Closer Fernando Rodney of the Arizona Diamondbacks could not hold a three-run, ninth lead.
LOS ANGELES – This one will sting for longer than the Arizona Diamondbacks would like to admit.
On the verge of salvaging the final game of an important three-game set against the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers, closer Fernando Rodney turned the clock back to April when he imploded on several occasions and ran his ERA to near 12 runs per nine innings. Entering the ninth inning with a three-run lead, Rodney was nowhere near the plate, retired no hitters and allowed the Dodgers to rally and claim a 5-4, walk-off victory before 41,999 in Dodger Stadium.
The loss was the third straight for Arizona and the first time the Diamondbacks were swept in a series this season. With the defeat, the Diamondbacks now fall 5.5 games behind the Dodgers, but remain only one of three teams playing .600 baseball.
Perhaps the largest lesson was the Diamondbacks’ inability to capitalize on strong efforts in this series. For the second consecutive night, Arizona starters allowed one run and still, the team could not dent the win column. On Wednesday night, Zack Godley lost a 1-0 game and on Thursday, lefty Robbie Ray had nothing to show for another stellar endeavor.
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On Thursday night, wasted efforts from Ray and a two-home run night, both against left-handed pitching from Jake Lamb could have carried the game. Instead, Rodney came in the ninth and could not find the plate.
Afterward, manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes that while the result of this series was painful, it’s part of the ebb and flow of a major-league season.
"“I can tell you that everyone in that locker room is hurting,” he said. “That’s a real tough loss and we’ll smart from this all the way back to Arizona. We’ll figure out what happened and straighten it out. This is kind of game from we can grow.”"
While Lamb’s heroics and a solo bomb from Ketel Marte seem to be a slight margin of victory, Rodney’s implosion turned a joyous night into a dreadful nightmare.
In a clear save situation, Rodney entered the game with a 4-1 lead. After Yasiel Puig lead off the ninth with a single to right, Rodney then walked three straight hitters, including Logan Forsythe with the bases loaded. That cut the margin to two at 4-2. Corey Seager then followed with a two-run single to center to tie and then Chris Taylor lined reliever T. J. McFarland’s first pitch over the head of left-fielder Rey Fuentes for the game-winner.
Afterward, Rodney explained to Venom Strikes his difficulty.
"“Bad fast ball command,” he said. “I thought the hit (by Seager) could have been a double play ball, but it got past. It was tough, but you have to keep your head up and you’ll be in good shape.”"
For Ray, the effort was one of his best of the season. He pitched out of bases-loaded and one out jam in the sixth and allowed one run. That was a solo shot from Forsythe on a 3-2 curve ball with two-out in the fifth. In that bases loaded jam, Ray managed to fan both Puig and Trayce Thompson to get out of the frame. The two represented a segment of the 13 Ks on the night. That tied Ray’s career high set against the Padres in San Diego last Aug. 20.
Despite the no-decision, Ray continues to pitch well on the road. Away from Chase Field, he is 4-1, a 1.34 ERA and held hitters to a .172 batting average in eight starts.
Perhaps the overall worth of a pitcher is not the start of a game but the finish. In Ray’s case, the beginning of his start Thursday night in Dodger Stadium was tenuous at best. Absorbing a 24-picth opening frame, Ray allowed a single and walked two before Kiki Hernandez grounded into a force play to end the threat.
After that balloon number of 24, Ray needed just 38 pitches to retire the Dodgers over the next three innings. The only roadblock to an otherwise stellar effort was that bomb from Forsythe. By the time he exited after six, Ray’s pitch count reached 106 pitches.
Afterward, Ray told Venom Strikes that was able to overcome a shaky first inning.
"“I didn’t have the fast ball command early,” he said. “As the game went on, I was able to find a better rhythm. Overall, I felt good and in that sixth when (pitching coach Mike Bucher came to the mound), I told him I had them. Look, the Dodgers won the series, but that’s no reason for us to be down. We’ve bounced back all season, and we’ll continue to do that.”"
The Diamondbacks return home this weekend to complete the first half of the season. The Cincinnati Reds provide the opposition.
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In the opener Friday night, righty Zack Grienke (10-4, 3.05 ERA) takes on righty Tim Adleman (5-5, 4.63). For Saturday, look for righty Taijuan Walker (6-3, 3.30) to face righty Luis Castillo (0-1, 4.41). In the Sunday finale, it’s lefty Patrick Corbin (6-8, 4.81) facing righty Homer Bailey (1-2, 12.66).
Then, it’s the All-Star break, and the Diamondbacks pick up the second half of their season with a six-game road trip that features three in Atlanta and three with the Reds in Cincinnati.