D-backs pay for sloppy play against Astros
HOUSTON -- If the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to stay afloat as postseason contenders while playing out their remaining schedule -- by far the toughest of all the contenders -- they are going to have to play nearly flawless baseball.
They came nowhere near that requirement against the Houston Astros on Saturday, dropping a messy 10-4 decision at Minute Maid Park that added a few extra bumps to an already difficult pathway they're taking in their quest to continue playing in October.
The loss, Arizona's seventh in 10 games, was a combination of ineffective pitching, sloppy defense and few answers for Houston starter Charlie Morton, who threw 55 strikes in an efficient six-inning, 70-pitch outing. The D-backs now trail the first-place Dodgers by four games in the National League West and the Rockies by 3 1/2 games for the second NL Wild Card spot.
"We played sloppy baseball today in a couple of situations," manager Torey Lovullo said. "We can't do that, especially in this environment, this time of the year, against this team. We've got to figure that out. We've got to make plays, we've got to be fundamentally sound. We lose a little focus and concentration at times, and that's what happens."
Even when the game was close, it really wasn't. The Astros led by a slim 2-1 margin after three innings, but that simple score did not reflect what was actually unfolding -- two entirely different levels of effectiveness from the starting pitchers.
In his first three innings, D-backs righty Zack Godley yielded 10 baserunners, including six walks. He allowed three runners in the first, two in the second and five in the third.
"I know it pops up from time to time," Lovullo said. "The six walks aren't anything we want to see take place. There are times he goes out and executes a great game plan and doesn't walk and pitches effectively. We know what the remedy is. We know he's got to put the ball on the plate, and it just didn't happen today."
Holding the Astros to only two runs with all of that traffic seemed flukey, and by the time the fourth frame had ended, things had evened out.
"I just couldn't get out of it," Godley said. "It's one of those things where, for me, I'm at a point where it's one outing after another where it's kind of a snowball effect. I have to figure out how to put a stop to it and put up a clean outing."
The D-backs' defense contributed to the lopsided defeat.
With one out in the fourth, George Springer and Jose Altuve logged base hits, putting runners at the corners. One out later, Marwin Gonzalez singled to right, scoring Altuve and Springer, and Yuli Gurriel followed with shift-beating line drive through a gaping hole on the right side of the infield.
Steven Souza Jr. charged the ball, but it skidded under his glove and nearly made it to the wall in right. Gonzalez scored easily as the Astros took a 5-1 lead.
It looked as if Souza may have picked up his head for a split-second, taking his eye off the ball.
"I've made that play thousands of times in my career, and honestly can't remember the last time it happened," he said. "Probably just a lack of focus, right there, to watch the ball into the glove.
"It happened so fast that I don't really know. I just know that it didn't do anything funny until it got to my glove. The next thing I knew, I looked up and didn't even realize the ball wasn't in my glove. It's definitely unfortunate."
Souza took responsibility for that play and fly balls by Springer and Marwin Gonzalez that Souza felt he should have had better reads on. They instead fell in for hits.
"When it's going bad at the plate for me, I can handle that," he said. "But when somebody else is affected because of my mistakes, that's what really gets me. I take full responsibility for everything that happened in that inning. I just really feel bad for Zack."
The subpar defense wasn't all on Souza. In the sixth, right-handed reliever Jimmie Sherfy yielded an infield single to Springer and hit Altuve with a pitch. Silvino Bracho entered the game to face Alex Bregman, who lined a comebacker back to the mound. Bracho made an errant throw to first, and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt slipped retrieving the ball. Springer scored, putting the Astros ahead, 6-2.
One batter later, a two-run single by Gurriel all but sealed the win for Houston.
"When you make mistakes, you're going to pay for them, especially against this team," Lovullo said. "You've got to give them some credit for taking advantage of those mistakes. That's very frustrating. We come in here with the expectation of playing good baseball. I feel like we had some good moments today, but the bad ones far outweighed the good ones."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The game, though it was a blowout, did feature a milestone performance for one D-backs hitter. Eduardo Escobar's solo homer in the eighth inning off Chris Devenski was his 22nd longball of the season, a career high. The third baseman hit 21 last year while with the Twins.
Goldschmidt, who grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, as an avid Astros fan, is a career .306 hitter with 11 doubles, six home runs and 16 RBIs in 32 games against his hometown team. He went 1-for-3 on Saturday.
Zack Greinke (14-9, 3.11 ERA) faces Astros ace Justin Verlander (15-9, 2.72) at 11:10 a.m. on Sunday in the D-backs' series finale in Houston. In his past 11 road starts, Greinke is 7-3 with a 2.75 ERA, having allowed 22 earned runs over 72 innings. The veteran right-hander is 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 11 career starts against the Astros.