Seven games, seven attempts by an Arizona Diamondbacks starter to earn a victory in 2016.
Seven times they’ve failed.
Right-hander Shelby Miller became the latest to come up short in the win column.
In his second start of the season, Miller followed up his six-earned run debut with a four-earned run outing as the D-backs dropped the series finale to the Chicago Cubs, 7-3, in front of an announced crowd of 33,258 at Chase Field on Sunday afternoon.
The D-backs lost the four-game series, 3-1, and finished the seven-game season-opening homestand a disappointing 2-5.
The Cubs, meanwhile, improved to 5-1.
Miller (0-1) pitched into the sixth inning, but was officially credited with five-plus innings of work after he was relieved by Randall Delgado. Jorge Soler hit a leadoff home run to start the inning and Tommy La Stella followed with a single.
Those were the sixth and seventh hits off Miller, who walked two and struck out six. He also uncorked a wild pitch.
In addition to the Soler home run, Miller was tagged for a two-run shot by Jake Arrieta in the second.
That’s right, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner homered and pitched seven strong innings to win for the second time in as many starts.
Arrieta (2-0) extended his season-opening scoreless streak to 10 innings and an overall consecutive scoreless streak to 32 dating back to last season before Paul Goldschmidt led off the fourth with a home run and Jake Lamb added an RBI single three batters later.
Arrieta allowed three runs on eight hits — Socrates Brito hit a solo homer in the fifth — without a walk and six strikeouts for his 22nd straight quality start.
Soler drove in two runs, while La Stella, Miguel Montero and Jason Heyward each had an RBI.
La Stella went 3-for-4, matching his career-high in hits.
Goldschmidt, Lamb and Brito all had two hits for the D-backs.
It’s been a rough start for Miller and the D-backs starting rotation.
Miller has now allowed five home runs this season, while the starters own a 7.96 ERA (33 ER in 37.1 IP) through the first week.
Twice in the fourth inning the D-backs scored, something no team had done against Arrieta since Sept. 22 of last season. Goldchmidt led off the frame with a solo home run, depositing an 86-mph changeup into the seats in left field. David Peralta followed with a first-pitch double to left. He advanced to third on Brandon Drury’s ground out and then scored on Lamb’s base hit up the middle. It was Lamb’s second hit in five career at-bats against Arrieta.
The D-backs added a third run an inning later. With one out, Brito liked the first offering he saw — I mean, he really liked the 88-mph slider — and clubbed the ball over the fence in right field to pull the D-backs even, 3-3, in the bottom of the fifth. It was Brito’s first career home run. For Brito, who made his first career Opening Day roster, the homer was his third hit of the season. He finished the game 2-for-4 for his second career multi-hit game.
So he can hit, too. Arrieta helped his own cause with a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. He and Miller waged a good battle with Arrieta winning the eight-pitch at-bat, hammering a 92-mph fastball out onto the concourse in left-center field. The home run — the third of his career — traveled an estimated 442-feet and scored Montero, who reached base on a one-out double off the batter’s eye in center field.
Two innings later, the ex-D-back was once again involved in the Cubs’ scoring attack. Montero ripped a 91-mph fastball for another long double off the batter’s eye in center field. La Stella (leadoff single) easily scored from first to make it 3-0 Chicago. For Montero, the back-to-back doubles gave him his second multi-hit game of the season. The RBI, by the way, was his 231st at Chase Field, having spent his first nine big-league seasons with the Diamondbacks.
Given a second chance after the D-backs scored three runs in the previous two innings to tie the game, Miller failed to record a shutdown inning in the sixth. In fact, the damage was done early. Leading off the inning, Soler greeted a 1-1 87-mph cut-fastball and sent it deep into the seats in left field. It was Soler’s first home run of the season and third in 12 career at-bats against Miller. Soler reached base safely in each of the three games he played in the series.
STAT OF THE GAME, part I
11: The number of home runs D-backs starters allowed on the homestand; opponents hit 13 overall.
STAT OF THE GAME, part II
24: The number of walks issued by the D-backs pitching staff in the series; highlighted by 10 free passes in the opener.
STAT OF THE GAME, part III
.167: The D-backs batting average with runners in scoring position (3-for-18) in the series compared to the Cubs’ .233 (14-for-60) mark.
HE SAID IT
“It was frustrating at times,” manager Chip Hale said, referring to the homestand. “It’s not how we wanted to start, but you tip your cap to the Cubs and the Rockies. They outplayed and they won the series.”
After 10 seasons in the minors, Matt Buschmann made his Major League debut, pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
According to ESPN Stats & Info., Arrieta’s home run went further than any home run he’s allowed in the past five seasons.
Goldschmidt has 13 career home runs off former Cy Young Award winners; seven of those against Tim Lincecum.
Phil Gosselin, 0-for-3 with a strikeout, made his first start of the season, getting the nod at second base.
Hale decided to give Nick Ahmed, Welington Castillo, Jean Segura and Yasmany Tomas the day off.
With rain falling in downtown Phoenix (how about that?!), the game was played with both the roof and panels closed.
The D-backs uniform combination was the fifth different one this season: red alternate with Snakehead cap.
Among those in attendance was Senator John McCain; he and his wife, Cindy, sat row two next to the D-backs dugout.
A day off; actually it’s a travel day as the D-backs head to L.A. on Monday for their first road trip of the season.
The D-backs will visit three cities and play 10 games, beginning with a three-game set against the Dodgers.
The series opener is Tuesday, April 12. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10—it’s the Dodgers home opener—with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Patrick Corbin (0-1, 5.14) and Kenta Maeda (1-0, 0.00) is the mound matchup.
The D-backs went 6-13 against the Dodgers last season, including a 2-8 mark at Dodger Stadium.
From L.A., the D-backs will travel to San Diego and San Francisco; they won’t return to Chase Field until April 22.
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