By Jose M. Romero
PHOENIX The Cubs couldnt get to an emergency last-minute starting pitcher more than once, and their own starter, Jeff Samardzija, faltered after a strong first few innings in Chicagos 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night at Chase Field.
Cubs catcher Geovany Soto showed signs of getting his batting average back to a more respectable number with two hits, including a solo home run in the fourth inning that was crushed high over the yellow home run line in straightaway center field.
But Soto provided Chicagos only offensive highlight. Samardzija surrendered a two-run home run to Jason Kubel in the bottom of the fourth, and the tall right-hander couldnt get the third out of the fifth inning before Aaron Hill laced an opposite-field RBI single to right to drive in Arizonas third run.
Samardzija left the game without getting an out in the sixth, walking the first two hitters of the inning before Miguel Montero tripled into the right field corner to give the D-backs a four-run lead. Samardzija, in his first career start at Chase Field after five career relief appearances, gave up five earned runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out six.
The Cubs didnt get to face left-hander Joe Saunders, the scheduled Diamondbacks starter Friday who was scratched right before first pitch because, according to the Diamondbacks, he was unable to get loose in the bullpen.
Chicago (24-46) had been pretty successful against Saunders, with wins in Saunders only two previous starts against the Cubs. Instead, the Cubs got long reliever Josh Collmenter, a right-hander with an over-the-top delivery whod struggled as a starter earlier in the season but had held right-handed hitters to a .212 average going into Fridays game.
The Cubs had eight such hitters in the starting lineup, figuring theyd face Saunders.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Collmenter walked Darwin Barney and Joe Mather to load the bases with one out, then struck out Luis Valbuena and Samardzija to escape the jam.
Collmenter struck out six in four innings and allowed only three hits, giving way to reliever Brad Ziegler in the fifth.
The Cubs had an opportunity to score against Ziegler in the fifth but left runners on second and third. They had runners at the corners with two out in the seventh, but the D-backs Bryan Shaw came on to get the last out of the inning, a sinking fly ball from Alfonso Soriano caught on the run in center field.
The Cubs last chance came in the eighth, but they left the bases loaded.
On the flip side, it was such a good night for the Diamondbacks that two relief pitchers recorded their first career major-league hits, Ziegler in the fifth he would come in to score and David Hernandez in the eighth.
Justin Uptons ground rule double in the seventh off Cubs reliever Jairo Asencio drove in Willie Bloomquist for the games final run, as the Cubs fell to 20-32 all-time against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.