Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Looking to take the series finale on Wednesday afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks let one slip through their grasp, falling 5-1 at the hands of the Washington Nationals.
Not often have the D-backs been the beneficiary of elite-level starting pitching thus far in 2014, so with Brandon McCarthy spinning up a gem on Wednesday afternoon, a victory surely seemed to be in tow. Unfortunately, the bats are lagging behind the climate, still stuck in their winter state.
Early in the contest, the Nationals seemed destined to keep Arizona in the contest for as long as possible. Letting a ball drop in between three converging fielders in the first, and then booting a groundball to short the next inning, the door was wedged open for the D-backs first opportunity. Nothing came to fruition.
As McCarthy was busy carving through the Washington lineup with his power sinker and snapping curveball, Aaron Hill was providing the lone offensive spark. Off equally tall Nationals’ starter Doug Fister, Hill crushed his fourth home run of the season—a no-doubter that soared down the left field line at Chase Field.
It was not only with the bat that Hill succeeded. In the field, he proved why he is in an elite class of defensive second baseman in Major League Baseball. Preventing runs and making improbable plays in both the sixth and eighth innings, Hill was a one-man vacuum defensively.
The one ball Hill could not reach was Jayson Werth’s solo smash in the top of the seventh that served as the lone chink in the armor of McCarthy. On the back of eight incredibly strong innings, McCarthy allowed just two hits and struck out seven, but it was still not enough for a win. Yet again, he was the victim of pitching on the wrong day.
Usually one for consistency, Brad Ziegler was probably the last member of the bullpen fans expected to implode in such a fashion. As untouchable as Ziegler has been in 2014, no one remains unhittable forever, and it so happened that the Nationals were the team to crack him.
Conventional wisdom would speak for Addison Reed to be the man to come in for the ninth with there being no save opportunity, but having gotten the loss on Monday evening, manager Kirk Gibson must have been hesitant in his decision-making. Ziegler has been the D-backs most effective reliever thus far; it just did not work out on Wednesday.
Next up for Arizona will be an off day to clear their heads and focus on the task at hand: the arch-nemesis Los Angeles Dodgers.
Coming in for a weekend series against the team with the worst home record in baseball, the Dodgers have to be licking their lips ahead of this collision. As poorly as Arizona has played against the best team money can buy thus far in 2014, they run their ace to the hill Friday night in Wade Miley. Los Angeles is yet to announce a pitcher for the affair, but if the D-backs do not bring their lumber, it will not matter much anyway.