PHOENIX — It’s been a month and a day since the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Vidal Nuño from the New York Yankees. In six starts with his new team, the left-hander is 0-3.
Nuño was on the hook for the loss Thursday against the Kansas City Royals, after he allowed seven hits and five runs in 4.0 innings pitched. And that was all the offense the Royals would need, ultimately winning 6-2 while collecting just four hits in the five innings after Nuño’s exit.
“Ball was up,” manager Kirk Gibson said to open his summary of his pitcher’s performance after the loss. “You saw a lot of balls in the air. Even a lot of his outs, they were balls that were hit pretty good in the air. I don’t know how many balls he got on the ground.”
Nuño tossed a 1-2-3 inning to start the game and the D-backs’ offense rewarded him for it, plating leadoff man Ender Inciarte with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Mark Trumbo.
But by the time of the D-backs’ next score, in the third inning, the Royals had four runs on the board, thanks to a two-run home run from Alex Gordon and a string of three singles in the third inning, which scored Nori Aoki and Omar Infante.
“I was kind of trying to hang on, get him as many innings out of him as I could. But, you know, he gave up five runs,” Gibson said.
After debutant third baseman Jake Lamb drove in the D-backs’ second run in the third inning, Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie found a groove that he refused to leave. The right-hander tossed a 109-pitch complete game, allowing seven hits and two runs while striking out four on the night.
“We were swinging the bats good the first three innings,” Gibson explained. “We had a lot of opportunities but didn’t capitalize as good as we could have. We had only two runs out of that. And then he shut us down after that, so tough sledding.”
Gibson credited Guthrie for his pitch mixing, also pointing to the pitcher’s deception.
“He (threw) just a lot of cutters — cutters in,” he explained. “He jammed a lot of guys — jammed a lot of righties with sinkers in. He just had it working.”
And while Gibson saw Guthrie’s strong pitching performance, he went on to note that D-backs hitters were all too often found stabbing at pitches on their hands, resulting in poor contact and quick at-bats.
On the mound after Nuño’s exit, Randall Delgado entered in his first appearance since he was ejected for hitting Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen with a purpose pitch over the weekend. He worked three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three. Relief pitcher Matt Stites also worked a scoreless frame, striking out one. Then, three of the four hits the Royals got off a pitcher other than Nuño came in the ninth inning, when left-hander Eury De La Rosa struggled to get outs, allowing a run.
The D-backs went down in order in their half of the ninth, seeing just eight pitches from Guthrie.
D-backs center fielder Ender Inciarte has reached base safely in nine straight games and 16 of his last 17. Mark Trumbo, meanwhile, is heating up over his last 11 games to the tune of .302. On Thursday, he was 1-for-3 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
As a slow-throwing left-hander, Nuño’s margin for error is slim and he depends heavily on pinpoint placement. And when he doesn’t have it, things quickly go awry, as was seen Thursday. The 27-year-old pitcher’s fastball tops out at 92 mph and averages just 89 mph — velocities that aren’t all that difficult to hit when they sail in above a major league hitter’s waist.
At 0-3, Nuño’s acquisition looks even worse when it’s contrasted with his counterpart in the trade: Brandon McCarthy, who has gone 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five starts with the Yankees.
HE SAID IT
“Yeah, you know, a jam shot over third base. That’s how I dreamed it up.” – D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb joking about his first career hit
– Lamb is the ninth D-backs player to record a hit and an RBI in his Major League debut, and the first since John Hester in 2009.
– Inciarte extended his hitting streak to seven games with a leadoff single in the first inning.
– The Royals are 7-1 in their last eight games.
– Guthrie’s complete game was the eighth of his career.
The Diamondbacks will look to salvage part of their 10-game homestand Friday, sending right-hander Chase Anderson to the mound against the Colorado Rockies, who will counter with left-hander Tyler Matzek.
Anderson (6-4, 3.19 ERA) has been reliving his eye-opening, post-call-up pitching performances over his last four starts, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Matzek (2-6, 5.31), meanwhile, has lost two of his last three starts, pitching to a 6.94 ERA in those games. His last appearance came in emergency relief during the Rockies’ 16-inning marathon against the Chicago Cubs.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. at Chase Field, with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes prior on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.