Position players Descalso, Avila appear in relief for D-backs against Rockies
A forgettable night for the Arizona Diamondbacks saw them lose starting pitcher Shelby Miller to right elbow tightness after one inning. With an already-exhausted bullpen, that meant the D-backs required two position players to take them the final 4.2 innings of an ugly loss to the Colorado Rockies.
And while Arizona might forget the 19-2 defeat Wednesday in Denver, the history books will not.
Infielder Daniel Descalso made his fifth mound appearance of his MLB career, and catcher Alex Avila stepped up in his first. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team used two position players to pitch 2.0 or more innings in the same game was in 1956, when Pittsburgh’s Johnny O’Brien and Eddie O’Brien each pitched 2.0 innings in a 7-0 loss to St. Louis.
Descalso took over pitching duties in the fourth inning Wednesday after Colorado scored five runs off Miller, seven runs off Jorge De La Rosa, recorded a hit and an out against T.J. McFarland, and then earned four more runs off Yoshihisa Hirano.
That amounted to a 14-1 Rockies lead an out into the fourth frame before Descalso entered.
Making his fifth career pitching appearance and his second of 2018, Descalso had yet to allow a baserunner or a run.
That changed when Nolan Arenado safely reached base, snapping Descalso’s streak of nine consecutive batters retired to start his career. It was the longest streak by a position player in the live ball era.
To make matters worse, yet another streak was broken two batters later.
Carlos Gonzalez took Descalso deep, hitting a three-run home run to snap the infielder’s four-game scoreless streak.
It had been the longest by a position player since Doug Dascenzo went four straight from 1990-91.
In 2.2 innings of work, Descalso allowed three earned runs off of four hits, striking out one. Two inherited runners also scored.
Descalso became the first position player in D-backs team history to pitch more than 1.0 innings, and he recorded the most innings pitched by a position player in MLB since Jose Oquendo threw 4.0 innings in 1988 for St. Louis. He was also the earliest position player to enter a game as a pitcher since the Brewers’ Sal Bando did it in 1979.
But the D-backs weren’t done using their position players just yet.
Following Descalso’s outing, Avila got the call for his first appearance as a pitcher. He fared better, lasting 2.0 innings while allowing a hit and no walks or earned runs.
“It’s like riding bike,” Avila said, per the Associated Press. “I wasn’t trying to do anything special, just made sure I tired to throw strikes and that’s really it.”