PHOENIX – After R.A. Dickey gave up four runs without making it out of the fourth inning in the knuckleballer’s shortest outing this season, Sean Rodriguez gave the Braves a chance in the fifth with a long two-run pinch-hit homer to cut Arizona’s lead in half.
But their comeback hopes evaporated in a barrage of extra-base hits off Matt Wisler to start Arizona’s sixth inning, including a mammoth three-run homer from Diamondbacks newcomer J.D. Martinez to open a six-run lead en route to a 10-2 rout against the Braves in a series opener at Chase Field.
Greinke (12-4) limited the Braves to two runs, five hits and no walks in eight innings, improving to 10-0 with a 2.39 ERA in 12 starts at Chase Field, which is considered one of the best hitter’s parks in the majors.
‘That’s quite embarrassing when you can’t get your club into the sixth, seventh inning — I take that very seriously,” said Dickey, who was charnged with five hits, four runs, five walks, a hit batter and four wild pitches in 3 2/3 innings. “It was tough tonight. I didn’t give us much of a chance early, and that guy (Greinke) good.”
Greinke became the first National League pitcher to win 10 consecutive home decisions to start a season since Greinke himself went 11-0 at home to start the 2011 season with Milwaukee.
“Greinke, Scherzer, the guys I’ve matched up with lately, you know you’ve got to be good,” Dickey said. “And I wasn’t very good. I mean, I walked five in 3 2/3 innings. Eventually those guys are going to score.”
Ian Krol also gave up a two-run homer to A.J. Pollock in the seventh inning as the good vibe the Braves had during a four-game split of the Dodgers in which they outscored the team with the majors’ best record by a 24-17 margin on the road, came to a screeching halt. Bad pitching will do that, and the Braves had plenty of it Monday.
Dickey tied his career high with four wild pitches and the Braves’ six total wild pitches matched a franchise record set in a 1979 game at the Houston Astrodome. It was a rough night behind the plate for catcher Tyler Flowers, too.
Dickey put the Braves in a hole early with a three-run second inning that included a leadoff walk and three hits including an RBI double from Greinke and a two-run double from Pollock.
“Just wasn’t happening tonight (for Dickey),” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves swept the Diamondbacks after the All-Star break at home but have six lost six of eight games against the Cubs, Dodgers and now Diamondbacks again. “He’d been really, really good for a long time, but tonight it just wasn’t happening.”
Greinke improved to 11-1 this season when he gets three or more support runs and 143-16 in his career in those spots.
Wisler arrived from Triple-A Monday to temporarily fill the roster spot of starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, who was traded to the Twins. But in the stadium where Wisler had one of the best nights of his life 11 months ago – eight innings with two hits and one run allowed in a start against Arizona – this time he got lit up as he has several times as a reliever in 2017.
The Diamondbacks pushed the lead to 4-0 with a run in the fourth off Dickey after a leadoff single, a Greinke sacrifice, a wild pitch and a David Peralta RBI single. The damage for Dickey could’ve been worse after he walked Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt to load the bases with two out in the fourth, but reliever Akeel Morris struck out Martinez.
The home run from Rodriguez was a bright spot Monday for the Braves. The versatile veteran came back a couple of months sooner than most thought possible from February shoulder surgery, but he’d been 1-for-14 in his first six games (four starts) since coming off the disabled list before Monday.”
Rodriguez said this weekend in Los Angeles that he felt healthy and that his swing was coming together, and then he demonstrated by hitting a 428-foot homer off Greinke in a 2-2 slider with two out in the fifth inning. The third pinch-hit homer of his career and his first homer as a Brave cut the lead to 4-2.
“That was nice. A big hit right there, too,” Snitker said. “I mean, we’re right there in that game, till they came up with that four-run six inning that took the wind out of our sails a little bit. But that cut the lead and put us right there.
Wisler worked around a leadoff single and one-out walk in his first inning of work in the fifth, but imploded the next inning when he gave up a leadoff double to Pollock, a walk to Lamb and an RBI double to Goldschmidt. He still hadn’t recorded an out in the inning when Martinez hit a towering homer to center, his 17th and first since a trade to Arizona.
Dickey had not pitched fewer than five innings this season and had lasted at least six in his past six starts before his fourth-inning exit Monday. He was 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA and .214 opponents’ average in five starts through July 14, giving up one or no runs in each while lasting at least six innings. The Braves won four of the five games.
He’s given up four runs in each of his past two starts, along with 12 hits and seven walks in 10 2/3 total innings. The Braves lost both.
Besides Rodriguez’s home run, the hardest-hit ball for the Braves was Freddie Freeman’s 420-foot line-drive double in the fourth inning, which would’ve been a home run in most if not all major league parks.
It was one of the quirkiest doubles imaginable, crashing off a narrow vertical painted-yellow line just below a second-story concourse that juts out over the field, an extension of a line that that separates the batter’s eye backdrop from a seating section to its left.
If Freeman had hit it two inches to the left, or five feet shorter, it would’ve been his ninth home run in 20 career games at Chase Field. Instead it was his nine double at the park, where he had a .388 average and 1.232 OPS before Monday, when he faced one of the few pitchers who’s had the upper hand on him throughout his career.