MLB Insiders: Arizona Diamondbacks

Erik Bedard

The Pirates open a four-game series with Arizona on Monday night at PNC Park. Bucs lefty Erik Bedard will oppose D-backs lefty Wade Miley.

After concluding a successful road trip by salvaging a victory against the NL Central leaders, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be excited to return home.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, meanwhile, are hoping to get back on track after hitting a rut on a trek that started quite well.

Beginning a season-high 11-game homestand, the Pirates look to hand the Diamondbacks a third straight defeat Monday night.

Though Pittsburgh (61-46) went 6-4 on its latest trip, it returns home 4 1/2 games behind Central-leading Cincinnati after dropping two of three to the Reds over the weekend.

The Pirates now return home, where they are a major league-best 33-16 despite losing two of three to Chicago from July 23-25.

Tied for the most losses in the majors, Pittsburgh's Erik Bedard (5-12, 4.83 ERA) takes the mound after he allowed nine runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 14-4 loss at Chicago on Monday.

The left-hander allowed two runs, three hits and walked four over five innings of a 5-1 loss at Arizona on April 16.

Bedard, however, has been much better at home. He has a 2.43 ERA in his last five starts at PNC, while he's compiled a 9.00 ERA in his last five on the road.

Arizona (55-53) won the first four on its current 10-game trip before dropping the last two in Philadelphia. The Diamondbacks blew an early three-run lead Sunday and lost 5-4 on Ryan Howard's tiebreaking single in the ninth.

The Diamondbacks have a good chance to turn things around Monday when they hand the ball to All-Star Wade Miley (12-6, 2.98), who allowed a solo homer and two other hits in eight innings of an 8-2 win at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

Miley, who yielded one walk in that contest, has not issued more than two free passes in any of his last 19 starts.

In his only previous appearance against the Pirates, Miley gave up two runs in five innings of an 8-5 home win Sept. 21.

New Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Johnson finds himself in a pennant race for the first time in his four-year major league career, and he is loving every minute of it. The immersion process did not take long.

"One of the guys on the bench said, 'Does anybody know what the Giants did tonight?' That kind of shocked me. I'm not really used to that," Johnson said after his first game with the D-backs on July 30, after being obtained in a trade from Houston the day before.

Johnson hit a grand slam in his third at-bat that night in a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers, another NL West contender, keying a three-game sweep that has turned the division race into a three-way fight between the Giants, Dodgers and defending champion D-backs.

Johnson homered again Sunday, a two-run shot in the second inning against Philadelphia left-hander Cliff Lee, but the D-backs could not hold a 4-3 lead after seven innings, losing 5-4.

"It's intense out there," Johnson said. "It's the sense of urgency. Guys want to get on base. Guys want to keep the line moving. Every out, every pitch, matters. Guys are taking this pretty seriously, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to try to follow that lead."

Johnson had eight hits and 10 RBI in his first 21 at-bats for Arizona, with seven of his RBI coming with two outs.

The Astros were 94 games under .500 during Johnson's time with them from 2010 through last week, when he came to the D-backs for minor league outfielders Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering. While being in a stretch drive is new, being around the game is not. Johnson is the son of former major-leaguer Ron Johnson, who later spent three years on Terry Francona's coaching staff in Boston and is the manager of Baltimore's Class AAA Norfolk affiliate this season.

He admitted to some butterflies upon joining the D-backs.

"I told one of the guys this was like Opening Day for me. My nerves were running wild. Hopefully those are gone now," Johnson said after his debut.

Notes, Quotes

SS/3B Willie Bloomquist (back) missed his sixth consecutive game Sunday. He first felt back issues when the D-backs arrived in Los Angeles on July 30, and he saw the team chiropractor Wednesday morning. He took pregame grounders Saturday and Sunday and does not appear to be a candidate for the disabled list, manager Kirk Gibson said. "I don't think he's feeling a lot of pain. I just think he's still a little stiff," Gibson said.

3B Chris Johnson capped his first week with the D-backs with a two-run home run off Cliff Lee on Sunday, his first hit against the Philadelphia lefty. Johnson is 8-for-21 (.381) with a double, three homers and 10 RBI in six games since being acquired from Houston on July 29. "This is a great lineup to hit in. I'm just trying to do my part," said Johnson, who had eight homers and 41 RBI in 92 games with the Astros this season.

SS Stephen Drew hit his first home run since June 27, 2011, when he took Philadelphia LHP Cliff Lee deep in the second inning Sunday. Drew has started 12 straight games, in part because SS/3B Willie Bloomquist (back) was unable to play the last six. Drew was 7-for-39 with three doubles, a homer and two RBI in those 12 starts. The D-backs begin a four-game series against Pittsburgh on Monday, and the Pirates were rumored to be one of the teams interested in adding a shortstop before the July 31 trade deadline.

RHP Trevor Bauer, 11-1 with a 2.30 ERA, is scheduled to start for Class AAA Reno on Monday, making his return to action after the D-backs gave him some time off for both a physical (groin) and mental break. Bauer made his last appearance for Reno on July 22, giving up two runs in five innings. He was optioned to the Aces on July 18 following four mostly ineffective major league starts.

OF Gerardo Parra met with manager Kirk Gibson before the game Sunday, a day after Parra was thrown out attempting to steal second base with two outs in the eighth inning with the D-backs trailing Philadelphia 2-0. "He knew he had the red light," Gibson said before Sunday's game. "He just made a mistake. That's part of him learning how to harness his enthusiasm. Overall, I couldn't be happier." Parra has 12 stolen bases in 20 attempts this season.

1B Lyle Overbay was released Saturday, six days after being designated for assignment in a roster squeeze caused when 3B Chris Johnson was acquired for two minor-leaguers. He hit .292 with 10 doubles and 10 RBI in 45 games this season but finished in a 2-for-25 slump.

By The Numbers: 11—Home runs in the first six games of the current 10-game road trip, in which the D-backs have gone 4-2.

Quote To Note: "They out-executed us when it counted. They put pressure on us all day. It's frustrating, but you just get over it and come back tomorrow." —D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, after Philadelphia tied the game on three infield singles, two wild pitches and a throwing error in the eighth inning and got a walk-off single from 1B Ryan Howard for a 5-4 victory in the ninth Sunday.

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