ATLANTA -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo would be the first to say that his club relied more on pitching in the first half of the season than any other aspect of the game, and so far, that approach has mostly worked for Arizona as the team sat in first place in the National League West for much of the last two months.
However, like Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park showed, if the D-backs want to shine in the second half of the season, the bats need to get going.
"I think pitching and defense is the common denominator for teams that do well and possibly win championships, so I think that is a good starting point for us," Lovullo said. "I think we are learning and growing as an offense. I would say we are putting ourselves in good positions to possibly score a lot of runs, but we aren't totally closing the deal."
The trend of relying more on pitching than offense continued through the first two games of the D-backs' series with the Braves, as it was Arizona's pitching staff that took hold of Atlanta's offense to allow just one run over the first two games in Atlanta. However, on Sunday, the roles reversed.
After the core of the D-backs' pitchers shut down the Braves for 19 straight innings in the series, the streak finally came to an end when Atlanta produced four runs in the third inning to take an early lead. An RBI double by Dansby Swanson and an Ozzie Albies RBI single set up Freddie Freeman's RBI double to right field to give the Braves a 3-0 advantage before Nick Markakis drove in Freeman with a bloop hit to shallow center field.
But Patrick Corbin's third inning was not indicative of his entire outing, which possibly would have been a better start if the D-backs' offense had been able to get any type of traction on Braves starter Julio Teheran, who held the D-backs scoreless through 6 1/3 innings. Corbin goes into the All-Star break after giving up four runs on six hits, with five of those hits coming in the Braves' third inning.
"The first two innings I felt like he was cruising, he was throwing the ball right where he wanted to," Lovullo said. "I just think there were a couple of miscues in the third that cost him. I think before the third and after the third, he was very, very effective."
Having to really grind, Corbin ended up throwing roughly a third of his total pitch count in the third inning.
"It was really the only inning that I really had to work," Corbin said. "Other than that one inning, I thought I pitched really well."
The D-backs' lone run came on a solo homer from Jonathan Jay, who drove a 3-2 curveball into deep right field in the top of the eighth inning.
A sweep of the Braves at SunTrust Park would have been the best possible way for the D-backs to go into the All-Star break. However, they will have to settle for the series win instead, which looked like a daunting task before the series opener.
"Overall, we are right where we want to be," Lovullo said. "I am extremely pleased with where we are at."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With two on and no outs in the top of the third inning, the situation seemed likely to turn in the D-backs' favor. However, in a play that turned a few heads, Arizona's momentum was stalled when Corbin laid down a bunt that barely crossed the plate before Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki picked it up and threw to third for the forceout. Braves third baseman Johan Camargo then threw out Corbin at first for the double play. The D-backs' chance to score was thwarted when Jay grounded out to turn the inning over.
"I just think we had some opportunities early," Lovullo said. "I think that big double play off the bunt threw us against some pretty tough circumstances when you are expecting to score some runs and then it doesn't happen.
"Once that ball is called fair, there is zero chance it will be overturned."
The D-backs pitching staff's 19-inning scoreless streak against the Braves throughout the series in Atlanta is the team's longest scoreless streak of the season. The staff was able to surpass the 18-inning feat it achieved at the beginning of April.
HE SAID IT
"It's not Arizona Diamondback baseball. We fundamentally broke down at times today." -- Lovullo, on miscues on defense and on the basepaths
The All-Star break has arrived, which means the All-Star Game is upon us. The D-backs will send Paul Goldschmidt, Corbin and Zack Greinke as Arizona's All-Star selections in the 89th Major League Baseball All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. at 8 p.m. ET. Lovullo says both Corbin and Greinke should be rested up to go at least an inning in the All-Star Game after both made starts against the Braves this weekend.