D-Backs stumble again as Gonzalez goes down

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks might have lost a lot
more than a chance to clinch a playoff berth.

Tues., Sept. 24

The Luis Gonzalez injury is damaging because the Diamondbacks no longer have the outfield depth they had in the past. Last year they had Danny Bautista as a fourth outfielder. In fact, he was the starting right fielder this season until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in May.

No matter who they replace Gonzalez with, there will be a dropoff. They may have to move Erubiel Durazo to the outfield against right-handed pitching and play Mark Grace at first base. His absence will hurt the most against left-handers because Gonzalez, as a left-handed hitter, could hit lefties as well as right-handers. In the outfield they would be left with Steve Finley, Quinton McCracken, David Dellucci and maybe Jose Guillen. And while McCracken is a switch-hitter, only Guillen is a right-handed hitter of the other three.

Losing Gonzalez would also hurt their leadership. Gonzalez is a leader, the rock in the middle of their lineup. It's like the Cardinals losing Albert Pujols or the Braves losing Chipper Jones or Gary Sheffield.

Gonzalez's shoulder hasn't been fully diagnosed, so he could be back next week, in time for the opening of the playoffs. Hopefully, he could get healthy and be rested. We will have to wait before we can know the full effect of his injury. But without Gonzalez, the Diamondbacks would no longer be the favorites to win the National League pennant.

Luis Gonzalez, who leads the team in home runs and RBI,
separated his left shoulder in an outfield collision as the
Diamondbacks lost 13-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.

The star left fielder was going back to Phoenix on Tuesday to
meet with team physician Dr. Michael Lee.

''Best case scenario, it'll be a first-degree separation and
it'll be maybe a week,'' Diamondbacks trainer Paul Lessard said.
''Worst case scenario would be the season.''

Gonzalez is batting .288 with 28 home runs and 103 RBI. He got
the hit that won the World Series last year for the Diamondbacks.

Gonzalez was hurt when he tried to make a diving catch on Tino
Martinez's bloop double in the fourth inning. Shortstop Tony
Womack's knee hit Gonzalez's shoulder, and Womack cartwheeled over
his teammate.

''It doesn't look good right now for him being a part of our
postseason plans,'' pitcher Rick Helling said. ''Hopefully it's not
as bad as they think it is.''

The Cardinals broke open the game by scoring 10 runs in the
seventh inning, and sent Arizona to its fourth consecutive defeat. The
National League West leaders have a magic number of three for wrapping up a
playoff berth, with six games to go.

''Obviously, it's a lot more than just a loss in the
standings,'' manager Bob Brenly said.

The Diamondbacks' lead for home-field advantage in the first
round of the playoffs is down to two games over St. Louis, which
has won 16 of 19. The NL Central champion Cardinals posted their
highest-scoring game of the season in the opener of a three-game

''You guys can create the drama,'' manager Tony La Russa said.
''We'll just come out and play the game tomorrow and try and find a
way to win.''

Eli Marrero had four hits for the second time in four games. St.
Louis tied a season high with 18 hits.

''Nobody is patting themselves on the back,'' La Russa said.
''We caught a week's worth of breaks.''

Marrero hit a three-run double in the big seventh, which also
featured three infield run-scoring singles and nine consecutive two-out

Arizona, which has given up double-digit run totals in its past
three defeats, leads the Giants by four games in the NL West.
They've been outscored 48-20 during the losing streak.

''I'm not a psychiatrist, but a loss is a loss is a loss -- 1-0,
13-1, 5-0, it doesn't make any difference. It's still a loss and
it's over with,'' Brenly said.

Jamey Wright (7-13) allowed a run on three hits in five innings.

Albert Pujols' run-scoring double off the right-field wall against
Helling (9-12) snapped a tie in the Cardinals' two-run fifth. Edgar
Renteria drove in two runs for St. Louis, setting a career high
with 78 RBI.

Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Donnels, playing in place of
injured Matt Williams, also left with a mild concussion. Donnels
landed awkwardly making a lunging throw on Marrero's bunt single in
the third and left for a pinch-hitter in the fourth.

Junior Spivey's 14th homer in the first gave the Diamondbacks
their only lead.

Wright was wild in his first start since Sept. 4, walking five.
He's unlikely to make the Cardinals' postseason roster, but won for
the first time in five career decisions at Busch Stadium.

Helling, who gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings,
has one victory in his last seven starts and is on the bubble for a
rotation spot in the postseason.

Game notes
The teams are meeting for the first time since April 15-17
in Phoenix, when the Diamondbacks took two of three. ... Wright is
1-4 with an 8.23 ERA in six career starts at Busch Stadium. He made
his second start in St. Louis since being acquired from the Brewers
Aug. 29. ... The Diamondbacks last gave up 10 runs in an inning
Oct. 7, 2001 at Milwaukee. ... Williams didn't play because of a
tight right quadriceps muscle. ... The 10-run inning was the
Cardinals' second-best of the season, trailing only an 11-inning
third against the Cubs on Sept. 6. ... Of Spivey's 14 homers, only
four have come against right-handed pitching. ... Pujols also had
a run-scoring double in the seventh and has 126 RBI, two fewer than NL
leader Lance Berkman of the Astros. ... Diamondbacks reliever Greg
Swindell didn't get anybody out in the Cardinals' 10-run seventh
and allowed five runs on six hits.