D-backs drop finale to finish with .500 record

D-backs drop finale to finish with .500 record

D-backs drop finale to finish with .500 record
PHOENIX -- Tabbed a preseason championship contender, the D-backs' high hopes never quite panned out in 2012.

In the club's season finale Wednesday, Arizona showed why a year that began with so much promise never escalated to the heights of its division-crown campaign a season ago.

D-backs ace Ian Kennedy tossed seven dominant innings, but his offense and defense didn't cooperate, a reflection of the club's inability to put all aspects together for much of the season.

Despite not allowing an earned run, Kennedy and the D-backs fell to the Rockies, 2-1, at Chase Field, capping their disappointing middle-of-the-road season with an 81-81 record, 13 wins shy of where they finished a year ago.

"We did that so many times this year, try to get over the top of .500," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It was a frustrating game and it stings."

Striking out eight while walking none, Kennedy deserved a better fate Wednesday, but a costly Chris Johnson error in the fourth inning led to both of the Rockies' runs.

Even though Kennedy's season didn't match his 20-win campaign from 2011, he steadily improved over the final month and a half of the season. In winning four of his last five decisions, Kennedy won 15, lowered his ERA from 4.44 to 4.02 and went well over 200 innings for the second consecutive year.

"It's been a tough season but you take pride in finishing strong," Kennedy said. "Try to go back out there and keep pushing. A lot of the bounces didn't go our way but last year they did."

With Wednesday's defeat, the D-backs ended with a 15-27 record in one-run games this year, almost the exact opposite of where they finished last season, a Major League leading 28-16.

"If you look at our record in close games, it wasn't good," Gibson said. "I think Ian pitched his tail off. He struggled at times, just like everyone else, that's baseball."

The only offensive support the D-backs offered Kennedy on Wednesday came from A.J. Pollock's home run in the third inning.

Justin Upton finished his season with a 3-for-4 outing to raise his batting average to .280, tied for the highest it has been since batting 2-for-6 over the first two games of the year.

"Overall, we finished really strong. We know what we need to work on, we'll come back next year," Upton said. "We went out and gave it everything we had. We're a .500 ballclub but we know we're better than that."

One of the biggest differences between 2011 and 2012 for the D-backs was that the club never went on a prolonged winning streak. The most games the team won in a row this year was five, while last season the D-backs strung together runs of six, seven (twice) and nine wins over the course of their campaign.

"We ran up to .500 a couple times, we crossed the line a couple times even, but we never ran away from it," Upton said. "We just teetered back and forth. It takes consistent baseball to make a run and get in the playoffs. It makes you go into the offseason and work even harder."

After the dust settled and the end resonated with the players, the postgame clubhouse didn't feel like one of a losing team. Instead, the D-backs were hugging and chatting, savoring each moment with their teammates before leaving the ballpark for the final time in uniform this year.

"You try to soak it in, it's the last few minutes with these guys," Upton said. "You try not to think about what might happen. There are going to be changes, it happens every year. You just have to wait it out."

While admitting his club underachieved in 2012, Gibson wasn't all down in the dumps Wednesday. His attitude spoke of a team still in the growing process but one he thinks will blossom in 2013.

"The foundation is there, within our team and organization," Gibson said. "I'm optimistic about next year. Many people think pitching is the key, we have that, it's our strength."

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.