When teams struggle the way the Diamondbacks have this season, one pitch or a few pitches can make a significant difference.
One case in point transpired Friday night in Chase Field.
D-backs starter Bronson Arroyo, who hasn’t won a game since May 13, allowed three straight singles in the second inning and then one pitch doomed his night.
That’s when catcher Devin Mesoraco drove Arroyo’s first pitch into the left field bleachers for his second career grand slam. That created a four-run, Cincinnati lead at the time and from there, the Reds went on to defeat the Diamondbacks, 6-4 before 19,826.
In the ninth, Mesoraco also hit the first pitch he saw from Evan Marshall and delivered a fast ball into the left field bleachers for a key insurance. That was the second time in his career Mesoraco hit a pair of homers in the same game. The other occasion was against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 3 of last year.
Then again, Arroyo pitched for Cincinnati the last eight years and maintains a clear familiarity with the Reds’ hitters. In a sense, Arroyo indicated, that was considered a plus and also a negative.
“They know me pretty well and were clearly aggressive with their bats,” Arroyo said. “This was a different kind of chess match because there was more information generated than usual. Because they came after me early, I talked with (catcher Miguel Montero) and made a few adjustments. Later in the game, I started to throw off the plate and that worked.”
In Arroyo’s seven inning effort Friday night, he allowed five runs, nine hits, walked one and fanned three hitters. To his credit, Arroyo allowed but three hits after Mesoraco’s slam but left trailing 5-4.
“I was talking to Devin when I came up to the plate (in the third inning) and he was joking,” Arroyo added. “He said, ‘I knew you were coming with that pitch,” and I guess he was ready.”
“That pitch” was a curve which Arroyo delivered belt-high and Mesoraco took full advantage.
To their credit, the Diamondbacks chipped away and eventually drew within one at 5-4 in the sixth inning. Then the combination of Mesoraco’s second home run and fire from the left arm of Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman was too much to overcome.
In recording his sixth save of the season, Chapman displayed his noted fast ball and the Diamondbacks were clearly over-matched.
After Chris Owings grounded out to open the ninth, Chapman then struck out pinch hitter Cody Ross on a 101 mile-per-hour fast ball and ditto to pinch hitter Nick Evans, who was blown away with a 100 mile-per-hour fast ball to close the curtain on this one.
Afterward, manager Kirk Gibson told reporters the obvious when he said, “(Cincinnati) jumped on us early and we couldn’t come back.”
From an offensive standpoint, A. J. Pollock went 3-for-4 and raised his batting average to a team-high among regulars to .316. Pollock is hitting .550 (11-for-20) in his last five games and leads the team with seven, three-hit games.
THE COMEBACK TRAIL
With a concerted effort to find his way back to the bullpen, reliever J. J. Putz took a positive step Friday afternoon.
On the disabled list since May 6 with right forearm tightness, Putz was on the mound for a simulated game Friday. On a 25 pitch count, he reported the effort was flawless and pronounced himself ready for the next step in his rehab process.
“I thought things went well,” he said afterward. “At times, I was a little inconsistent but my fast ball was okay. Yeah, I felt fine.”
That next step would be another simulated game this coming Monday morning, slated for 10:30, at Salt River.
Overall, Putz received a passing grade and encouraged to move forward.
“I thought he threw okay,” was the observation from manager Kirk Gibson. “By the end of next week, we would like him to throw on back-to-back days and see how that goes. But, for a first time out, he looked pretty good.”
At this point, plans for Putz’s rehab in the minors remain incomplete. He could appear with Triple-A Reno or Double A-Mobile. Gibson indicated the organization is undecided but promised a decision would be made shortly.
Whenever Putz returns to the bullpen, Gibson and Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager, will have a few decisions to make.
When Putz went down, the D-backs recalled Even Marshall from Triple-A Reno and Marshall has been effective. In 10 games through Friday, Marshall has a 2-1 record and an 1.54 ERA. Marshall could be returned to Reno or the organization could entertain other options.
“At this point, we’re far from any bullpen decision,” Gibson added. “We’re not looking at the bullpen right now.”