The calendar has not even turned to June, so the proceedings at Bank One Ballpark on Tuesday hardly took on pennant-race proportions.
However, as Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said before his team took on the San Diego Padres, it was an important game against the team that is the consensus pick to win the National League West.
From that respect, a 9-5 loss was a disappointment for the D-Backs, but — even though they surrendered the division lead to the Padres — it was not a disaster. There are plenty more laps to go before this race ends.
“It’s good that we battled back,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “But there were times when we needed to hold them down but couldn’t.”
San Diego, which has a half-game lead on Arizona, got key performances from a new acquisition (center fielder Dave Roberts went 3-for-6 with two triples and two runs scored) and an old standby (first baseman Phil Nevin had three hits, including a home run, and two RBIs).
A three-run eighth inning — highlighted by a pinch-hit homer by Robert Fick, and an RBI single by Nevin — gave the Padres a 7-3 lead. The D-Backs responded with Craig Counsell’s two-run homer off the foul pole in right field, cutting the deficit to two runs.
But a double by shortstop Khalil Greene and Roberts’ second triple helped lead to two more runs in the ninth.
Arizona did some damage against a San Diego bullpen that entered the game with a 2.94 ERA, best in the NL. But the D-Backs failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities, leaving two me on in the fifth and the bases loaded in the sixth.
“They made some pitches and did a good job,” said Arizona right fielder Shawn Green, who struck out swinging to end the sixth. “It’s frustrating, but you have to put it behind you and move on.”
And the D-Backs relievers were unable to get big outs.
Three of the four pitchers out of the bullpen were scored on. The one not charged with a run, Jose Valverde, still gave up a two-out, eighth-inning single for a run that was charged to Javier Lopez.
“We struggled all the way around there,” Melvin said. “At a time where we needed to tighten it down and put up some zeroes because we had some runs against them, we couldn’t.”
The Padres jumped to a first-inning three-run lead against Russ Ortiz, who won his previous two starts.
Center fielder Dave Roberts led off the game with a triple and scored on a ground ball. With two out, San Diego hitters got two straight singles before catcher Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run double.
In six innings, Ortiz allowed eight hits and four runs with six walks and a strikeout. This season, he has 30 walks and 22 strikeouts.
“He’s always had a track record of making a pitch when he had to,” Melvin said. “But he struggled with his command.”
Ortiz threw first-pitch strikes to just seven of the first 22 batters he faced. In the third inning, Ortiz threw 11 consecutive balls en route to loading the bases on walks with two out, but he eluded damage when Padres shortstop Kalil Greene popped out.
“All I could do was battle and try to put up zeroes,” Ortiz said. “I got into some bad situations, but all I could do was make pitches when I can. From the second inning on, I thought I pitched pretty good, except for the guys that I walked.”