D-backs lose hold on first place

D-backs lose hold on first place

LOS ANGELES -- For the first time since April 5, the D-backs are looking up at another team in the National League West standings.

The Dodgers knocked the D-backs off their perch with a 7-2 win Saturday afternoon in front 47,543 at Dodger Stadium.

The game capped off a nightmare week for the D-backs, which saw them go from 4 1/2 games up on the Dodgers to trailing their rival by a half-game. Arizona has lost four straight games to the Dodgers by a combined score of 28-4.

In short, it's been ugly and if, as the D-backs insist, it isn't time to panic, that time will come soon if they don't start winning, beginning with Sunday's series finale.

The Dodgers' two wins of this series, just as their victories in the final two games of the teams' matchup last week in Phoenix, have come against Arizona's co-aces Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. In fact, Haren and Webb have lost back-to-back games for the third straight time.

Saturday it was Webb's turn to struggle. The right-hander didn't appear to have his good stuff from the outset yet managed to keep the Dodgers off the board through four innings.

"He was able to get us where we needed to go for a while," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.

In the fifth with two outs and one on, Webb pitched carefully to outfielder Andre Ethier, who has been a thorn in the D-backs' side of late. As it turned out, Webb was a little too careful, as Ethier worked a walk to bring Manny Ramirez to the plate.

Webb had struck Ramirez out in the third inning on three pitches and gotten him to fly out in the first. In fact, Ramirez had swung at all four pitches that Webb had thrown him.

He also swung at the fifth and this one he didn't miss, as he deposited in the right-field seats for a three-run homer.

"Wasn't the location that I wanted it," Webb said of the fastball down the middle. "The at-bat before that he chased three pitches out of the zone and I got a big strikeout. I was just trying to get ahead there."

Webb battled command problems throughout his 5 2/3-inning stint, as he walked a career-high six. With two outs in the sixth, it came to a head when he walked Russell Martin to force in a run and give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.

"Ran out of gas a little bit," Melvin said. "Even though he didn't have his best stuff he was still able to make adjustments and get outs up until the Ramirez homer."

Reliever Juan Cruz then came in and walked Ethier to force in another run before getting Ramirez to hit a fly ball to right. The ball was deep and looked to be the third out until Justin Upton lost it in the sun. The ball landed on the warning track and bounced over the wall as two runs crossed the plate to put the Dodgers up, 7-0.

Offensively, the D-backs could not get much going against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley.

The right-hander, who had limited the D-backs to two runs over seven innings last weekend, was even better this time around, as he allowed just four hits in 6 1/3 shutout innings while striking out nine.

"He and [Derek] Lowe have been pitching great for them," Melvin said. "Once you get a lead like that it seems you get a little bit more momentum and confidence behind you and we weren't getting great swings off him."

The lack of offense has put more pressure on the pitchers. In their past four losses against the Dodgers, Arizona has not led for even a single inning.

"I don't think this team is built around making huge comebacks," outfielder Adam Dunn said. "We need to jump on them early and help our pitchers out. If we jump on them early, maybe we can put pressure on them for a change."

When asked if he would talk to his club about not putting added pressure on itself Melvin said he wouldn't say anything Saturday, which left open the possibility of a Sunday meeting.

Sunday is the final time these two teams will meet this year, which only adds to the urgency for the D-backs.

"It's a very important game to win just from the standpoint of we're not playing very well," Dunn said. "If we win we go back into first place, obviously we would have liked the first two games to go differently, but we've still got one left and it's a big one."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.