Diamondbacks drop messy getaway game to Cubs in avoidable series loss

Apr 17, 2024, 5:27 PM

Eugenio Suárez...

Eugenio Suárez #28 of the Arizona Diamondbacks drops a ground ball during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field on April 17, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The group of self-inflicted losses from the Arizona Diamondbacks early this season grew on Wednesday, as errors and lack of success with runners in scoring position spelled a defeat against the Chicago Cubs, 5-3.

The loss, which cost Arizona (9-10) the series at Chase Field, came despite seven strong innings from starter Brandon Pfaadt on a day the bullpen was taxed and Ketel Marte staying red hot with a triple shy of the cycle.

Manager Torey Lovullo calls situational hitting one of the toughest part of baseball, but defense is expected to be excellent, the margins Arizona wins to grind out victories. That has not been the case this season, and three errors on Wednesday were a key difference in the game.

Third baseman Eugenio Suarez dropped a grounder to allow Chicago’s Nico Hoerner aboard to lead off the fifth inning. Arizona was up 1-0 at the time, benefiting from a Marte leadoff home run in the first.

Pfaadt’s next two pitches were driven for hits, and the Cubs took a 2-1 lead before the starter stabilized.

Down 3-2 in the eighth inning, Suarez waited back on a chopper, and Chicago’s Dansby Swanson beat his throw.

“Looked like he caught it, back legged it and tried to arm strength it across,” Lovullo said. “I think there’s a way you get around the ball. You’re moving through and you high point it still but you’re coming through it and play the ball a little differently because you’re closing up distance to your target.”

Cody Bellinger, whose solo shot off Pfaadt gave the Cubs the lead back in the sixth, hit a flare over diving shortstop Jace Peterson and in front of left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Gurriel reached out and overran the ball, allowing Swanson to score. The throw in was cut off by Suarez, who tried to catch Bellinger at second and threw the ball into center field.

“Secure the baseball, we say that 500 times in spring training,” Lovullo said. “Secure the baseball, get the baseball in your hands and then make your decision. Moving a little bit too fast.”

Bellinger scored on a Michael Busch single two batters later off Joe Mantiply.

The D-backs have 15 errors in 19 games when last year they committed a league-low 56 across 162. Entering Wednesday, they were 20th in baseball at -1 outs above average, a metric they ranked second in last year. Injuries have played a part with starting shortstop Geraldo Perdomo and center fielder Alek Thomas on the injured list, but that is not an excuse Lovullo appreciates.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s not a personnel issue,” Lovullo said. “I know we have guys who can pick up the baseball and get it done. Geraldo is missing, we know, but … it’s not going to just make us flip the switch and start making plays. I don’t want to put pressure on people but this is the big leagues, they got to make plays.”

The defensive miscues would not play such a pivotal role if the club did not finish 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

For the series, the D-backs were 5-for-35 (.143 average). On one hand, there’s action. Runners are on base, and opportunities to score have been abundant. No dice on Wednesday, as two runs came on solo shots — Joc Pederson went yard off left-hander Drew Smyly in the ninth inning — and the other from a Marte RBI single.

“I know we had opportunities to advance runners, maybe score somebody on third base with less than two outs. First of all, it’s the hardest part of the game,” Lovullo said. “The stakes are the highest, the pitcher is protecting his turf, the hitters trying to counter punch, hit a mistake. I thought we made some good passes, we just didn’t execute.”

Marte finished the series 7-for-14 with two home runs and three RBIs, while he hit .384 over this homestand. He was left on deck to end the game, as Peterson bounced out against Smyly after entering as a pinch hitter for Kevin Newman for platoon reasons earlier.

Pfaadt finished with seven innings, three runs (two earned), no walks and six punch outs. A bright spot out of the bullpen was Justin Martinez, whom in his season debut after getting recalled on Wednesday recorded five outs with no runs.

In seven of Arizona’s 10 losses, the D-backs were tied or had the lead in the sixth inning or later.

What happened to catcher Gabriel Moreno?

Moreno was scratched from the lineup and replaced with Tucker Barnhart for the second straight game due to a thumb contusion. Lovullo said the thumb was stiff, and while Moreno tried to get it moving, they pulled back. Moreno had a pinch hit opportunity in the ninth and popped out. Lovullo was not concerned with the injury going forward.

Where do the Diamondbacks play next?

The D-backs head to San Francisco for their first look at the Giants Thursday-Sunday. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery will make his team debut on Friday.

Oracle Park probables:

RHP Ryne Nelson vs. RHP Logan Webb
LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Blake Snell
RHP Zac Gallen vs. LHP Kyle Harrison
RHP Merrill Kelly vs. RHP Jordan Hicks

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