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Another giant misstep

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Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003 1:38 am

The Diamondbacks’ great opportunity has been upended, literally and figuratively.

Despite the return of Curt Schilling on Saturday, the D-Backs lost 8-1 to the San Francisco Giants at Bank One Ballpark.

“It was an opportunity to gain ground and we're giving a little back right now,” catcher Chad Moeller said.

“They've had our number this year. That doesn't mean that's the end of it.”

The ballyhooed series began with Arizona five games back of first-place San Francisco in the National League West and percentage points behind Philadelphia in the wild-card race. Now the best the D-Backs can do before the All-Star break is get back within one game out in the wild card and close to six in the division.

The Giants — 6-1 against the Diamondbacks this year and winners of 11 of the past 13 meetings in the series — have their largest lead since the morning of May 14.

Arizona has lost three straight for the first time since May 15-17 and, no matter what happens today, has lost a series for the first time since May 27-28 at San Francisco.

No one encapsules the Diamondbacks’ struggles with the Giants this season more than Luis Gonzalez, who is 1-for-26 with one RBI in the seven games.

Gonzalez, like others on the team, was spinning the results more than San Francisco rookie Jerome Williams’ nasty breaking stuff.

“We've seen two pretty good pitchers the last two days,” Gonzalez said.

“We were over 10 (games) out with half our team on the (disabled list). We've still got one more game before the break. As bad as we've come out these last three games, we still feel pretty good about where we're at. We're right in the thick of things.”

Schilling — who was flipped from below by Jose Cruz Jr. in a sixth-inning rundown, with Cruz scoring on the obstruction call — was hurt not only by arch-enemy Barry Bonds but also some unusual sources.

Bonds blasted his 643rd career homer. San Francisco also got a leadoff home run from Ray Durham — his first homer in 206 at-bats, since April 29 — and RBI hits from J.T. Snow (previously hitting .091 against Schilling) and Edgardo Alfonzo (.167).

“I felt good, I just didn't pitch well,” Schilling said. “I just made mistakes in the strike zone.”

Making his first appearance for Arizona since suffering a broken right hand May 30, Schilling gave up five runs (four earned) in six innings. Schilling is 4-4, only the second time in seven seasons he has not had a winning record after eight decisions.

“For his first time back, I thought he threw real well,” manager Bob Brenly said.

Williams, making his ninth major league start, went six innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits and striking out seven. Using a variety of sidearm breaking balls, Williams improved to 5-1.

Just 21, Williams has won five straight starts, compiling a 1.24 ERA in that stretch.

He retired the first nine batters he faced Saturday and had a no-hitter until Alex Cintron singled in the fifth inning.

“He's got good breaking stuff and he can throw it in every count,” Craig Counsell said of Williams.

“We weren't able to make the adjustments we needed to get to him,” Brenly said. “It's tough to bunch three hits.”

Arizona struck out 13 times, its most since Aug. 30 (also against San Francisco).

In the three-game skid, the D-Backs have been out-scored 32-10, out-hit 36-22 and batted .156 with men in scoring position.

“We didn't exactly pitch to the scouting reports that we had,” Brenly said. “When you don't go after a guy's weakness and you leave something over the middle of the plate, it's going to get whacked.”

In the fourth inning, Bonds whacked a 448-foot home run over the pool and almost onto the walkway beyond. It tied for the 17th longest homer at BOB.

Schilling tied Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Terry Mulholland for most career homers allowed to Bonds (eight).

By homering in five straight games, Bonds reached 30 homers for the 12th straight season, tying the record set by Jimmie Foxx (1929-40). It is the 27th time a player has hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break; Bonds has done it twice, including a record 39 before the break in 2001.

Bonds and teammate Rich Aurilia are tied for most home runs by a visitor at BOB, with 14 each. Bonds added a two-run double in the seventh against lefty Eddie Oropesa, who has never retired Bonds (4-for-4, two homers, two walks).

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