05/11/08 8:27 PM ET
Snakebit in Chicago
D-backs swept by Cubs to lose seventh of last 10 games
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
The D-backs' record outside of their division dropped to 6-10, as they fell, 6-4, to the Cubs on a chilly Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Arizona has now lost seven of its last 10 games and the sweep by the Cubs was the D-backs' first since they dropped a three-game series in Cincinnati on July 6-8 last year.
"We're not pushing the panic button," first baseman Conor Jackson said. "We're still in first place, right? We had a tough stretch the past three games. We're not going to sit here and dwell on this. We're going home to some nice weather, and get back to where we started."
Where they began, excluding a three-game series against the Reds to open the season, was with a 22-game stretch against division foes, during which they posted a 17-5 mark and jumped into first place by a comfortable margin.
That lead has been shrinking, lately, in large part because of a hitting attack that has struggled to match its prolific early-season output. In the series against the Cubs, the D-backs scored a total of seven runs on just 13 hits.
Late-game hitting also was a problem in the series, as the D-backs were outscored, 11-0, after the sixth inning.
"They just played better than we did in the last couple of innings of both these last two games," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "They put together better at-bats and beat us."
On Sunday, the bullpen was unable to hold a lead for the second straight day, a rarity given its performance so far this year.
"It's going to happen at times," Melvin said. "When you don't hit, you put more pressure on them."
On a blustery day, starters Randy Johnson and Carlos Zambrano were scratched due to weather concerns.
The D-backs jumped on Chicago starter Sean Gallagher for a run in the first on an RBI triple by Jackson, his fourth of the year.
The Cubs tied the score with a run in the second, and took a 2-1 lead when Derrek Lee hit a solo homer in the third.
That was all the damage allowed by Arizona starter Edgar Gonzalez, who lasted five innings and threw 87 pitches, despite finding out just three hours before the game that he would start.
"He did everything that we could possibly ask of him, which he's done many times before," Melvin said, referring to Gonzalez's success when making spot starts. "He gave us five innings, close to 90 pitches. That's exactly what we needed."
Gonzalez departed with a 4-2 lead, thanks to a three-run Arizona fifth inning. Augie Ojeda drove in the first run of the inning with a single to right, and Jackson and Justin Upton drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks off reliever Chad Fox.
That was all for the offense, though, as it went the rest of the way without a hit, and the Cubs went to work on the Arizona bullpen.
Reed Johnson tied the game with one out in the seventh, when he smacked a 2-1 offering from Juan Cruz into the bleachers in left-center for a two-run homer.
"We were trying to throw a fastball down and out and he missed his spot and he put a good swing on it," catcher Miguel Montero said.
The Cubs put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth against Tony Pena, and the D-backs intentionally walked pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano to load the bases.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella countered by sending up Daryle Ward to hit for Felix Pie. For the second straight day, Ward came up with the big hit as he lined a shot that rolled to the wall in right-center to score a pair, and give Chicago a 6-4 advantage.
"I'm not going to let Soriano beat us right there -- we've got to have a chance for a double-play ball, and we've got a guy hitting .180 up there," Melvin said referring to Ward's .174 average going into the at-bat. "Really, that's not that tough a decision right there. We had a better shot with trying to turn a double play, or do something a little different. Soriano is swinging the bat pretty well right now."
The D-backs certainly are not, but maybe a little dose of the NL West will help.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.