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Missed opportunities cost Diamondbacks against Padres

San Diego Padres' Manny Machado, left, arrives safely at second base as Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, right, arrives late to take the throw during the sixth inning of a baseball game Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Thursday was a game of opportunities for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Problem is, they turned out to be missed opportunities in a 7-6 loss to the San Diego Padres.

It started in the first inning. Facing 22-year old Pedro Avila in his Major League debut, the D-backs plated a run when Jarrod Dyson led off with a single and came around to score on an Adam Jones RBI. That’s a great start … except they also managed to load the bases with just one out after Dyson scored, but couldn’t manage to get another run in.

Ketel Marte popped out to the catcher, and Nick Ahmed struck out looking. So even though four of the first five Arizona hitters reached base, they were only up 1-0.

“I think if we get a hit or two there, it’s a big KO,” Lovullo pointed out. “And I think they’re really having a tough time maneuvering in their bullpen. I think they’re a little short with certain guys. I know they were minus certain guys because of the series they just came out of, so yeah those were some key pitches that were made by their starting pitcher that really set the tone for the rest of the day. Because he got on a nice run after that.”

The second missed opportunity came in the sixth. Zack Godley essentially cruised through the first five frames, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out six. San Diego started to get to him in the top of the sixth, though, when the first three Padres to step to the plate reached base.

With runners on first and second and a run already in, Godley badly needed a ground ball. He got it, but the D-backs not only couldn’t turn the double play, they couldn’t even secure an out on the play. And then the floodgates opened.

“I think that there may have been a little distraction with that ground ball to shortstop where we didn’t turn that into an out,” Lovullo admitted. “And I think those are things that we’ve just got to condition ourselves for and pick one another up and make pitches to get out of that inning.”

When the dust had settled, Godley’s strong evening was ruined and San Diego was up 6-1. But Arizona fought back, riding a three-run home run off the bat of Eduardo Escobar to a five-run effort in the bottom of the seventh that tied the game.

It slipped away the very next inning, however, when Manuel Margot launched an Archie Bradley fastball over the left field wall for what would prove to be the game-winning run. Bradley had made short work of the first two batters he faced but he stuck with the fastball one too many times.

“I think maybe pitch selection,” Lovullo explained, when asked what ultimately cost Bradley. “Obviously he threw, what, 10 or 11 straight fastballs? He had that thing going pretty good at the top of the zone and it came as a total surprise to me. Not that Manuel Margot does not have good power, but I’ve seen Archie get moving in a real positive direction and I thought it was going to be a good inning for him.

“He got clipped. He made a mistake up out over the plate. And you make a mistake to good hitters, they’re going to take advantage of it.”

If giving the lead back in the eighth right after fighting so hard to tie it the inning before was the third missed opportunity of the evening, the game itself was the fourth. On a night when Arizona pitchers fanned 14 San Diego hitters, the D-backs still suffered a loss. And they did so despite scoring six runs of their own.

A win would have pulled Arizona to within just a half game of the Padres and Dodgers for first in the NL West. LA has dropped four in a row, and the highly touted Colorado Rockies are off to a horrendous 3-10 start to the season. It’s still very early of course, but there seems to be some opportunity for a team like the Diamondbacks to hang around in this division.

They’re 2.5 games back now. Not terrible, but being just a half game back sounded a lot better.

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