Prior to one game earlier this week against the St Louis Cardinals, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale was asked if he had a “number one” starter. Without hesitation, Hale identified right-hander Rubby De La Rosa as his principal pitcher.
In what could be considered “a must win” to salvage at least grace in the Cardinals series Thursday night, De La Rosa started and looked anything but a number one. His absence against a quality opponent left doubt about Hale’s assertion, and opened the possibility that the Diamondbacks will go the rest of the campaign and into the off-season without a quality, number one starter.
De La Rosa seem to implode from the start. Walking lead-off hitter Matt Carpenter on four pitches and getting behind Tommy Pham, hitting behind Carpenter, his lack of location prompted a visit from catcher Welington Castillo. Then, De La Rosa allowed a first inning run and later, two home runs during an evening he surrendered five earned runs and tossed 93 pitches in five innings of work. Displaying why they have best record in baseball, the Cardinals made De La Rosa pay for his ineffectiveness, and gained a 5-3 victory over the Diamondbacks before 22,036 Thursday night in Chase Field.
With the victory, the Cardinals extended their winning streak to five and sent the Diamondbacks reeling to their fourth straight defeat. The winning streak represented the eighth winning streak this season of four games or more for St. Louis.
“You turn the page and move on,” said left-fielder David Peralta after his team was swept. “We didn’t have too many good opportunities in this game. We did have a few, but you have to be patient and wait for a good pitch.”
Afterward, Hale suggested De La Rosa may have taken additional responsibility upon himself to stop the losing streak and derive greater incentive from facing the Cardinals. For his part, De La Rosa simply said things began to unravel early.
“I tried to do too much,” he indicated. “I let my emotions get too high. I tried to cut down on that. I made some bad pitches early and then made some adjustments. I’m trying to do my best and I think sometimes, I have to slow down.”
From the start, Hale saw that things did spiraled out of control in a hurry. As early as the second inning, he made a trip to the mound, with no relievers warming up in the bullpen, to try and settle De La Rosa down.
“I told him to slow down a little and have fun,” Hale explained. “His mechanics were not strong (Thursday night). He threw with open arms and flying around. Look, the Cardinals are a very good team. Once they get to you, you punch you.”
After catching the Cardinals with a three-spot in the second inning to deadlock matters at 3-3, Diamondbacks bats were sawed off by starter Carlos Martinez. Reaching a pitch count of 47 after the first two innings, Martinez settled into a groove where he was unhittable.
Down 3-1 in the second, Ender Inciarte singled in a pair to knot the game, and that was the last Diamondback runner reach base against Martinez. Pulled after six innings, the Cardinals’ right-hander retired the final 13 batters he faced and gave way to veteran reliever Randy Choate. Reaching a game total of 103 pitches tosses, Martinez left after giving up four hits and three runs in his six innings of work.
In the Cardinals fifth inning, the game dramatically turned. With two out and the score tied at 3-3, De La Rosa gave up a single to Kolten Wong and then left a change-up over the plate which Brandon Moss hammered into the right field bleachers for his first St. Louis home run. Moss, who hit 15 homers with the Indians earlier this season, was acquired in a trade from Cleveland on July 30.
The loss left the Diamondbacks staggering and unsettled. On the verge of competing for the National League West Division just four days earlier, the focus is getting their collective mentality in order. While Hale and his players maintain the “all is well” outlook, there is a sense of disappointment which hangs in the clubhouse like an unwelcome guest.
What made this game equally unsettling was the way the contest ended. The Diamondbacks had opportunities in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not dent the armor of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
Down by two in the bottom of the eighth, Cardinals’ reliever Steve Cishek started the inning and walked three hitters in succession. That brought on relieve Seth Maness, who struck out Peralta, fanned Castillo and Jake Lamb grounded to first. That ended the inning, and by all practical purpose, began the process of hammering nails in the Diamondbacks 2015 coffin.
“In that situation, you want to do your job,” Peralta said. “You learn from this experience and move forward. You have to have a little more patience.”
In the ninth inning against closer Trevor Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks put runners on first and second with two out. A seemingly frustrated A. J. Pollock then struck out to end the game.
The current home stand concludes with a three-game, weekend series. The Oakland A’s are the opponents, and this is the second to last inter-league series for the Diamondbacks. Arizona closes the season Oct. 2-4 at home against Houston.
On Friday night, right-hander Chase Anderson (6-5, 4.28 ERA) opens the series against righty Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.10). For Saturday’s 5:10 p. m. Pacific start, it’s righty Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 2.84), making his second start for the Diamondbacks, against left-hander Felix Doubrant (0-0, 2.41). In Sunday’s finale, Hale is undecided, but the A’s with go with righty Jesse Chavez (7-13, 4.00).
The Diamondbacks then hit the road for a seven game trip. First stop is Coors Field in Denver for four with the Rockies, including a make-up doubleheader on Sept. 1. The trip ends in Wrigley Field with three against the Cubs over the Labor Day weekend.