PHOENIX — When 37-year-old Bronson Arroyo signed a two-year, $23.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks back in February, he came to the Valley with 14 years of big league experience and a league-wide reputation of being a reliable, innings eater.
Yet through his first four starts in Sedona red, the innings seemed to take a bite out of Arroyo — allowed 19 earned runs in 18 innings — rather than the other way around.
That wasn’t the case Saturday night against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite surrendering at least one base hit in each of his first five innings of work, Arroyo didn’t allow a runner to cross home plate until his final frame, as he efficiently maneuvered through a 97-pitch outing with an array of harmless ground balls and weakly-hit fly balls.
“Yeah, sure [it’s nice to have a good outing],” said Arroyo, who admittedly was battling a bug throughout the night. “It’s been awhile since I’ve gone out there and got to the seventh inning. It’s the first time all year, and I usually give a ballclub 20 of those a year. That’s what you’re here to do.
“When you get off to a slow start or even when you feel decent but don’t go deep enough to get a quality start, it doesn’t make you too happy. It was nice today to go deep into the ballgame and come out with the lead.”
But Arroyo’s most notable performance — two earned runs in 6.1 innings — to date and a five-run outburst off of former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, turned out to be insufficient for the D-backs and former rotation mate Trevor Cahill.
After Martin Prado unceremoniously ended left-hander Joe Thatcher’s night in the top of the eighth inning with an error on Ryan Howard’s can-of-corn pop up against the shift, Arizona called on Cahill to hold down the fort.
He achieved quite the opposite result.
Howard managed to bat twice in the inning, but not before Philadelphia scored four times off the embattled reliever en route to taking a 6-5 lead.
That advantage would hold up, as the D-backs failed to muster a tying run against Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams or Jonathan Papelbon over the final two innings.
“You know I felt good warming up there and then I got into the game and it happened real quick,” Cahill said. “I think I was just overthrowing. It’s embarrassing, because Bronson threw a great game. I should be able to come in there and get three outs without letting them take the lead back.”
With the loss, Arizona’s season-high three game win streak came to an abrupt, and rather crushing, end.
Opportunistic has not been a word commonly used to describe the D-backs in 2014, but that’s exactly what they were in the bottom of the first inning after a fortuitous bounce — or, better put, a fortuitous drop.
After roping a lead-off single to right field, A.J. Pollock found himself in a precarious situation only a handful of pitches. Lee caught Pollock wandering a little too far off first base and had him dead in the water following a throw over to Howard. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Pollock found his way safely to second after Howard’s toss was inexplicably dropped by former MVP Jimmy Rollins.
Martin Prado concluded the at-bat with a grounder to second — one that moved Pollock over to third with ease. Paul Goldschmidt completed the small ball effort with a sacrifice fly to right for his 16th RBI of the campaign.
The D-backs would tack on another unearned run in the frame against Lee, as Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill and Cody Ross strung together three consecutive singles with two outs.
Ross, who entered the National League clash with only one hit and one RBI, did even more damage with the lumber two innings later, lacing a two-run, two-bagger down the left field line to extend Arizona’s lead to 5-0.
“Cody was good,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He was fresh, and he’s much better against left-handers. I had him sitting there behind Aaron Hill. He had some action there and did well.”
Speaking of Hill, he now has a team-leading five extra-base hits over the last four games after smacking a double in the third inning.
It’s hard to nitpick Arizona’s efforts offensively, but after plating Chris Owings with a triple to right field in the second inning, Pollock thwarted any chance of a crooked number by running into an out at home plate on a Prado ground ball to short.
Then after reaching base on the fielder’s choice, Prado punctuated the poor base-running display by getting thrown out trying to steal second base by Carlos Ruiz.
It wasn’t the only time that sequence would rear its ugly head in the one-run contest.
After lining a base hit to center field to begin the bottom of the ninth inning, Prado over-slid second base on a passed ball and was tagged out by Chase Utley. Initially, he was ruled safe but upon a three-minute, 36-second review, the umpiring crew overturned the call.
Base running wasn’t the only area of concern in the loss.
The D-backs committed errors No. 22, No. 23 and No. 24 on the season, the latter of which by Prado ignited the Phillies’ four-run rally in the eighth inning.
STAT OF THE GAME:
Only two of Arroyo’s 19 outs were registered via the strikeout. However, both punch outs came on three-pitch at-bats.
HE SAID IT:
“It’s one game. One game. [Cahill] came in after an error, and we walked the guy. It was a bad start to an inning. They got some hits, but let’s be honest they didn’t crush the ball. [Ben] Revere hit one off the end of his bat [for the go-ahead RBI]. They did a good job of hitting out of stuff, but we made it hard on ourselves.” – D-backs manager Kirk Gibson on the eighth inning
– Before Tony Gwynn Jr.’s RBI double, which came on Arroyo’s final pitch of the night, D-backs starters hadn’t allowed a single earned run in 18.2 consecutive innings.
– Lee came into the evening sporting a 30.67/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 10 starts, joining Greg Maddux as the only two pitchers to have a ratio of at least 30/1 over a 10-game stretch since 1900.
– Additionally, Lee had the second-lowest WHIP (0.93) against Arizona among active pitchers with a minimum of 43 innings. That number rose just a tad bit (1.00) following his six-inning outing.
– Arizona has scored first in four consecutive contests for the first time this season.
– In his first 24 at-bats this season in the lead-off spot, Pollock collected just two hits. He had three in five plate appearances Saturday.
The D-backs still have a chance to claim their first series win at Chase Field this season in spite of Saturday’s defeat. Sunday, right-hander Brandon McCarthy (0-4, 6.23 ERA) will toe the rubber for the D-backs. He’ll be opposed by veteran A.J. Burnett (0-1, 2.73 ERA), who hasn’t started a game in Phoenix since June 21, 2010. First pitch at Chase Field is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.