The SF Giants have been looking for a spark to provide more energy and a kick-start in the midst of a surprising stretch of poor play.
They may have found one, as prospect David Villar was promoted to the big club Monday and stood out in his Major League debut. It wasn't enough, however, as the Giants, in Arizona for the start of a three-game series, dropped the opener by a final of 8-3.
It was an interesting pitching matchup - San Francisco's post-season legend, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, starting for the Diamondbacks in the midst of his third (and best) season in the desert, opposing the new southpaw standout in Orange and Black, Carlos Rodon, who is a solid candidate to make the All-Star team.
Neither hurler was sharp. The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first and Lamonte Wade Jr. capitalized with a two-run single (though a Yermin Mercedes double play groundout let Bumgarner off the hook after that), and Arizona matched the visitors' output with a two-run single in the home half.
Villar makes his presence known
In the lineup as the starting second baseman, Villar led off the second inning by doubling on the first pitch he saw. Bumgarner prevented him from scoring with a pair of strikeouts sandwiching a lineout.
Rodon was victimized by his defense in the bottom of the second. After a Daulton Varsho infield single, a sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position and he attempted to take a briefly unoccupied third base. Wilmer Flores airmailed his throw to Curt Casali covering the bag - an accurate throw would have been in plenty of time - and Varsho scored standing up to give the Diamondbacks the lead.
With two out, Cooper Hummel singled and stole second, going to third as Casali's throw sailed into center field for another error. Ketel Marte then doubled to score Hummel and make it 4-2.
The Giants pulled to within one in the third, as Evan Longoria and Mercedes singled to bring up Villar, who collected his first MLB RBI with a single to right.
After the first two innings Rodon settled down. He was perfect from the third through the fifth and exited having thrown 101 pitches.
Arizona began to pull away as they scored twice off Tyler Rogers in the sixth, and they added another pair of runs against Mauricio Llovera in the eighth to put the game away.
The loss - the fifth-straight for San Francisco - dropped the Giants to 40-38 and 9.5 behind Los Angeles in the NL West, though they're only two games out of a Wild Card spot.