The struggle experienced by Diamondbacks’ right-hander Ian Kennedy Monday night was not usual.
Kennedy’s secondary effort against the San Francisco Giants was indicative the way starters have began the season.
Save left-hander Patrick Corbin’s stellar 3-0 mark with a corresponding 1.91 ERA and Wade Miley’s 2-0 beginning, the remaining three of Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Kennedy have a combined two victories. In fact, starters have accounted for only seven wins of the Diamondbacks’ first 15 victories this season.
True to form in the early going, the Diamondbacks picked up Kenney, the titular head of the staff, but he could not withstand prosperity. Forging into a marginal one run lead, Kennedy surrendered the tying run in the fifth and usually reliable bullpen fell apart.
Afterward, manager Kirk Gibson told reporters he did not have the full complement of relievers and the bullpen was short staffed.
Calling upon reliever Brad Ziegler for the eighth inning in a tie game, the usual reliable submariner gave up two runs in the critical eighth inning and the Diamondbacks eventually dropped 6-4 to the Giants before 18,036 Monday night in Chase Field.
“When I fell behind to hitters, that changed my approach,” Ziegler said. “I became defensive and not aggressive. The pitches I missed were off the plate and (home plate umpire Dale Scott) was right in his calls. I didn’t have an issue with the location.”
With David Hernandez and closer J. J. Putz unavailable, Gibson called upon Ziegler, who is usually good for one or two hitters.
Instead, Ziegler started the eighth and surrendered a lead-off double to Nick Noonan, who replaced Pablo Sandoval (injured right elbow) earlier in the game.
Ziegler then retired the next two but walked Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford to load the bases. Behind 3-1 in the count to Brandon Belt, Ziegler lifted a pitch in the strike zone and Belt slapped a single up the middle to score two.
“I didn’t have a full bullpen and that was uncharacterized of Ziegler,” said Gibson. “Sometimes, shuffling of the bullpen works and this time, it didn’t work. Look, they swing the bats well, and we know they’re the defending World Champions.”
For a moment, it appeared the Diamondbacks were drinking the 2011 potion. That’s when they led the majors in come-from-behind victories and secured a spot in the post-season playoffs.
Down 3-0 early, the D-backs rallied on the coat tails of three home runs in the fourth inning and eventually forged into a one run lead.
In the fourth, Jason Kubel brought the D-backs to within one by virtue of a two-run home run off of Giants’ starter Matt Cain and Eric Chavez immediately followed with his fourth home run. Two outs later, Martin Prado took Cain into the left field bleachers and that pushed the D-backs into a 4-3 lead.
That represented the first time in Cain’s career he allowed three home runs in the one inning.
From there, Kennedy could not hold the advantage.
“I didn’t have my best stuff, wanted to keep as close as possible and to give my team a chance to win,” said Kennedy. “I didn’t have good fast ball command had to rely on the curve and cutter. That way, I tried to keep them off-balanced and hoped we’d score some runs.”
Kennedy labored most of the night and his pitch count was high, He threw 45 pitches through the first two innings and the number reached 71 after four innings.
Outside of those three bombs and four runs in the fourth, the Diamondbacks bats went quietly into the night.
From the fourth until the end of the game, they managed only three base runners. That was a walk to Paul Goldschmidt leading of the fifth, one out single from Cody Ross in the eighth and a lead-off single in the ninth off the bat of Cliff Pennington.
Giants’ reliever Sergio Romo then slammed the door in the ninth for his ninth save of the season.
ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Right-hander Daniel Hudson, out since last June with Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament on his right elbow, reported his recovery continues on schedule.
His week he throws batting practice and next week, he’ll begin throwing in simulated games.
Hudson is expected to be out until the All-Star game but insists he’ll return before the July 16 mid-summer classic at Citi Field in New York.