Early blunders cost Diamondbacks in loss to Padres

Aug 30, 2021, 11:03 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Josh Rojas, left, throws to first base after forcing out San Di...

Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Josh Rojas, left, throws to first base after forcing out San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr., center, at second as umpire Nestor Ceja, right, looks on during the third inning of a baseball game Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks have a habit of making things harder on themselves, one of the reasons they sport a 44-89 record following Monday’s 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The most recent defeat was a prime example of that, and it came on a night where Ketel Marte’s grand slam in the seventh inning easily could have been the go-ahead homer had it not been for a few defensive gaffes.

The frustration hit a point where D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, an even-keeled guy by all accounts, yelled at his players in the dugout. Lovullo said postgame that we don’t often see the anger showing to his players, which he said does occur in private.

“If you reverse it and start unwinding the game, whatever the score finished at, I know what it was — we should have won this game 5-4, 5-3,” Lovullo said. “Between the first and the second inning, we looked like crap. And we looked like we weren’t ready to play, and that was my responsibility.”

In the top of the first inning with two outs and the Padres’ Trent Grisham on first, D-backs starter Tyler Gilbert got Grisham in a rundown on a pickoff attempt.

With Grisham running to second, first baseman Christian Walker threw to the bag where teammate Josh Rojas was, only for the second baseman to flub the catch of the toss that was a bit off anyway.

“Tried to make the tag before the catch,” Rojas said of the play.

The inning continued off the error given to Rojas when it should have been over, and boy did that happen with the wrong guy at the plate.

On the next pitch, MVP favorite Fernando Tatis Jr. clobbered a Gilbert breaking ball 444 feet to left-center field for his 36th long ball of the year and a 2-0 Padres lead.

Just one inning later, one at-bat after a double for Padres left fielder Will Myers, catcher Austin Nola hit a single to right field. There stood Arizona’s Pavin Smith, who had the choice of either throwing home to try and gun down Myers or keep Nola at first by feeding the cutoff man.

He went for Myers, and airmailed the throw over D-backs catcher Daulton Varsho’s head when it would have been a pretty close play at the plate. Alas, we’ll never know, and Nola advanced to second base, which would matter later.

San Diego pitcher Chris Paddack was up next, and with one out and Nola on second, he hit a beautiful bunt down the first base line. Walker, going to field the ball, made what was likely the correct call in that the ball was staying fair and so he grabbed it.

But as he did that and went to throw Paddack out, Varsho himself was chasing the ball up the line and bumped Walker in the back to mess up his throw to first. Everyone was safe.

If you want to be picky, there were two other mishaps as well.

Grisham, the next batter, also bunted, hitting another great one for the Padres right in front of the dirt in between the first and second baseman. Walker couldn’t make the split-second call if it was his ball to field or not and went for it, which Rojas and Gilbert both didn’t seem to expect. Thus, neither was at first in time for Walker’s throw there on what would have been a close call and everyone was safe again, including the should-have-been-on-second Nola who crossed home plate to have it 4-0 Padres.

The end of that top-half was when Lovullo let his players have it in the dugout.

One inning later, Rojas nearly made a tough play diving to his left to stop what became an Adam Frazier RBI single with two outs,  but he was only able to get a piece of the ball and was unable to control it.

Perhaps the point is less about being picky and more that it was a chance to make up for previous mistakes. Balance the scales back a bit, if you will.

Either way, the bottom line is it was 5-0 Padres through two-and-a-half innings, all on plays where different defensive outcomes could have had the majority of those runs erased, as Lovullo alluded to.

The Padres added two other runs in the game, one via an Eric Hosmer solo shot in the seventh inning and another provided by Manny Machado and Tatis off back-to-back doubles.

Tatis is now 7-for-10 in his last 10 plate appearances at Chase Field with three homers and seven RBI.

The second game of the series in a three-game set is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:40 p.m., a game you can hear on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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