PHOENIX – Saturday was a near-perfect microcosm of Brandon McCarthy’s year on the mound so far.
Like he has all this season, McCarthy cruised through the first three innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks, facing the minimum, collecting a handful of strikeouts, throwing eight of the nine batters he faced first-pitch strikes and surrendering just a hit.
Then, like he has almost all this season, McCarthy got into trouble thereafter.
The Cincinnati Reds batted around in the fourth inning, using five hits and an intentional walk to get three runs off of McCarthy, who doubled his pitch count from the first three innings in the frame. Billy Hamilton began the rally, hitting the first of three straight Reds singles — Skip Schumaker and Brandon Phillips following suit. Both of the latter two were logged on pitches over the middle of the plate.
Though not needing any more offense after their big inning, seeing as Johnny Cueto was on the mound for them, the Reds managed two more in the following frame. The runs — which were, again, scored by Hamilton and Scumaker and driven in by the middle of the Reds order — may as well have been flood insurance for the visitors.
Save a rocky opening frame, Cueto looked every bit the part of the National League’s best pitcher Saturday, allowing no runs over 7.1 innings, thanks to seven strikeouts. His earned run average is now tapered down to a petite 1.68.
McCarthy, on the other hand, saw his record fall to 1-7 on the season, with a 5.20 ERA to boot, in the outing. It was more of the same struggles for him.
Though boasting a solid 2.00 ERA through the first three innings this season, the right-hander has been battered thereafter — with an 8.45 ERA after the third inning. He has allowed a multi-run inning in seven of his 12 starts this year.
Following the game, he didn’t have much to say about the calamity-ridden fourth inning.
“I gave up runs,” he said, shrugging.
“I don’t know what happened, just started giving up runs again. And that’s kind of where it’s been: a few quality innings and then things turn and I don’t have any understanding why.”
After the game, manager Kirk Gibson thought that, perhaps, McCarthy’s movement was the culprit in his troubles.
“It looked to me that his ball flattens out a little bit, loses some of its sink,” he said. “And, you know, he threw a lot of cutters and there’s little margin there and they started to get on those pitches.”
And while there’s reason to be concerned about McCarthy, though he entered the game with an ERA under 3.30 over his previous seven starts, there’s equal reason to be concerned about the Diamondbacks offense, which was shutout Saturday, losing one of its foremost members in the process.
In the eighth inning, just at the precipice of a to-be-snuffed-out Diamondbacks rally, centerfielder A.J. Pollock was hit on the right hand by a 92-mph Cueto fastball. The hand was fractured and Pollock was removed from the game, in effect. It is not yet known whether or not he’ll need surgery, but he will be placed on the disabled list Sunday as doctors decide on a course of action for his recovery.
Pollock balked at the pitch with a check swing, but it ran up on him and hit him in the knuckles. One or more of his metacarpals were likely fractured.
The injury comes in the midst of a breakout season for the 26-year-old former first-round pick. It is also the fourth hit-by-pitch hand fracture a Diamondbacks player has suffered in the last two seasons, as Pollock joins the ranks of Aaron Hill, Adam Eaton and Willie Bloomquist.
Diamondbacks two-hole hitter Gerardo Parra went 3-for-4 with a double, improving his batting average to .270.
Trevor Cahill tossed two scoreless innings in relief Saturday, striking out three and allowing only one hit and one sacrifice bunt in the effort.
McCarthy’s struggles have only been compounded by the Diamondbacks’ lack of run support in his starts. The 30-year-old pitcher has the seventh-worst run support among NL pitchers this season, averaging just 2.75 runs scored behind him when he takes the mound.
Chris Owings is hitting just .210 (13-for-62) over his last 17 games after going 0-for-3 Saturday.
Cody Ross has yet to get his bearings this season. After 34 games, the Diamondbacks outfielder is batting .184. He went 0-for-3 Saturday.
He Said It:
“It’s frustrating. You know, unfortunately that’s part of baseball. People have injuries and you know, this one, there’s not much else I could do. The guy ran one up and in and it hit me in the hand, so. I’m not going to think twice about it. Just, whatever they have me do, I’ll do it and get back out there.” A.J. Pollock on his fractured right hand
Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (3-5, 4.76 ERA) will face Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon (6-3, 2.90). While the 33-year-old Simon has been a revelation in the Reds’ starting rotation this season, Miley has been quite effective, himself, as of late. Miley has logged quality starts in four of his last five outings. Simon, meanwhile, is set to make just his 30th career start, though logging more than 185 appearances in seven seasons with the Reds and Baltimore Orioles.
First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports, now on 98.7 FM.