Too much rest hurts D-backs' Kennedy
Right-hander allows seven earned runs in loss to Cubs
PHOENIX -- Nine days after walking nine batters -- the inordinate number of bases on balls plus the preservation of his 25-year-old arm explains the layoff -- Ian Kennedy threw more strikes.
But mostly after falling behind opposing batters ... so, the kind of strikes they like.
Afforded favorable hitting counts, the Cubs clobbered Kennedy to deliver the D-backs' third consecutive defeat, 9-4, on Monday before 26,250 at Chase Field.
Kennedy (3-7) received plenty of defensive aid -- namely, Adam LaRoche's leaping grab at first base in the second and Cole Gillespie's crowd-rousing, diving catch near the left-field warning track in the fourth -- but would allow a season-high seven runs.
His struggles were apparent at the outset -- interim skipper Kirk Gibson and Kennedy himself acknowledged the extra rest gave him extra and unnecessary energy on the mound early -- as the Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome lifted the fourth pitch of the game onto the high porch overlooking right-center field. Chicago also collected four consecutive hits to start the second; Starlin Castro's two-run triple and Geovany Soto's RBI double -- both of which were driven over center fielder Chris Young's head -- increased the Cubs' lead to 4.
"This is not the first time we have faced Kennedy, so we knew what to expect," Fukudome said, referring to their April 29 matchup in which Kennedy allowed four runs over eight innings to earn the decision in the D-backs' 13-5 rout. "We were just able to do good things with what he gave us."
And, Kennedy confirmed, that was far too much.
"I'm pretty sure that every time I fell behind a guy with two balls," such as when he delivered Fukodome a 2-1 missed-location fastball, Kennedy said, "I think they either got on either by a single or an extra-base hit. So, it's just frustrating. [I] can't do that."
As a result of losing his first career July start -- his lack of experience pitching deep into summer is cause for Gibson and Co.'s concern regarding Kennedy's workload (106 innings through 17 starts) -- the club's No. 3 starter suffered his fifth straight loss, a span that includes his wild nine-walk outing last week against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ironically, it was the D-backs who drew nine free passes in Kennedy's latest tough-go of it. They just didn't take advantage of them.
In fact, Arizona loaded the bases with two outs in the first (on two walks) and no outs in the third (on three) against Cubs' starter Tom Gorzelanny but churned out just one run. The lineup filled the bases again in the sixth -- on two more walks -- against the Cubs' Andrew Cashner, but after reliever James Russell entered with one out, the D-backs managed just Johnson's run-scoring sacrifice fly.
"That's pretty much what it came down to," said Young (2-for-3 with two walks), who continued to flourish in the leadoff spot. "But you have to give some credit to the offense for being able to put ourselves into a position to do some damage. Today was just one of those days where we couldn't come up with the big hit."
Players in the home clubhouse couldn't resist the what-could-have-been notion postgame that sprung from their third-inning bases-loaded opportunity, when, after Miguel Montero's sacrifice fly plated Young, Mark Reynolds grounded into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
"[If] Mark's ball is just a little bit to the left," Young lamented, "we're talking about how we turned it around and won the game."
Gibson said he and his coaches altered their advanced pregame meetings to talk specifically about improving situational hitting. In the manager's mind, Reynolds, who has the propensity to "dip under the ball" as part of his powerful, homer-happy swing, showed he was listening.
"Had a great at-bat," Gibson said. "Hit a bullet. One-hopper to the shortstop. Double play.
"The most frustrating part is I want these guys to feel the success for the work they put in, but the game just doesn't do that sometimes. At the same time, the Cubs hit some hard balls; they also hit some balls that found holes. ... That's kind of the way it's been going around here right now."
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.