Rodriguez, Pirates lose to Diamondbacks 6-3
PITTSBURGH (AP) Wandy Rodriguez keeps coming up a pitch or two short when it comes to impressing his new teammates.
Making his home debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Rodriguez allowed a pair of two-run homers in a 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.
"I don't know what's going on with me - I've lost the last two games on only one pitch," Rodriguez said. "Today in that last inning on (Wil) Nieves, I hung a breaking ball, and he hit a home run."
Jason Kubel homered off Rodriguez in the first inning and again off Jared Hughes in the seventh for the Diamondbacks, who completed a 6-4 road trip. Nieves' drive came in the sixth, and Rodriguez did not allow any other extra-base hits or runs in between.
"Bookend two-run homers, the story of the game for him," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rodriguez (7-11) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. He is winless in three starts since the Pirates acquired him from the Houston Astros for three prospects on July 24.
In his previous start, a two-run homer by opposing pitcher Mat Latos did in Rodriguez during a 3-0 loss to Cincinnati.
"It's only one pitch or two pitches that got me all game," Rodriguez said. "They hit the ball very well, get a home run, and I lose the game."
After hitting an NL-high 11 home runs in July, Kubel was slumping enough recently (5 hits in 40 at-bats entering Thursday) that Arizona manager Kirk Gibson considered sitting him for the final two games of the series. But the ejections of Chris Young and Justin Upton on Wednesday forced Kubel into the game late, and he was back in the lineup Thursday.
"He's got a chance of doing damage," Gibson explained before Thursday's game. "He's due."
Both of Kubel's home runs immediately followed hits by Aaron Hill.
"I said he was due, didn't I?" Gibson said afterward. "I'm glad I had him in there. It was just a great performance from him."
Arizona starter Joe Saunders (6-8) retired 14 consecutive batters in the middle innings. He allowed two earned runs and seven hits with no walks. The Diamondbacks had lost five of his previous six starts.
J.J. Putz pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save. He's converted 12 chances in a row.
After a three-run second that featured three singles and a sacrifice fly, the first two Pirates batters singled off Saunders in the third. He allowed only one more baserunner.
"The second inning was not much fun," Saunders said. "I was making pretty good pitches, and they were still kind of finding holes. I kept telling myself, `Keep making good pitches, keep pounding the strike zone and it's going to start going your way.'"
Hill had three hits and Chris Johnson added two for Arizona.
Gaby Sanchez had three hits for the Pirates.
Kubel moved into third in the NL with his 24th and 25th home runs. He has nine career multihomer games, including hitting three July 21 against Houston. Kubel homered in the first and seventh innings to open and close the game's scoring.
After the Pirates took the lead with a three-run second, Nieves put Arizona ahead 4-3 when he homered with Johnson on base in the sixth. Nieves connected off Rodriguez for his second home run of the season.
Claimed off waivers from Colorado on Monday, Nieves was playing for the first time since July 8. He was 2 for 4.
Pittsburgh's runs came on RBI singles by Michael McKenry and Starling Marte, and a sacrifice fly by Jordy Mercer.
"After that, (Saunders) just hit spots," Hurdle said. "He hit more spots and worked ahead in the count. We were laying off some pitches, he got behind in some counts and we were able to drive some balls and do some things (in the second), but after that last window of opportunity we had, we didn't have much come our way at all."
NOTES: Arizona SS Willie Bloomquist was scratched from the lineup just before game time because of a stiff back. Stephen Drew took his place in the leadoff spot. ... The Diamondbacks have won 13 of their past 19 games when facing a left-handed starter. ... McKenry has a nine-game hitting streak. ... Pittsburgh continues its season-long 11-game homestand with three games against San Diego this weekend. The Padres are the only NL team the Pirates have yet to play this season.
Updated August 9, 2012