08/19/07 7:15 PM ET
D-backs happy despite Sunday's loss
Team satisfied even with 12-strikeout defeat to Braves, Smoltz
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Arizona dropped a 6-2 decision to Atlanta on a hot, muggy afternoon at Turner Field, but still managed to finish its road trip, which included a stop in Florida, with a 4-2 mark.
"[We] can't complain about that," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "Especially [after] losing the first one in the fashion [that] we did in Florida, and then coming back and taking four in a row like that, and then lose to a Hall of Famer. We'll take 4-2."
There's been very little for Arizona to complain about lately, as it has won 21 of its last 27 games to jump from third to first in the National League West.
Yusmeiro Petit, who was called up from Triple-A Tucson prior to the game to take Byung-Hyun Kim's spot in the rotation, didn't have good command and the Braves made him pay when he left the ball up and over the middle of the plate.
After his teammates spotted him a 1-0 lead in the first, Petit elevated a 1-0 fastball to Mark Teixeira, who then deposited it in the bleachers in right-center field to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead.
The D-backs tied things up in the third when Chris Young stole home as part of a double steal, but it didn't stay that way for long.
With two outs and a runner on second, Petit fell behind 3-1 to Teixeira. Catcher Miguel Montero signaled for a slider, with the idea being that Petit would throw it out of the strike zone, and if Teixeira didn't chase it and instead drew a walk, they would take their chances with Brian McCann.
Petit, though, hung the slider right down the middle and Teixeira crushed it for his second homer of the game. As Teixeira rounded the bases, Montero made eye contact with Petit and pointed to his head.
"We've got a base open and a 3-1 count; I don't want him to give him a cookie right there," Montero said in explaining his frustration. "And if we walk him, we start over with the count and there's still two outs. I just wanted him to throw it off the plate for a ball.
"Obviously he paid for hanging a couple of pitches."
A pitcher who throws hard can get away with throwing up in the strike zone, but Petit (2-4) doesn't have a blazing fastball, so he needs to be almost perfect with his command. Petit certainly wasn't on Sunday, and he allowed a pair of runs in the fourth before leaving with Arizona trailing, 6-2.
Meanwhile, Smoltz (11-6) threw a lot of sliders early before mixing in some split-finger pitches to left-handers later. That kept the D-backs' hitters off-balance, as Smoltz won for the first time against Arizona since June 18, 1999, and the 204th time in his career.
"It's a great pitch that he's got," Young said of Smoltz's slider. "But it's not just that he's still throwing 93 or 94 mph and he was hitting his spots like he always does; when you can get your fastball over and your slider, you're a dangerous pitcher."
The D-backs' bullpen held the Braves in check with 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
"[They] kept it [to] where we were within shouting distance," Melvin said.
Arizona got to within whispering distance in the ninth, as it loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate against Atlanta closer Bob Wickman with two outs.
Wickman, though, got Orlando Hudson to ground out to third to end the game.
"Anytime you have the bases loaded in a situation like that, Hudson up, middle of the order coming up, you put yourself in a position to have some success there," Melvin said. "I'll credit our guys for battling."
The series win against the Braves was the D'backs' ninth straight.
"You win the series, that's the big thing," Young said. "Obviously you come into this game today, you still want to win. But when it's all said and done, you look at it as a great road trip."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.