PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks trudged their way to their third consecutive win Friday, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 in a game full of storylines.
Pinned as the quintessential long relief man to begin the season, Josh Collmenter became the first Diamondbacks pitcher to throw six scoreless innings this season, allowing just four Phillies hitters to reach base while striking out five an his impressive outing. His 98 pitches were the most he’s thrown since July 22, 2012, when he grabbed a win against the Houston Astros.
Second baseman Aaron Hill complemented his pitcher’s six-inning gem by getting his team out to a 2-0 lead with a home run to left-centerfield in the fourth. After a run-scoring double the following inning, he finished the game 2-for-4 with three runs batted in — improving to 6-for-12 with five RBI in his last three games.
“He got four hits against the (Chicago) Cubs and it just kind of relieved him, took the tension off of him,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said after the game. “He’s much more comfortable up there and he’s having much better at-bats.”
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, meanwhile, extended his hitting streak to seven games.
But after Collmenter’s exit, Joe Thatcher and Randall Delgado saw six straight Phillies hitters reach base safely in a catastrophic seventh inning, which ended with men on the corners and the go-ahead run standing on first base. The left-handed throwing Thatcher entered the game to face Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown, but was removed after giving up back-to-back singles to the latter two of the trio.
With men on first and second and just one away, the situation looked to be tailor-made for baseball’s best groundball coaxer, Brad Ziegler. But Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson opted instead to use Delgado to face the right-handed hitting Carlos Ruiz.
The Phillies catcher promptly hit a line-drive single to rightfield, which loaded the bases. Third baseman Cody Asche’s single in the following at-bat plated two, putting the Phillies on the scoreboard and Collmenter’s fine outing at risk of a no-decision.
And things kept on slipping away.
Pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. sharply hit a groundball to shortstop Cliff Pennington in the following at-bat, but it was the first ball hit to the veteran infielder all night and he flubbed it, wasting a double play opportunity as the ball trickled into center field and another Phillies baserunner crossed home plate. The Diamondbacks’ lead was down to one.
In the following inning, Oliver Perez entered to face a Phillies’ side of Chase Utley, Howard and Byrd. After getting a flyout from Utley, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg exited the visitor’s dugout to speak with home plate umpire Mark Wegner about Perez’s uniform. What then ensued was truly bizarre — Perez was forced to change his undershirt, which was three-quarters-length-sleeved and frayed. Visibly upset, he marched off the mound, throwing his glove and the ball to the ground, and returned undershirt-less to allow a shift-beating single to left field by Howard.
The following, from a blog site about the history of Major League Baseball rules, clarifies the frayed sleeve violation:
Rule 1.11(c)(2): No player shall wear ragged, frayed or slit sleeves
Cleveland Indians pitcher Johnny Allen was fined in 1938 for refusing the umpire’s order to cut off part of his sweat-shirt sleeve. Allen, who was famous for cutting the ends of his sleeves to let more air in, was repeatedly warned about the flying threads whenever he pitched. On 06/07/1938, Umpire Bill McGowan ordered Allen to cut off part of his sweat-shirt sleeve which was dangling when he pitched. Allen, known for his volatile temper, did not oblige. The stubborn pitcher stormed off the mound and refused to pitch was fined $250 by Cleveland manager Oscar Vitt for his actions. The ragged shirt Allen wore is now part of the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“I got a good idea whose call that was over in the other dugout, and it wasn’t Sandberg’s,” Gibson said of the incident after the game.
Perez declined to comment on the matter.
The left-hander headed for the dugout for the second time in the eighth inning after losing Howard, and Ziegler came in to face Byrd. Though he gave a hit, Ziegler got out of the inning with a pair of groundouts.
A.J. Pollock’s insurance home run in the bottom half of the inning put the Diamondbacks up 5-3, easing closer Addison Reed’s proceeding task.
Yet, the job proved to be anything but easy for Reed, at least after the first two outs. And Pollock’s homer, then, was made to look all the more valuable.
Leadoff man Ben Revere’s single up the middle put the pressure on Reed. With a left-handed hitter at the plate in Jimmy Rollins, Gibson opted against holding the speedy Revere, who would eventually steal second base, then score on a single up the middle.
Rollins himself would end up stealing second as well — giving the Phillies their third stolen base of the night — with the streaking Utley at the plate. After falling behind in the count to the Phillies second baseman, 2-1, Reed would end up intentionally walking him at the prodding of pitching coach Mike Harkey, who had just visited the mound.
And the move proved wise, as pinch hitter John Mayberry ended up striking out looking, giving the Diamondbacks their second home win in 13 tries.
For the second straight game, the Diamondbacks received a quality start from a member of their starting rotation. Collmenter’s start, which followed Mike Bolsinger’s winning effort Thursday in Chicago, was an enormous lift for a staff that has struggled immensely to date. Not since mid-September of last season have the Diamondbacks gotten a start of six scoreless innings from a starting pitcher.
When two components of a game go well for the Diamondbacks, another seems to go awry. On Friday, when the team was given a much-needed quality start and five runs of offensive support, the bullpen was the culprit, surrendering four runs over the course of the last three innings — with help from an error-prone defense.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 9.50) is set to take on Phillies southpaw Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.09) on Saturday. First pitch is at 5:10 p.m. PST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.