After the largely attractive performance of Tuesday afternoon, there was a sharp regression in D-backs play today, in particular from our pitchers. Ian Kennedy had a poor outing, allowing five earned runs in three innings, and the bullpen wasn't a great deal better. They coughed up six more for Milwaukee the rest of the way, with several relief arms encountering their first earned runs of pre-season. On the plus side, we had no problems teeing off on Randy Wolf, and did play error-free baseball.
The defeat brought us into double-digits for losses, with Arizona's record now 5-10.
Kennedy allowed a couple of hits and a run in his first inning, but it was the second frame where he really hit trouble, simply not being able to get the third out. Two doubles and two singles came off the bat of the Brewers, and four runs resulted, before Kennedy was finally able to close the door. The third inning was a little better, after a lead-off double and a walk, but the final line of eight hits and a walk in three frames was pretty forgettable. Kennedy has allowed fourteen hits and seven earned runs in eight innings, meaning that three of our projected rotation now have spring ERAs of 7.88 or higher. Kennedy was unimpressed with himself:
"It doesn't matter if it's spring training or not, I'm frustrated with not doing well.. I hate not doing well. The competitor in me just wants to do well," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to work on things and it's frustrating when you try to go back to those things where you're normally sharp, like during the season, and it's not falling for you. My change up, I kept cutting it today. Usually that's my go-to pitch and I couldn't throw that for a strike. That's the frustrating part."
These early struggles are something Kevin Towers addressed today, though more specifically with regard to Joe Saunders and Zach Duke. He isn't concerned: "I’d be a little more concerned if some of these guys were normally pitching at 88-90 and they were 84-86. I haven’t seen any of that; their velos have been pretty normal," and added, "Especially with left-handers, once games start, you get the adrenaline rush and hitters get a little bit more adrenaline. Guys that are touch/feel command type guys – the hitters are a little more jumpy at the plate (during the season) and you can get the outs you might not get here when the hitters are more relaxed in spring training."
Speaking of lefties, Mike Hampton struggled in the fourth, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk - he also threw a wild pitch and committed a balk, our third of spring (we only had four all last year). They were his first runs allowed of the year, but seven hits and three walks in five innings are not great peripheral numbers. David Hernandez also gave up his first earned run in the sixth, doing so without a hit, on two walks, a wild pitch, a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly. He has still only surrendered one hit in his five innings of work, but the five free passes he has issued are definitely not what you want to see from the guy who could be pitching the eighth frame in close games.
Esmerling Vasquez and Leyson Septimo steadied the ship with perfect innings, but the Brewers pulled ahead to stay in the eighth, off Yonata Ortega. A solo homer with one out was enough to tag the Empire State with the L, but he then gave up two more hits and a wild pitch. And Milwaukee then padded the lead, by tacking on two more in the ninth, off Joe Paterson, on two hits and a hit batter, completing the scoring. It wasn't just the 15 hits that were ugly: you also need to throw in the four walks, three wild pitches, two stolen bases and
a partridge in a pair tree a hit batter plus a balk into the equation, all of which allowed the opposition 90 feet they didn't earn.
The peak of the offense was the first grand-slam of 2011 for the Diamondbacks, coming off the bat of Collin Cowgill with two outs in the first, highlighting a five-run frame. No, make that highlighting the entire afternoon, as the rest of the way, we could add only three more to the tally. It was a good day for Willie Bloomquist and Geoff Blum, as they each reach safely three times - Bloomquist on a trio of hits from the lead-off spot, while Blum got a hit and two of our five walks. Tony Abreu was the other Diamondback to reach twice; there, I'm probably less impressed with the hit than the walk,. his first of spring - though he's still ahead of Xavier Nady.
Main bit of news out of the team was Matt Williams' broken foot. He suffered the injury Monday while throwing soft-toss to his son, Jacob. Steve Gilbert notes "It is the third time Williams has broken that same bone. He did so in 1995 and 2000 during his playing career, which caused doctors to insert a metal plate in the foot." Heck, he should have been okay this time then, shouldn't he - just need to go to a body shop and get them to whack out the dent of the plate. And, yes, this is why I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV....
The same piece also reports some better news, namely that Clay Zavada faced hitters for the first time this spring. According to our favorite mustache bearing reliever, "It went well. I didn't strike everybody out or anything like that, but I was happy. I was down in the zone and I got to face some really good hitters... My arm felt great today -- that's what I'm going to take away from this. Just overall, it's good to be back out there. I wanted to stay out there because I was having so much fun. It's a lot different than the last time I faced hitters in Reno." That would be the Zavada we know and love, so here's to his recovery continuing.