It’s not how it starts but how it ends.
If the first three innings Thursday night was an indication, Diamondbacks’ starter Wade Miley would have witnessed the showers before the sun set. Instead, Miley settled in, produced the kind of effort which recalled flashes of last season, and gave his team a chance to win.
After giving up a two-run home run to Jonathan Lucroy in the first inning and a solo blast to Carlos Gomez in the third, Miley retired 13 straight hitters at one point and the Diamondbacks pulled themselves off he mat.
With two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and Martin Prado‘s two-run, game-winner single in the eighth, the D-backs came-from-behind and defeated the visiting Milwaukee Brewers 5-3 before 17,531 Thursday in Chase Field.
In the process, the Arizona snapped a three game losing steak and maintained a one and one-half game lead over the Dodgers in National League West.
“We still have not hit our stride,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “We haven’t hit on all cylinders and we’re trying a few things. We didn’t take batting practice (Thursday) and will not on Friday. Trying to take some pressure off and remain fresh.”
Whatever Gibson wants to try worked Thursday night.
Coming back from an embarrassing three game sweep at home to the bats and arms of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks displayed the kind of resiliency against the Brewers they will need for the stretch run.
Down 3-0 early, the D-backs refused to let gloom and doom influence their collective play. Tying the game with those two in the fifth and one in the sixth, Prado then delivered the magic and rose for the subsequent curtain call.
With the bases loaded, two out in the eighth and the count full, Prado laced a two run single up the middle, and the Diamondbacks averted yet another extra-inning game. In his last 15 games, Prado is hitting .350 (21-60) and adapting to playing left field or third base.
Clearly, Brewers’ reliever Jim Henderson helped by walking four in the eighth inning, one intentional, and threw 32 pitches in the frame.
Adam Eaton lead off with a walk, sacrificed to second by Gerardo Parra, Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked, Jason Kubel walked to load the bases and then Prado delivered in the clutch.
In describing the eighth inning situation, Prado said he was poised and confident.
“I was ready to attack but not to do too much,” he said. “I knew he has a nasty slider. The count full, and I was looking for something over the middle.”
Prado didn’t miss and drilled the game-winner over second base and into center field. That scored Eaton and Goldschmidt, and ended the D-backs frustrating three game slide.
Prado’s game-winning hit made a winner out of Miley for the second straight game and marked the first time Miley has stung wins together since defeating the Brewers and Pirates on April 5 and April 10.
“I wanted to keep the ball down but got off that shaky start,” Miley said. “Then, I went to off-speed stuff and my change. That kept their hitters off-balanced and I started to get guys out.”
With a two run lead going into the ninth, Gibson was cognizant of home runs surrendered late by relievers and went in another direction. Calling on Brad Ziegler, the submariner did not fail as closer Heath Bell did against the Dodgers previous night.
Known for ground balls, Ziegler allowed two runners to reach base in the final frame before a grounder ended the game.
After hitting lead-off hitter Rickey Weeks to start the ninth, Ziegler allowed a one out single to pinch-hitter Caleb Gindi but struck Jordan Schafer. Then, he induced pinch hitter Martin Maldonado to ground out to shortstop to end the game.
Encouraging for the Diamondbacks, Miley went into the eighth inning for the second straight game. After struggling for most of the season, the rookie-of-the-year runner up from last season has put together back-to-back quality starts.
Going forward into the second half of the season, the Diamondbacks hope Miley’s effort to close his first half of the season remains encouraging.
“(Miley’s) has started to get his rhythm,” Gibson added. “He found his slider (against Milwaukee) and because of the bullpen work load, I had to stick with him.”
Miley now enters the All-Star break with two quality wins, and will try to keep his momentum rolling against the Giants in San Francisco next weekend.
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’
With 14 extra inning games before the All-Star Game, the Diamondbacks have an opportunity to break the franchise record.
That’s 21 extra-inning contests and set in 1999.
Right in the middle of the last two marathons is catcher Wil Nieves. Catching 15 innings on Independence Day against the Mets, Nieves came back six days later to catch 14 frames against the Dodgers.
Overall, that’s 29 innings and the equivalent of three plus games considered in two days.
“When you lose, you feel extra tired,” Nieves said in reference to the 7-5 loss to the Dodgers from Wednesday night. “After 12, 13 innings, it becomes a mental game. You’re physically tired but know mentally you need to stay in the game.”
After the loss to the Dodgers, Nieves said he arrived at home early Thursday morning only to find his daughter Maria in a playful mood.
“All I wanted to do is go to sleep and she wanted to play,” he smiled. “She understood it was a long night and I promised to play with her (Thursday).”
After struggling against the Dodgers Wednesday night, left-hander Tyler Skaggs found a one-way ticket to High A Visalia on his chair in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse.
The move was not designed so much to address the inconsistent and injured starting rotation as much as get a fresh arm in the bullpen.
Telling reporters before Thursday’s game with Milwaukee at Chase Field, manager Kirk Gibson said, “right now, we do not have a two inning reliever.”
Gibson has a penchant for sending relievers out for one inning at a time, and after two or days “the dead arm syndrome” results.
To this end, the Diamondbacks recalled left-handed reliever Eury De La Rosa from Triple A Reno. With the Aces, De La Rosa was 1-4 in 37 games and sported a 5.14 ERA.
De La Rosa, at 23 years old, was originally signed by the Diamondbacks in 2008 and regards Santiago, Dominican Republic as his home town.
Skaggs departs with a 2-1 record in five starts with the Diamondbacks, and a 4.03 ERA.