Monday's affair wasn't yet another one-run game in the box score, but it sure resembled one. Because closer Chad Qualls suddenly lost the ability to throw strikes in the top of the ninth inning, the Braves brought the potential game-winning run to the plate before Qualls buckled down with a double-play groundout, leaving the last three of Atlanta's 12 stranded baserunners.
"See any new gray hairs?" Arizona's A.J. Hinch asked reporters while adjusting his ball cap after the three-hour, 15-minute game. Then the manager sarcastically wondered who hurled the game's first pitch because four of his relievers took so long finishing it.
In his 200th career start, Haren (6-4) wasn't nearly as dominant as he was on Tuesday, when he silenced the Los Angeles Dodgers for eight innings, but he was much better in his second crack at the Braves. On May 16 in Atlanta, Haren allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.
"We hit him around pretty good a few weeks ago and swung the bats pretty good tonight, too," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "But he's good."
It was Derek Lowe (8-5) who played the punching bag in Haren's stead. The D-backs opened their half of the first with three straight singles off the Braves veteran and exited the frame up, 2-0.
Mark Reynolds' home run in the fourth, his first hit in 10 at-bats, jump-started Arizona's fourth-inning rally. Following Chris Young's base knock and two Lowe-issued free passes, Conor Jackson's infield single drove in one and Stephen Drew's three-run triple gave the home team a 7-1 lead.
"Being able to have a knockout punch like that was very important," Hinch said.
Drew's clutch hit also gave Haren breathing room, and he used it. Arizona's ace yielded a pair of run-scoring hits while tiring in the sixth -- he has thrown 100-plus pitches in 10 of 13 starts -- before leaving extra work for Esmerling Vasquez, who retired all four batters he faced.
Vazquez's success likely gave the Chase Field patrons unfair expectations as to how his teammates would perform. Those who have come to expect bullpen bungles began groaning in the eighth when Carlos Rosa handed over a one-out, bases-loaded situation to Aaron Heilman. The latter reliever hit David Ross with a pitch to score the Braves' fourth run but rebounded by retiring Martin Prado and Omar Infante.
It only got more interesting (or less, depending on one's perspective) when Qualls walked three batters in the ninth before inducing Yunel Escobar's night-ending double-play ground ball to earn his 11th save of the season.
"I was just out there trying to throw the ball down the middle, to be honest," Qualls said, adding that his fastball, which is supposed to sink
, instead cut
too far away from the strike zone.
While not pinning his command issue on it, Qualls noted that holes in the mound's dirt (inevitably created by starters Lowe and Haren) forced him to uncomfortably scoot his pushing-off foot to the side of the pitching rubber.
Except to say that he was leaning toward calling on a fifth reliever if Qualls had failed to retire Escobar or the ensuing batter, Hinch was in no mood to dwell on the imperfections of victory.
"The way the bullpen has thrown throughout the year," the skipper said, "at the end of the day, I'm going to take a zero and move onto tomorrow."