The Arizona Diamondbacks had the length of a cross-country plane flight to get over a bitter 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday that capped a 2-5 road trip after the All-Star break.
Arizona looked flat in being swept in a three-game weekend series by the Chicago Cubs but was on the verge of taking three of four from NL Central-leading Cincinnati before the Reds overcame a 6-0, sixth-inning deficit to salvage a split. The D-backs had lost only one larger lead in franchise history, when Florida overcame a 7-0 deficit in a 14-7 victory on July 7, 2009.
Left-hander Joe Saunders did what he could. Saunders retired the first 10 batters he faced, and he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Devin Mesoraco's two-out single. He handed a 6-3 lead to the bullpen when he left after throwing 86 pitches in six innings.
But the D-backs' usually trustworthy relief corps -- 3.38 ERA this season, an NL-best 1.88 ERA since June 22 -- gave up four runs in the seventh inning, with two walks and an infield error complicating things. It was the fourth lead the D-backs have lost for Saunders (4-6, 3.58 ERA) this season.
"It was a hot day. I had the bullpen all lined up and rested," manager Kirk Gibson said about his decision to bring in right-hander Bryan Shaw to start the seventh on a humid, 76-degree day. The start of the game was delayed 46 minutes by rain.
"I'd have liked to win that game for sure."
Shaw issued two four-pitch walks with one out in the seventh before Wilson Valdez's grounder scooted under first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's glove for an error, scoring one. Brandon Phillips capped a five-RBI day with a two-run double, and Todd Frazier's single off sidearmer Brad Ziegler broke the tie.
"It's a play I should have made," Goldschmidt said. "Looking back, I may have rushed a bit trying to get a double play."
Shaw said of his walks, "I couldn't get a grip on the ball. My hands were sweating. I hung the pitch to Phillips."
Phillips hit a three-run, 428-foot homer down the left field line off Saunders to make it 6-3 in the sixth.
"I don't know how he kept it fair. Maybe he was cheating inside. You have to tip your cap and move on," Saunders said.