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No storybook return for Kris Medlen in D-backs’ shutout loss to Astros

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Kris Medlen throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, May 4, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — It was not the return Kris Medlen had hoped for.

Making his first big-league start in nearly two years, and his Arizona Diamondbacks debut, Medlen pitched just four innings. He was tagged for two runs in each of the first and second innings and then another three in the fourth.

To make matters worse, five of the seven runs crossed home plate with two outs.

Now to be fair, Medlen, who last started on May 10, 2016, was facing the Houston Astros. And though the Astros had lost three straight entering Friday, they are the defending World Series champions and this year still one of the better teams in baseball.

Two players — Carlos Correa and Yulieski Gurriel — drove in multiple runs and four players — Correa, Gurriel, Jose Altuve and George Springer — had multiple hits as the Astros, led by starter Gerrit Cole, blanked the D-backs, 8-0, to win the series opener in front of an announced crowd of 29,463 at Chase Field.

It marked the first time the D-backs had been shutout this season. They’ve lost a season-high three in a row.

One run, let alone eight, would’ve been enough for Cole, who improved to 3-1. He went the distance, limiting the D-backs to one hit, a Chris Owings fifth-inning double; one of only two batters to reach base safely in nine innings.

Cole retired nine straight, six via strikeout, to begin the game and then the final 14, seven via strikeout, to end the game.

Overall, Cole finished with a career-high 16 strikeouts, the fifth time in seven starts he’s reached double-digits this season.

The Astros have now won seven straight on the road.

THE GOOD

How about outstanding. Jarrod Dyson made the defensive play of the game and an early candidate for play of the year. He robbed Jake Marisnick of a home run to lead off the fifth inning. Dyson, making his 14th start in right field, followed the ball to the warning track, where he planted his right foot and climbed the fence with his left foot, allowing him to extend his glove hand well above the fence line to make the out.

It took until the fifth inning, the 15th batter of the game, before the D-backs recorded their first hit. Owings turned on a 1-1 slider and pulled the ball down the left-field line for a one-out double, his seventh two-base hit of the season. Unfortunately, that was as far as he would advance. It was Owings’ second time facing Cole. He struck out in his first plate appearance, as just about everyone did.

THE BAD

Two batters into the game and Houston led 1-0. Four batters into the game and Houston led 2-0. In other words, it was not a good start for Medlen, or the D-backs. Altuve ripped a 3-1 fastball for an RBI double, while Gurriel hit a first-pitch changeup for a run-scoring single. By the time the dust had settled, Medlen faced seven batters, throwing 22 pitches in a 13-minute first inning.

Things didn’t get any better for Medlen in the second inning. He recorded two quick outs, striking out Marisnick and Cole, before George Springer singled and Altuve walked ahead of Correa who doubled into the right-field corner to plate two more runs. The D-backs challenged the play, thinking the ball landed in foul territory. The call, though, stood after a video replay review of 67 seconds.

So the first time through the D-backs lineup, Cole was perfect. Almost better than perfect, if that is such a thing. The first three batters put the ball in play — fly out, ground out and fly out — and then nothing, as in they failed to connect with the baseball. Cole struck out six consecutive batters, four of them swinging. Through three innings, Cole threw 35 pitches, 27 of which were strikes.

Back to the Astros offense. After a scoreless third, the visitors tagged Medlen for three more runs in the fourth inning, all with two outs, by the way. Correa, again, doubled in a run, while Gurriel and Reddick each had two-strike RBI singles to center field; the latter of which increased Houston’s lead to 7-0. It was another long inning for Medlen, who needed 30 pitches to record three outs.

And now back to Cole’s pitching. With a swing-and-a-miss on a slider to lead off the eighth innings, Owings became strikeout victim No. 15, the most in Cole’s career. He would finish with 16, by far the most time the D-backs have struck out in a single-game this season and the second time in three games they’ve had 11-plus strikeouts. Cole, by the way, struck out the side three times.

STAT OF THE GAME

1: The D-backs were out-hit 14-1

HE SAID IT

“I feel like he wasn’t playing fair and cheating today because he didn’t let us touch the ball, so that’s what was working for him,” manager Torey Lovullo said, referring to Cole. “Look, I’ll make light of that because it was a special night. He had things moving in a real good direction. He deserves a lot of credit for tonight, so everything was working.”

NOTED

Medlen threw a first-pitch strike to 13-of-25 batters faced; plus, he reached a three-ball count eight times.

Daniel Descalso made his fourth career pitching appearance, recording the final two outs in the eighth.

Paul Goldschmidt went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, the sixth straight game in which he’s struck out twice.

With a first-pitch temperature of 95 degrees, the game was played with both the roof and panels open.

UP NEXT

Looking for his second win in as many starts, Zack Greinke gets the ball in game two of the three-game series on Saturday, May 5. He’ll be opposed by fellow right-hander Charlie Morton. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Greinke (3-2) beat the Dodgers in his most recent outing, striking out a season-high 10 with just one walk over six innings. He’s worked at least six innings in each of his last mound appearances.

In nine career starts against the Astros, Greinke is 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA.

Meanwhile, Morton (4-0) also is coming off a victory. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of what was a season-best 7.2 innings pitched, limiting the Yankees to one run on two hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

This will be just his second road start of the season.

An 11-year veteran, Morton is 4-1 in seven starts, including a win a year ago, when facing the D-backs.