December 7, 2022

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D-backs' 4 HRs don't make up for errors, short bullpen

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ST. LOUIS — The D-backs missed a chance to take three of four from the Cardinals on Sunday as they blew a two-run lead late and fell, 7-5, at Busch Stadium.

Here are three things to know about the game:

1. The offense looks much better
After stumbling to start the year, the offense has picked up the pace recently, helped by the return from the injured list of shortstop Nick Ahmed and outfielder Jordan Luplow.

Ahmed homered in Saturday’s win and he hit another Sunday.

Ahmed admittedly didn’t know much about Luplow when the D-backs acquired him from the Rays this offseason, but he’s liked what he’s seen so far.

“He seems like a really good player,” Ahmed said. “He’s played great outfield defense — center field and right field. He’s got a nice arm as you guys could see today and obviously he can swing it. So we’re happy he’s on our team.”

Christian Walker also joined in with a home run of his own.

2. Defensive miscues were costly
Nothing drives D-backs manager Torey Lovullo crazier than defense or fundamental mistakes, and eliminating them has been a big point of emphasis this year.

Sunday, though, the D-backs made a pair of errors, one more costly than the other.

The first came in the first inning when starter Zach Davies got Harrison Bader to pop up in front of home plate. Catcher Daulton Varsho went out to catch the pop up, while Davies came off the mound to do the same.

The two bumped gloves as the ball came down, and it fell to the grass, allowing Bader to reach first. Davies was charged with an error on the play but managed to retire the next two hitters to strand Bader.

In the third with runners on first and third and one out, Bader hit a grounder back to Davies, who whirled and threw to second to try and start an inning-ending double play.

Davies’ throw was slightly to the first-base side of second base, but it appeared to be catchable, however it hit off Ketel Marte‘s glove and went into center field. That allowed a run to score and kept the inning going.

The Cardinals proceeded to tack on another run.

“The key point in the game for me was the potential double-play ball on the comebacker,” Lovullo said. “A couple of things happen there. It should have gotten us out of the inning. It cost us a couple of runs and it cost him about 12-15 pitches. A couple of miscues today cost him some pitches.”

Those pitches were important because instead of possibly getting through six, Davies only got through five and that was a problem.

3. The D-backs were short in the bullpen
The D-backs were without closer Mark Melancon, who was placed on the injured list Friday. They were also without another late-inning piece in J.B. Wendelken, who was placed on the IL on Thursday.

In addition, setup man Ian Kennedy, who took over as closer when Melancon went out, was unavailable due to his recent workload. The same was true for setup man Noe Ramirez.

Had Davies been able to get through six, Lovullo said, the D-backs would have been in a better position to match up with some of their other backend pieces like lefty Joe Mantiply.

Instead, the D-backs turned to Taylor Widener, Kyle Nelson and Keynan Middleton, each of whom gave up runs.

Middleton, who had just been called up from Triple-A Reno over the weekend, gave up a pair of homers during the Cardinals’ four-run seventh that turned out to be the difference.

“We made some mistakes from that point forward on the mound,” Lovullo said of what happened after Davies exited. “We just didn’t execute the right way, call the right pitches, whatever, however you want to look at it. We stumbled and we paid for it.”

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