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Diamondbacks’ downward spiral continues with 6th straight loss

Arizona Diamondbacks' Nick Ahmed kneels at home plate after striking out against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Phoenix. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – After a hot run to kick off the last month of the regular season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have now gone ice-cold, dropping their sixth in a row in a 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday at Chase Field.

Eduardo Escobar was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the loss, reaching base safely in his 17th straight game which matches a career high.

“We got to make something happen here the way we know that we can, and you never know,” said manager Torey Lovullo after the game. “I’ve been saying probably for three, four weeks now, until there’s that little E next to our name I know this team is going to fight and claw for everything they can.”

Pitcher Mike Leake came into the game with a 2-0 record and a 3.60 ERA in his last three starts, which included a quality start in a no-decision against this same Reds team on Sept. 8.

Leake was tested early. He gave up a two-out triple to Eugenio Suarez in the first that almost turned into an inside-the-park homer, but he was able to escape without allowing a run in the inning.

The D-backs’ offensive woes from their last five games carried into the start of this one. Josh Rojas was the only base runner for Arizona over the course of the first three innings, reaching on a walk in the first.

The Reds meanwhile were able to get on the board in the third inning. With Josh VanMeter on base, Joey Votto delivered with a two-run home run to give Cincinnati the lead. It was Votto’s 15th of the season.

The D-backs answered with their first runner in scoring position of the game in the fourth inning when consecutive singles from Christian Walker, Wilmer Flores, and an RBI single from Adam Jones cut the deficit in half.

However, uncharacteristically sloppy play reared its head and was a factor. In the fifth inning, Flores was charged with a throwing error that allowed Brian O’Grady to reach base. The error was only Arizona’s third in their last 14 games. Coming into this game, their fielding percentage of .996 was best in the majors dating back to Aug. 29.

One batter later, VanMeter made the D-backs pay for the mistake with a two-run home run of his own that scored O’Grady to give the Reds a three-run lead.

The D-backs continued to chip away in the following innings, adding a run from an Escobar RBI single that scored Ketel Marte in the bottom of the fifth.

In the sixth, Flores got into scoring position with a leadoff double, advanced on a fielder’s choice by Jones, and scored on a Nick Ahmed sac fly to make it a one-run game.

Leake’s night ended after six innings. He gave up five hits and four runs, two earned. He struck out five with one walk and surrendered two home runs.

“We’re still in it,” said Leake after the game on the D-backs’ postseason chances. “Obviously, we’ve had the run here, but I mean we’re obviously a run away from getting right back into it and having a chance.”

The Reds’ bullpen was able to hold the lead, despite Marte making the D-backs last out exciting. Arizona lost their 26th one-run game of the season.

UP NEXT

The D-backs will continue their push for the postseason in game two of this three-game set. Merrill Kelly will make his first career start against the Reds on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Kelly is 10-14 with a 4.68 ERA as a starter this season. He’s turned things around after struggling in August, posting a 2.08 ERA with an opponent batting average of .217 and 14 strikeouts in his last two starts.

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