PHOENIX -- Adam LaRoche was absent from Arizona's starting lineup for the second straight game, but not for a lack of trying.
"It was my decision, not his," interim skipper Kirk Gibson said. "He came in here and begged me."
LaRoche, who is suffering from back stiffness, but was able to hit in the batting cages during Saturday's game and was available off the bench on Sunday, was again replaced by reserve Rusty Ryal. LaRoche is sitting on a seven-game hitting streak.
"Although we know Adam is our regular starting first baseman, Ryal, that's part of his job, so let's give him an opportunity do it," Gibson said.
And he's done it well of late. Over his last nine straight starts entering Sunday -- he batted seventh -- Ryal was hitting .367 (11-for-30).
"As far as rhythm goes, it's not going to happen if you're not playing everyday; your mentality just has to be, relax and just take what they give you," summed up Ryal. "I'll have a job in Triple-A [if I don't]. Great if you do, damned if you don't."
Struggling Qualls set for 'refresh' during break
PHOENIX -- No player could use four full days off away from the ballpark more than D-backs reliever Chad Qualls.
After Qualls (1-4, 8.60 ERA) allowed two runs and couldn't record an out in the ninth inning of Arizona's narrow 5-4 win on Saturday night, his catcher, Chris Snyder, said as much.
"He's a guy that's definitely not had the success he's wanted to have this year," said Snyder, whose two-run, sixth-inning home run allowed room for Qualls' poor outing. "You can see it wearing on him. But we've got one more game until the All-Star break, and it starts over again. Hopefully, [he] will get a little 'refresh' with that, and he'll get away from the game, don't even sniff putting on ESPN. He can worry about baseball next Friday."
That's when the D-backs open the season's second half in San Diego for a three-game set with the Padres. Aside from All-Star selection Chris Young, who has obvious plans, what will Qualls be up to in the meantime?
"I'm going to go out to [Austin, Texas]," he said, "and just relax and not think about baseball."
Though that's all he could ponder on Sunday morning, he couldn't help but rehash another dismal performance.
"It seems like every time I'm about to turn the corner, something bad kind of happens," Qualls said. "Like last night's game, I kind of brought upon myself, not fielding that first ball," Qualls said of mishandling Cody Ross' leadoff comebacker. "I kind of let that affect me. I definitely need the days, and coming into the second half ... I've always been strong in the second half throughout my career, so I'm looking forward to that.
"It has been hard to let go, because I've always been successful and I've never had to go through this."
The D-backs were watching PNC Park's 2006 Home Run Derby on their clubhouse TV screens on Sunday morning. Interim manager Kirk Gibson joked that Chris Young, who will compete in this year's Derby, was practicing his long-ball swing during batting practice on Saturday: "We could tell he was practicing; he'd try to lift one out," Gibson said. "We were like, 'Yeah, we caught you.'" Does Gibson ascribe to the belief that participating in a Derby could adversely affect Young's second-half swing? "I hope it doesn't, but he's earned that right to make that decision on his own, and I respect it." ... Radio voice Greg Schulte called his 2,000th career game on Saturday. After Sunday, only 1,999 to go until he is memorialized with another bobblehead giveaway. ... Fellow broadcaster Jeff Munn and D-backs reliever Blaine Boyer, 27, celebrated their birthdays at the ballpark on Sunday.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.