Grit Index: Padres get to Miley early, take series finale
PHOENIX — In the battle of young left-handers, something had to give.
San Diego Padres starter Robbie Erlin hadn’t won since June 1. And against the Padres this season, Arizona Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley hadn’t won, period — 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA in three appearances.
Bud Black’s squad didn’t wait long to jump on Miley yet again Wednesday night, scoring two runs on three hits just 20 pitches into the left-hander’s start. While the 2012 All-Star eventually calmed down after a rough first, the damage had already been done.
That’s because Erlin, who was making only his fifth career start, kept the D-backs at bay through the first six innings. Using primarily a 90-91 mph fastball and a 77-79 mph curveball with good late action, the Padres rookie threw strikes when he needed to, and more importantly, he kept runs off the board when threats mounted.
Six innings of one-run baseball from Erlin, coupled with a fast start and three insurance runs in the eighth, were more than enough as the Padres took the series finale by a final of 5-1 at Chase Field.
“He’s a guy who keeps you off balance,” D-backs left fielder Adam Eaton said of Erlin. “He has a good curveball that comes out of his hand real well. He can bury it against a lefty or a righty on their back foot.”
The loss prevented Arizona from claiming its first three-game sweep of San Diego since Aug. 26-28, 2011.
Despite being saddled with his first loss since July 20, Miley’s start had more positives than negatives. After a poor beginning to his night — allowing two earned runs on six hits in the first two frames — the Arizona left-hander allowed just one hit over his final five innings of work.
Before Wednesday night’s game, infielder Willie Bloomquist told reporters that his broken left hand had fully healed and that he felt great.
The 35-year-old might have been underselling his health.
Bloomquist returned from a near two-month stint on the disabled list with singles in his first three plate appearances, including an RBI in the sixth inning. That came only moments after he nailed Jesus Guzman at third base with a throw from the outfield in the top half of the inning.
A.J. Pollock made his own defensive gem to end the first inning. With Guzman on second base and two outs, the D-backs center fielder caught Logan Forsythe’s base hit on an awkward short hop but managed to gun the Padres left fielder by three steps at home plate.
While Erlin tossed the best game of his professional career, the D-backs were not without their chances offensively.
On three separate occasions (third, fourth and sixth innings) against the San Diego left-hander, Arizona had two runners on but failed to get a run across. The situation repeated itself in the bottom of the seventh, when after back-to-back singles, Adam Eaton and Martin Prado couldn’t drive in the tying run off of Tim Stauffer.
“We had some opportunities,” said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. “We were unable to really get the big hit or the extra-base hit when we needed it.”
In the four-run loss, reliever Heath Bell did something he hadn’t done since his D-backs’ debut back on April 2. The right-hander — just hours removed from receiving a vote of confidence from his general manager — gave up two home runs in the eighth inning. Before Wednesday’s outing, Bell had allowed two home runs in 15 August appearances.
“He’s gassed, but so is everybody else,” said Gibson. “[The decision to use him] didn’t work out. Again, he threw a pitch down and in to Venable, which is his natural zone. The one to Guzman, they are first-pitch hacking team. If you throw a fastball in there like that they’re hacking and swinging early in the count.”
With the loss, Gibson’s squad dropped a full game farther back in the National League West and National Wild Card races.
He Said It:
“I didn’t make any adjustments. I thought I made some good pitches in the first, including the pitch to Jesus Guzman [on the RBI single]. Really the worst one I threw was to Will Venable [on the RBI double]. I thought it was up a little bit, but I was behind in the count and trying to throw a strike. It was away a little bit on the black, but he did a good job of hitting it. That’s what he is supposed to do.”
— Wade Miley on his first inning Wednesday night
-Arizona starting pitchers have allowed a lopsided number of runs in the first inning of three of the last four games.
-First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was given his first day off since July 3.
-The offensive duo of Aaron Hill and Martin Prado continued to stay hot at the plate Wednesday, combining for three singles to extend their NL-leading hit total to 73 in the month of August.
-The D-backs will make a rare appearance on ESPN when the Los Angeles Dodger visit Chase Field September 18.
The D-backs have an off day Thursday before the San Francisco Giants come to town for a three-game series this weekend. Arizona will open with right-hander Randall Delgado (4-4, 3.87 ERA) on the mound. Delgado allowed no runs in 5.2 innings of work on July 21 in San Francisco. Bruce Bochy will counter with left-hander Tim Lincecum. The former Cy Young Award winner gave up five runs on 10 hits against the D-backs on May 1 but didn’t factor into the decision. First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.