D-backs stung by Dodgers' late homer
Abreu's 10th-inning long ball costs Arizona division lead
PHOENIX -- An alarming trend continued for Arizona on Tuesday.For whatever reason, the D-backs have struggled against the division-rival Dodgers this season, having lost six of seven after Tuesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss in front of 28,734 at Chase Field. Four of the six losses have been by two runs or fewer, surprising for a D-backs squad that's 25-10 against the rest of baseball in such contests. "We know we're just as good as they are, and we know we can beat them," said third baseman Mark Reynolds. "It just comes down to a key hit here, a key hit there, a timely pitch. We just didn't do it tonight, and tomorrow's another day." Arizona matched the Dodgers through nine innings, with both bullpens throwing up five scoreless frames before the 10th. In contrast to the ninth, when Brandon Lyon loaded the bases before striking out Nomar Garciaparra, Doug Slaten looked to be cruising through the 10th. Up stepped pinch-hitter Tony Abreu, relegated to the bench with Garciaparra moving to third, Abreu promptly deposited a high changeup left over the plate into left field for his first Major League home run and the eventual game-winner. Slaten knew it immediately, putting his head down just as the ball left Abreu's bat. "Not much action on it, just right there on a tee for him to hit, and he took advantage of it," Slaten said. "Off of my hand, I knew I didn't throw a very good one, and he made the most of it." The bullpen pitched admirably even with setup man Tony Pena unavailable. Pena had an infection cut out of his thigh earlier in the day, so he wasn't even in uniform. Without Pena, whose 2.16 ERA led the staff entering the contest, manager Bob Melvin threw Juan Cruz in Pena's typical seventh-inning role and used Brandon Lyon for two innings. Melvin said his unavailability "no question" changed his club's complexion. With only closer Jose Valverde in the bullpen, Melvin was forced to go with the left-handed Slaten in the 10th. The switch-hitting Abreu took advantage of Slaten (3-1), who allowed righties to hit .323 with a pair of homers in 31 at-bats entering the contest in contrast to .256 with no homer to lefties in 43 at-bats. "A batter away, a pitch away from getting a ground ball or something like that," Slaten said, "and any time you lose a game like that it's always tough." Because the D-backs were one out away from getting out of the inning made it even tougher to swallow. "In games like that, two-out hits end up being big," Melvin said. "The Abreu homer was with two outs right there. When it comes to games like that that are close at the end, a lot of times it's either an error, a two-out walk or a two-out hit, and they had more than we did." Takashi Saito closed out the game with a perfect 10th, his 21st conversion of the season, after Jonathan Broxton (3-2) pitched two scoreless for the victory. Before the relievers shut the door, both Arizona's Edgar Gonzalez and Los Angeles' Chad Billingsley gave up five runs in four innings. Gonzalez was hurt by a three-run fourth in which Billingsley doubled home a pair, while the Dodgers starter gave up a pinch-hit homer to Reynolds, his first long shot in a team-high 60 at-bats, to tie the game, 5-5, before the bats stopped after the fourth. "I've just been trying to keep ready with [hitting coach Kevin Seitzer] and just take advantage of the opportunity if [Melvin] gives it to me," Reynolds said. "It leaves a good taste in [Melvin's] mouth if he wants to use me tomorrow or later on in the season." Melvin called the contest a tough one to lose, but he kept perspective in a 162-game season. "We haven't played well against them, but tomorrow's a big game for us," he said of the contest in which Arizona will trot out ace Brandon Webb, the only D-backs pitcher to beat Los Angeles this season. "That game could have gone either way tonight, so I don't think it gets in your head. We're here at home. We've got two more games." Still, there could come a point in which the Dodgers gain a mental edge over the D-backs, who they now lead by a half-game in the National League West, with the way they have beaten up on Arizona this season. "We're going to play them quite a few more times," Slaten said. "Yeah, they've gotten our number so far, but in the standings, we're still right there. We've still got 29 other teams to play out there. We're going to pull one out one of these days for sure. We've got confidence in our team." It sure would help Arizona's collective psyche for that day to be Wednesday.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.