Boxberger after the loss

NOTED

– The D-backs have 10 home games and 10 away games left on the regular season schedule. Per ESPN, their opponent’s combined winning percentage of .543 gives Arizona the most difficult stretch to end the season.

– The D-backs are 39-34 against teams with a record of .500 or better this season, fourth best in MLB.

– 28,339 attended the finale of this series at Chase Field.

– First pitch was 1:10 p.m. with an outdoor temperature of 100 degrees and an indoor temp of 76 degrees.

UP NEXT

The D-backs will try to put this game and this series behind them as they look to continue their difficult stretch of 17 consecutive games against teams who are currently in first place.

Zack Godley, who is returning from paternity leave after the birth of his daughter on Sept. 5, will kick things off in the crucial series in Colorado with the NL West-leading Rockies. First pitch is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Godley has set career-highs this season in 14 wins, 29 games, 28 starts, 159.2 innings pitched and 170 strikeouts. In his five career starts against the Rockies, Godley is 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA and 36 strikeouts.

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