Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale, his coaching staff and players hope this was a fleeting aberration.
For a bullpen which has performed admirably thus far, the performers from the pen were missing-in-action for the final two innings Saturday, surrendered five runs and watched their team’s five-game winning streak melt like an ice cream cone in the searing Arizona sun.
First, a two-run double from Jorge Soler tied the game in the eighth and then Anthony Rizzo slammed a three-run homer in the ninth, and the Chicago Cubs defeated the Diamondbacks, 9-6 before 30,502 in Chase Field.
Despite the defeat, the Diamondbacks still have an opportunity to win the series, and Hale likes to tell listeners if his team captures series, success is nearly assured.
For now, the Diamondbacks will have to settle for the reality that they held a lead late, and could not hold. Unable to maintain advantages of 2-0 early and 6-4 late, the bullpen in the final frames was powerless to keep the Cubs at bay.
For the game, Rizzo picked up six RBIs, including a bases-loaded double in the fifth, and his game-winner blast off reliever Enrique Burgos in the ninth. The six RBIs tied a career mark for Rizzo, previously set against the Pirates on Sept, 16, 2012.
The key batter in the game turned out to be former Diamondbacks’ catcher Miguel Montero.
With a 6-5 lead in the eighth, Starlin Castro reached Arizona reliever J. C. Ramirez for a two-out single and Hale then went to the lefty Oliver Perez to face the lefty Montero. Wild to an extent, Perez hit Montero with a pitch and then surrendered a two-run, tying double to Soler.
“I was all around the plate,” Perez said in a possible explanation to hitting Montero. “Then, the double and (Soler) hit it pretty good. I can’t let up in that situation. I’ve had some bad games and some good games. I have to think positive, and move forward.”
Last season, Perez was one the Diamondbacks most reliable out of the bullpen. In 68 appearances, Perez went 3-4 but recorded a solid 2.91 ERA. So far in 2015, he has allowed eight earned runs in 10 innings, and that translates into a 7.20 ERA.
“(Oliver) is a pro and he’ll figure it out,” Hale said. “Right now, he’s going in spurts and needs to be more consistent.”
When catcher Tuffy Gosewisch slammed his first homer of the season into the Diamondbacks’ left field bullpen with one out in the sixth, that blast pushed Arizona into a 6-4. That’s where the offense ended for the night.
From there, the Diamondbacks failed to have a runner reach base the rest of the way. The Cubs’ bullpen of Edwin Jackson, James Russell, Jason Motte and Pedro Strop retired the final 11 Arizona hitters in succession, and made the Cubs winners in three of their last four games.
Then in the ninth, Rizzo sent the game-winner over the right field fence.
“Left-handed hitters like the ball down, but Burgos didn’t get it down, down,” Hale said afterwards. “Look, Rizzo had a big night, and that’s their guy.”
With the lead as late as eighth inning, the bullpen allowed the Cubs to come back and that was duly noted by Hale.
“When you have a lead late, no one likes to get beat,” he said. “That’s a very good team over there, and good for them.”
Starter Rubby De La Rosa lasted six innings and left leading, 6-4. For his effort, De La Rosa allowed six hits and four runs but struck eight hitters. The strikeouts tied a career best for De La Rosa, set six times and last equaled on April 25 against the Pirates.
On Saturday, Aaron Hill became the all-time franchise leader in games played at second base.
Against the Cubs, Hill appeared in his 399th game at the position for Arizona, and surpassed Orlando Hudson on the franchise list.