On Tuesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks could not bail out starter Taijuan Walker.
There is one word which survives as a defining characteristic of this edition of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For most of their latest contest Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves, that variable remained as the Diamondbacks mantra until this one quickly reached bottom.
What once was a tie match went south in a hurry. On a night in which starter Taijuan Walker deserved a better fate, the bullpen suffered an embarrassing implosion, and the Braves literally powered their way to an 8-3 victory over Arizona before 25,069 in Chase Field.
Down 1-0, and 2-1, the Diamondbacks picked themselves off the mat to tie both times, but the Braves unloaded four home runs within a three-inning frame. Catcher Kurt Suzuki slammed a pair and Matt Kemp and Johan Camargo each reached the fences to power the win.
A two-run throwing error from catcher Chris Iannetta seventh did not help as well, but once Suzuki took reliver J. J. Hoover over the right field fence earlier in the seventh, this one quickly spiraled out of control.
For most of this season, the Diamondbacks have been able to respond and show that tenacity. Not this time, and after the game, manager Torey Lovullo lamented to Venom Strikes that dimension was missing.
"“When we have been in this situation, the team has picked one another up,” he said. “We have not allowed crooked numbers. (Tuesday night), we were a little short in the bullpen and wanted to shut them down. Then, go to Archie Bradley and Fernando Rodney. We were up against a good pitcher (Mike Foltynewicz) and had breakdowns.”"
The bullpen meltdown prevented Walker from gaining a victory. Since coming off the disabled list with a blister his pitching hand in mid-June, Walker is 2-1 and four no-decisions, including Tuesday night. Prior to going on the disabled list May 20, Lovullo said Walker protected a growing blister and compromised on his execution. Walker agreed with his skipper, and told Venom Strikes after his start Tuesday there is a significant factor at work.
"“Now, I have confidence and trust my pitches,” he said. “My fast ball command is good and that was working (Tuesday night). We preach going seven shut down innings, and (against the Braves), I didn’t shut down that sixth inning.”"
In the Atlanta sixth, Kemp unloaded his solo shot with two out and that gave the Braves a slight 2-1 lead. When Chris Owings doubled in J. D. Martinez to break an 0-23 slump, the Diamondbacks knotted this one and handed the ball to the bullpen.
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From there, Hoover entered the seventh, but surrendered the first of Suzuki’s homers, that two-run shot. That pushed the Braves into to a 4-2 lead and the throwing error from Iannetta awith the bases loaded eluded Jake Lamb at third base and rolled down the left field line. Two scored on the miscue and then the Braves bullpen of Rex Brothers and Sam Freeman shut the door.
If Walker deserved a better fate on the mound, he did pick up one lasting memory. Leading off the fifth, Walker slammed his first career home run into the left field stand, and that tied the game at 1-1 at that time.
The current Atlanta series, and the home stand, concludes with a Wednesday matinee. The Diamondbacks will send lefty Patrick Corbin (7-9, 4.43). The Braves will go with right-hander Aaron Blair, who came over from the Diamondbacks in the Shelby Miller deal.
For this start, Blair will be called from the minors and make his initial start in the majors this season. His previous start at the big league level was last Oct. 2 against the Detroit Tigers.
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Then, the Diamondbacks embark on a three-city, nine game road trip. This includes four with the Cardinals in St. Louis, three with the Cubs at Wrigley Field and three with the Giants in San Francisco.
The Diamondbacks return to Chase Field on Aug. 8 to begin an eight game-home stand against the Dodgers, Cubs and Astros.