Diamondbacks’ low point of season sinks further with loss to Cubs
PHOENIX — Prior to Tuesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks had lost four games in a row at four different points in 2018.
Tuesday’s 9-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs marked the fifth occasion, but this fourth loss in a row is a whole lot different than the other four.
On May 12, a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals had the 24-15 D-backs 2.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
On May 20, a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets had the 25-21 D-backs 0.5 games ahead of the Colorado Rockies in the NL West.
On July 2, a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals had the 47-38 D-backs 1.5 games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West.
On Sept. 3, a 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres had the 74-64 D-backs 1.5 games behind the Rockies in the NL West.
Two weeks later, Tuesday’s defeat had the 78-74 D-backs 6.0 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
There has been no lower point in the season.
Despite their inconsistent play throughout the season, Arizona had either been in the lead for the division or close behind the entirety of the season.
That is, until September, where the D-backs have lost 13 of 17.
After the offense managed only three hits Monday night in a 5-1 loss to the Cubs, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said, “something magical could happen here tomorrow and we might get on a great run.”
That didn’t happen.
Reliever Matt Andriese made the spot start, and with a limited pitch count, early success was going to be key.
Well, a 17-pitch at-bat to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo certainly didn’t help matters in the first. Neither did Cubs shortstop and MVP candidate Javier Baez’s two-run homer on the next at-bat.
On an expected pitch count of 40-50, Andriese exited the first with 33 pitches.
Two doubles the next inning from the Cubs elevated Chicago’s lead to 3-0, and second baseman Daniel Murphy’s two-run homer of his own made it a five-run deficit for the D-backs.
“I thought Matt just made a couple mistakes at the wrong time to the wrong guys and it resulted in some long balls,” Lovullo said after the game.
Andriese failed to establish any of that early success, exiting after the second inning at 61 pitches and ending his night with five earned runs on five hits to his name.
To be fair, it’s not like the offense was there to help. The D-backs hitters had four hits, making it seven combined in the last two nights.
“I expect more out of our offense,” Lovullo said. “I expect more to come out of different situations and we are just not getting it done.”
A Ketel Marte solo homer in the second and four more Cubs runs in the fifth later, the 9-1 score was locked in.
If the game didn’t feel over at that point, Lovullo pulling several key hitters like Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta to start the sixth made it feel over.
With what the D-backs have been through in September, that moment and the loss as a whole felt like the unofficial end to the team’s playoff chase with 10 games remaining.
The D-backs won’t say that, but the product on the field did.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m the crazy, solo-thinker here, but we still have a heartbeat,” Lovullo said. “I know that things are pretty rough here right now but things have happened in this game that lead me to think that we could do it.
“I’ve seen things like this firsthand. We’re not gonna shut down. This team is gonna fight until we can fight no longer.”
If anyone is going to spark a run for the D-backs, it will be left-hander Robbie Ray, who gets the nod Wednesday against Chicago at Chase Field. First pitch is at 6:40 p.m., with pregame coverage starting 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Ray hasn’t allowed over two earned runs in his last five starts, and since the start of August, his ERA has dropped from 4.92 to 4.14.
Arizona takes on Chicago’s Cole Hamels. The veteran left-hander has a terrific 1.57 ERA in his nine outings for the Cubs since being traded by the Texas Rangers in late July.