PHOENIX — For the first time since May 15-18, Kirk Gibson penciled in the same lineup card for three consecutive games this week against the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets.
The on-field result made the Arizona Diamondbacks manager look good, as his team reeled off its first three-game win streak since the All-Star Break.
But his motive, well, that actually had more to do with rest than result.
Outside of All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Gerardo Parra was essentially the straw that stirred the D-backs’ drink in the first half of the 2013 season.
Playing all three outfield positions and batting in eight different spots in the order, Parra embodied the grit and flexibility Gibson and GM Kevin Towers envisioned when assembling the roster in the offseason.
The fifth-year veteran began the season on a torrid pace. For a player with a lifetime batting average of .278 and a season-high mark of 105 hits heading into the campaign, Parra’s numbers were off the charts.
Through the first three months, the D-backs’ ‘do-it-all’ outfielder batted .301 with 27 multi-hit games and a .361 on-base percentage.
Then, Parra hit a wall — both literally and figuratively.
In Arizona’s 5-4 extra-inning loss against the Mets on July 1, the Venezuelan native attempted to track down a deep fly ball hit in the right centerfield gap at Citi Field off the bat of Omar Quintanilla.
Though the sacrifice admirable, Parra hit the outfield wall and the ball fell in for an eventual triple. Bloodied and bruised, he was taken out for precautionary reasons.
And frankly, he hasn’t been the same since.
Since the Citi Field collision, the outfielder who at times looked like an easy choice to make it back to the Big Apple for the Midsummer Classic, has become a shell of his former self.
His batting average has dipped 34 points — hit .167 in July and .157 so far in August — his RBI total increased by just four and he has just four multi-hit games.
But the tipping point came last Sunday in the field at Fenway Park, as Parra badly misplayed two balls — one of which led to a run in a 4-0 defeat to the Boston Red Sox.
“When we were in Boston last week, he missed a knuckleball that [David] Ortiz hit to him,” Gibson said before Saturday’s game. “He didn’t have his glasses on. For me, I told him, ‘Kirk Gibson I could see dropping that ball, but Gerardo Parra you don’t see dropping too many balls like that.’
“To me, when you put it all together, that’s one of the reasons I gave him a break to sit back, relax and take some pressure of him.”
While Gibson admitted that Parra — being the teammate he is — insisted that he wanted to continue playing every day, the D-backs’ manager sat the former Gold Glover for the team’s contests against the Rays Tuesday and Wednesday and on Friday against the Mets.
With three games on the pine and an off-day in between, Gibson looked at the mini sabbatical as an exercise in preservation.
“Parra played a ton early in the year,” said Gibson. “He’s always on the ground, and he’s always into the wall or fence. He plays real hard and is a max-effort guy. He got worn down a little bit.
“He’d tell you he wasn’t tired, but everyone gets tired to an extent. But beyond that, he’s just struggling. I could see his mind churning and his approach hasn’t been as good at the plate.”
How Parra responds from his four-day reprieve will be anyone’s guess.
His longest break from the starting lineup previously was the two-game span (July 2-3) directly following his crash in Queens. In the three games that followed, the D-backs’ outfielder promptly responded with two doubles, five hits and an RBI.
Parra will play right field and bat seventh against Mets rookie Zack Wheeler Saturday night.