ST. LOUIS (AP) - Even after losing their last two games heading into the All-Star break, the Arizona Diamondbacks are feeling pretty good about themselves.
Ryan Roberts hit a two-run home run in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday as the Diamondbacks ended with a four-game split and are in second place in the NL West with a 49-43 record. They've made a huge improvement over last season, when their 65-97 record was the third-worst record in the majors.
``Our pitching has been good, our bullpen has been good,' outfielder Eric Young said. ``Everybody has ups and downs, but as a whole it's been a huge upgrade on a whole team scale the way we've played the game.'
Manager Kirk Gibson said players can feel good about themselves.
``We didn't win the last two games, but they've just got to go and chill out,' Gibson said. ``We've been grinding so hard for so long ever since the first day of spring training.
``It's been a tough go for the last month and we've come through it very well,' Gibson added.
Jaime Garcia won for the sixth time at home and David Freese homered for the first time since April 12 for St. Louis, tied for the NL Central lead. Albert Pujols had two hits and Matt Holliday had an RBI single and a walk.
They're 3-3 since getting Pujols back from the DL and Freese prospered batting fifth after going 2 for 12 the previous three games batting second.
The Cardinals won with the 80th different lineup in 82 games under manager Tony La Russa, who got away with giving rookie backup catcher Tony Cruz his first career start in right field. Cruz made a nice sliding catch on a short flyout by Henry Blanco in the fourth and was replaced for defense in the sixth, with Colby Rasmus going to center and Jon Jay moving to right.
Roberts' two-run shot in the second was the only damage against Garcia, who entered with a major league best 0.94 ERA at home and ended the day 6-1 at Busch Stadium with a 1.14 ERA in nine starts. Garcia (9-3) leads the staff in victories a year after finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting and has won his last three starts overall.
``He left a pitch in to me, it was a fastball in,' Roberts said. ``I just had to lay off the off-speed stuff. My approach was go for a fastball in or a cutter in and then try to adjust with two strikes, and I did.'
Freese answered in the third with his first homer in 13 games off the disabled list from a broken left hand, a two-run opposite-field shot off Zach Duke (2-4) to right. He had been 3 for 24 with no RBIs the previous seven games and in 41 at_bats since returning from a 51-game absence had totaled one double and one RBI.
Fernando Salas worked the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, giving up a hit with a strikeout.
Duke gave up four runs in six innings. He's 1-4 in eight starts since June 2 and has allowed a homer in four of his last five outings.
``It's a little frustating for me,' Duke said. ``I made a mistake to Freese, I left the ball over the middle up and that's what he hits well. It ended up being the deciding factor in the game.'
Duke said the 91-degree heat was no factor.
``I'm used to hot, it's no big deal,' Duke said. ``I was able to make pitches and keep the big guys from hurting me. I gave us a chance.'
The Cardinals got three straight hits in the first, including a double by Pujols and an RBI single by Holliday, and Freese made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Roberts tied it in the second with a two-run homer, his 11th of the year and first since June 12.
NOTES: LHP Joe Saunders (6-7, 3.86) will open the second half for the Diamondbacks on Friday at home against the Dodgers, followed by Ian Kennedy (9-3, 3.44) and Daniel Hudson (9-5, 3.74). ... RHP Jake Westbrook (7-4, 5.34) will open the second half for the Cardinals at Cincinnati on Friday, followed by Chris Carpenter (4-7, 3.85) and Garcia. Westbrook has the highest ERA on the rotation and trailed the Reds 5-0 after only 12 pitches on Tuesday. ... Lance Berkman got a scheduled day off, according to La Russa, unrelated to Berkman's upcoming All-Star Game appearance. Berkman flied out to the warning track in center as a pinch hitter in the sixth. ... Rasmus was 4 for 22 during the seven-game homestand. ... Yadier Molina hit his 19th double, matching his total from last season. ... Stephen Drew is 2 for 2 as a pinch hitter after singling in the ninth.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved