Ian Kennedy laments rough outing as Diamondbacks drop finale to Cubs

·4 min read

CHICAGO — Neither of the pitches from Diamondbacks reliever Ian Kennedy could be considered awful — one was on the outside corner, the other up and out of the zone — but both ended up in the Wrigley Field bleachers, shots that brought a sobering end to what had a chance to be a feel-good road trip.

Even after dropping a 5-4 heartbreaker to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon, the Diamondbacks had plenty of reasons to feel encouraged. After getting swept in four games at Dodger Stadium, they came within a half-dozen outs of a sweep of their own. They might have lost five of eight on the trip, but they played almost exclusively tight, hard-fought games; they had a lead in every game.

But they also return home with an old concern hanging in the air, one only exacerbated by the late-inning events the previous two days. On Saturday, closer Mark Melancon labored through his outing in the 10th inning, converting a save but not before allowing two runs (one earned) to score while the tying run reached second base.

Then on Sunday, Kennedy was tasked with protecting a one-run lead in the eighth. He did not record an out. Patrick Wisdom clobbered a cutter on the outside corner, sending it on a line into the seats in left-center. One batter later, Frank Schwindel caught up with a high fastball, a solo homer that put the Cubs ahead for good.


Melancon’s struggles are well documented. He has pitched poorly enough that manager Torey Lovullo wanted to take a night to sleep on whether he would make a change in the closer’s role. He did not, and Melancon converted consecutive save chances against the Cubs, though his outing on Saturday was shaky.

As for Kennedy, it would be a stretch to say he has struggled. He entered the day with a 2.95 ERA and had allowed only one run in his past 11 outings. But his appearances have not been as smooth as those results suggest.

He entered Sunday having allowed nearly a baserunner and a half per inning, and he also ranked among the bottom third of major league pitchers in the sort of batted-ball data that often portends good results, such as average exit velocity (bottom 11 percent), expected batting average (bottom 20 percent), expected ERA (bottom 33 percent) and chase rate (bottom 11 percent).

Speaking with reporters in a quiet visitors’ clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, Kennedy had a dejected tone. He had watched his offense overcome a 3-0 deficit to take a narrow lead, and he was frustrated that neither of the pitches that went for home runs went where he wanted them.

“These outings suck,” Kennedy said. “The team fought back so much and to be responsible for not even getting an out? Yeah. These are hard ones.”

Kennedy said that despite having to pitch out of tight spots, he has felt good about the way he had been pitching because he had managed to keep the ball in the park.

“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball really good,” he said. “When you’re not giving up home runs, which I hadn’t been doing, (opposing teams) have to string a bunch of hits together, and that’s going to be in our favor. Slider’s been good, fastball has had good life to it. When there’s traffic on the bases, it doesn’t really phase me.”

The Cubs jumped on right-hander Merrill Kelly in the second inning for three runs, all of them scoring on P.J. Higgins’ bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner. Kelly’s command was spotty, but the Diamondbacks also allowed a popup in front of the mound to drop, a ball that appeared to swirl around in the Chicago wind before falling in front of third baseman Drew Ellis.

“I felt like if we could have caught a popup today,” Lovullo said, “that would have made a big difference.”

The Diamondbacks, who host the Royals for two games starting on Monday night, have only been gone a week, but the trip felt like it lasted a month. They played a doubleheader on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, then a day game on Wednesday followed by a flight to Chicago. They played a night game, then three consecutive day games, though they spent part of Saturday watching raindrops fall.

“It’s rough when you’re changing time zones, playing day games and doubleheaders,” Diamondbacks right fielder/first baseman Pavin Smith said. “It’s definitely been a tiring road trip. I’ll be happy to get back home to Arizona.”

Short hop

The Diamondbacks recalled Ellis from Triple-A Reno before the game and optioned infielder Yonny Hernandez. Lovullo said the club preferred Ellis in matchups with some opposing pitchers in the coming days.

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or nick.piecoro@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks drops series finale after late Cubs rally