PHOENIX (AP)—Even as the losses piled up over the last few weeks, the Arizona Diamondbacks found it impossible to fall out of contention in the anemic NL West.
Now that they have taken two of three from Atlanta, they are just 2 1/2 games behind the sinking San Diego Padres.
Javier Vazquez struck out a season-high 11 in eight innings and the Diamondbacks withstood a pair of home runs by Andruw Jones to beat the Braves 3-2 on Sunday and give Arizona its first series win at home in a month.
“You look at our record (48-52), and it’s like the black and blue division,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “But we’re lucky enough to be in it. You’ll always have the excitement of being in a pennant race, as long as you don’t look at the record.”
Part-time player Tony Clark hit his 15th home run for the Diamondbacks, one night after he doubled in the tying run as a pinch hitter. The big, switch-hitting first baseman has 51 RBIs in just 185 at-bats.
“Right-handed, left-handed, he starts, he comes off the bench,” Melvin said. “You look at his numbers, if you don’t look at his at-bats, you would think he was playing every day.”
The loss kept Atlanta tied with Washington atop the NL East. The Braves finished a 10-game road trip 5-5 and open a three-game series at home against the Nationals on Tuesday night.
“He was mixing his pitches very good out there,” Jones said. “He just made a couple of mistakes to me, and I took them.”
Beginning with his game-winner in the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 3-2 victory, Jones had three homers in four at-bats, all of them solo shots.
“Andruw, man, he’s hot,” Vazquez said. “He’s hitting everything.”
Vazquez walked two in going at least eight innings for the seventh time this season, third in his last four starts.
“We ran into the old Vazquez as we knew him in Montreal,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
“I love it when it’s a one-run game,” said Bruney, who surrendered four runs to tie it in the ninth inning of the series opener on Friday before Arizona came back to win in the 10th.
Horacio Ramirez (8-6) allowed two runs in the first, then settled down. He gave up three runs and eight hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking three, one intentionally.
Royce Clayton led off the first with a hustle play that turned into an infield single. Clayton grounded to first, then slid headfirst into the base to beat Ramirez covering the bag.
Alex Cintron followed with a sharp grounder that deflected off Ramirez’s glove into left field to put runners at first and third.
“If I let that ball go, it’s probably a double play,” Ramirez said. “I put the glove out there. It was just a reaction thing. I didn’t catch it, and it turned into two runs.”
Gonzalez singled Clayton home, then Cintron scored on Troy Glaus’ groundout to make it 2-0.
Vazquez struck out the first two batters in the fourth, but Jones lofted an 0-1 pitch just over the left-field fence to cut the lead to 2-1. It was Jones’ fourth homer of the road trip.
Clark’s towering, 426-foot homer onto the overhang in right-center, on the first pitch he saw in the fourth boosted Arizona’s edge to 3-1. Jones’ opposite-field homer leading off the seventh, on a 1-1 pitch, cut the lead to 3-2.
: LHP Michael Gosling will start for Arizona on Monday night in Milwaukee in place of RHP Brandon Webb. Webb has a virus and did not leave with the team on Sunday. The team was unsure whether Webb would be able to go on Tuesday. … Atlanta C Johnny Estrada, who left Saturday night’s game with a lower back strain, was not in the lineup on Sunday. … Arizona was the only NL West team to win a game in eight matchups against NL East teams Saturday and Sunday. … Ramirez’s loss was only his second in 11 starts since the end of May. … Clayton was 13-for-27 on the homestand. … All three games in the series were decided by one run.