PHOENIX -- It is September, a time when pennant races heat up. With the cooler temperatures, games can have a postseason feel to them.
But this is the desert, so it's still hot. And with both the D-backs and Rangers having long been out of the postseason race, their contest Tuesday night felt more like the dog days of summer.
The Rangers got good pitching from Spencer Howard and Jordan Lyles and some timely hitting to beat the D-backs, 3-1, at Chase Field.
"I felt like it dragged on for the first couple of innings, like we had a day off yesterday," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of the low energy level. "Typically, it’s a couple of innings of finding your feet and then working into the game. Look, this is where we’re at. I saw the same game you saw. We’ve got to do better. I know we’re capable of a lot more."
Arizona's bats didn't give the crowd of 8,758 much reason to be engaged as it managed only three hits.
"From an energy standpoint, this one was definitely tough," D-backs starter Zac Gallen said. "We kind of joked that we might have had more cardboard cutouts here last year than we did [fans] at the game tonight. It was a little bit tough. That’s kind of what happens when you have two teams that are struggling. You’re not going to get much energy in the building. The guys, we tried to bring it tonight. They threw the ball, they hit the ball and they caught the ball pretty well. It is what it is."
Gallen did his part, with his only blemish being a three-run fourth inning. The Rangers got a big two-out, two-run single from Jason Martin to give them the lead for good. Gallen then settled back in and went 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight.
Howard was working on a limited pitch count because he was coming off the COVID-19 injured list, so he pitched only two innings before turning things over to right-hander Jordan Lyles in the third. Lyles allowed a run in the third, but that was all he gave up over seven frames.
Entering the game, Howard had a 6.56 ERA this season, while Lyles' ERA sat at 5.63. Still, the D-backs pushed across only one run, which came on Josh Rojas' sacrifice fly in the third.
"Just a little bit of too much aggressiveness," Lovullo said of the offensive struggles. "With all due respect to [Lyles], he went seven innings and threw roughly 95 pitches -- I do want to be respectful -- but I feel like if our guys were patient and waited certain pitches out in certain counts -- I have very high expectations of them -- I feel like they could have done a better job."
The D-backs have struggled of late, having lost nine of their past 10 games.
"It’s probably a combination of things," Lovullo said. "Pitching and defense go hand in hand. I think the defense at times has been a little sloppy. The offense has been inconsistent. The pitching from time to time, in different areas, whether it’s a starter or some of our bullpen pieces, haven’t been executing.
"There’s no mystery to it. To be your competitive best, you have to go out there and execute at the most critical times. To me, it’s all about laser focus when it’s needed the most, to go out and block out the noise and execute at that high level. I think a lot of times we get frustrated because we’ve been having to deal with a lot of frustration and things start to pile up on us."