Nolan Arenado was battling at the plate, fouling off multiple tough pitches from Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner before the eighth pitch of the at-bat. It was about a foot inside, but the St. Louis third baseman was still somehow able to yank it into the left field seats.
Even Arenado was surprised when the ball left the yard. Bumgarner watched in disbelief.
“I was just lucky to get Madison there,” Arenado said.
It was a telling moment for two teams heading opposite directions in a hurry: St. Louis is rising to the top of the NL Central while nothing is going right for the Diamondbacks. Arenado’s homer was part of the Cardinals’ 8-6 win on Friday night over Arizona, which has lost 12 games in a row.
It’s the D-backs’ longest losing streak since a 14-game skid in 2004.
Tyler O’Neill hit a two-run homer for the second straight night, Jake Woodford pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Cardinals held on in the ninth to win their third straight game.
Arizona trailed 8-5 entering the ninth but loaded the bases with one out. Ketel Marte pushed home a run with an RBI groundout, but Daniel Ponce de Leon got Josh Rojas to ground out on a slow roller to end the game.
The Cardinals never trailed, jumping to a 4-0 lead in the first. Paul Goldschmidt had a sacrifice fly, Yadier Molina added an RBI double and O’Neill’s homer easily cleared the left field wall.
O’Neill has homered in his first two games since returning from the 10-day injured list because of fracture in his left middle finger that kept him out of the lineup for nearly two weeks. Even with the missed time, he has 10 homers this year.
Arenado added his solo homer in the third that just cleared David Peralta’s glove over the left field fence. It was the third baseman’s 11th homer of the season and pushed the St. Louis lead to 5-2.
Woodford (1-0) earned the win while striking out six. The right-hander hadn’t pitched in more than a week but gave the Cardinals a big boost by chewing up some innings while much of the bullpen was tired.
“Arm feels good, that’s always a plus,” Woodford said. “Just taking whatever opportunities I get and do the most with them.”
Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo gave up three runs over 4 1/3 innings. He walked six, gave up five hits and struck out three. The hard-throwing righty has bounced between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis over the past few weeks.
The Diamondbacks trailed 7-3 entering the eighth but pulled within 7-5 on Eduardo Escobar’s bases-loaded single that scored Tim Locastro and Marte.
Bumgarner (4-5) struggled from the outset, walking the first two batters and giving up four runs in the first . He made it just four innings, giving up seven runs, including six earned on five hits and four walks. He struck out four.
The Diamondbacks have lost 21 of their past 24 games dating to May 4. Arizona has been close in several of its recent losses but hasn’t been able to get the big hit or make a big pitch when needed.
“We’ve got to reload at the most critical moments and be hyper-focused about what we want to do and how we want to do it,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “This isn’t an effort issue, it’s a focus issue.”
Bumgarner had a good stretch of outings from mid-April to mid-May, giving the D-backs hope that the four-time All-Star would have big bounce-back season after a tough 2020. But the left hander has given up 13 earned runs over his past 14 innings and his ERA has slowly climbed to 5.15.
The 13-year veteran said he’s at a loss to explain why the D-backs are in such a funk.
“If I knew I’d be spreading the word like wildfire,” Bumgarner said.
Arizona scored a run in each of the first three innings, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Cardinals. Pavin Smith had a double and triple. Josh Reddick had three hits, including a double.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (right forearm strain) won’t throw for the next four to six weeks while he rests his arm. Manager Mike Shildt said there is no structural damage in Mikolas’ elbow and the team is hopeful he’ll be able to return this season. Mikolas was hurt on May 22 in his first start of the season against the Cubs.
Diamondbacks: 1B Christian Walker (strained oblique) hit a homer and had three RBIs on Thursday night for Triple-A Reno. Lovullo said Walker is nearing a return to the big leagues.
Arizona sends RHP Seth Frankoff (0-1, 7.27 ERA) to the mound on Saturday night. He’ll face Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (2-4, 3.95). Frankoff will be making his third career MLB start and will be facing the Cardinals for the first time.