PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks are not in the chase for the playoffs, but the Houston Astros — Arizona’s final series opponent for the 2015 season — brought an added kick with them Friday in the series-opener.
Houston is fighting for an AL wild-card spot, and the D-backs’ opportunity to play spoiler against the playoff hopeful Astros hardly lasted two innings.
Arizona lost 21-5, setting a franchise record for most runs allowed. Any chance for a compelling matchup became deflated early.
“Location, balls were up and they were whacking them,” D-backs manager Chip Hale said of Arizona’s pitching. “Got the first guy out and they made an error behind him.
“You got to give them credit, they just swung the bats really well. We just couldn’t match the intensity.”
Boo birds rang out in the second when a shallow pop fly by Houston’s Luis Valbuena fell near the left field foul line but wasn’t tracked down by left fielder Yasmany Tomas. He let the ball roll as Chris Owings hurried over from his shortstop position and attempted to gun a runner out at home plate, but it ended up being the Astros’ fifth run with an error credited to Tomas.
By the bottom of the frame, Brandon Drury was pinch-hitting for Tomas, but Hale said Tomas had tweaked his neck.
“It stiffened up and as he was running at the ball it kind of locked up on him,” Hale said.
The rest of the evening would go similarly for the D-backs, whose pitchers got shelled for 19 hits and whose defense ended the game with four errors.
– The Diamondbacks finally showed life in the third inning, when Phil Gosselin (hit by pitch) and Paul Goldschmidt (single) reached with two outs. Aaron Hill dropped a line drive along the left foul line that rolled to the corner, scoring Gosselin to make it a 6-1 deficit for Arizona. Goldschmidt, who was waived through third base, was tagged out at home plate.
– Pinch-hitting for Josh Collmenter in the fifth inning, rookie Peter O’Brien ripped a home run off Astros ace Dallas Keuchel that fell in the walkway in left field — that’s behind the first section of seats. Statcast measured the bomb at 471 feet. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s good for the fourth-longest homer at Chase Field in the last three seasons and also the longest allowed by Keuchel, a Cy Young Award candidate. “It’s great to get the first one out of the way,” O’Brien said after the game. “Hopefully, it’ll kind of stay there and keep working.”
– Rookie catcher Oscar Hernandez, who hasn’t earned an at-bat since Sept. 14 against San Diego, got a pinch-hitting opportunity in the ninth inning and singled to right field. Gosselin’s double off the third base bag scored Hernandez for Arizona’s fourth run and the D-backs would add a second run in the final frame.
– Right fielder George Springer was a thorn in the D-backs’ side. He reached on his first at-bat in the first inning when Aaron Hill couldn’t corral a hard-hit ball to third base (it was ruled an error), and after a single by Carlos Correa, Colby Rasmus drilled a liner to right field to score Springer as Houston struck first. A walk with one out loaded the bases for De La Rosa, and a sharp hit to left field by Chris Carter tacked on two more runs in the first for a 3-0 Astros lead after the top of the inning. Springer’s second at-bat in the second frame ended with a solo shot to deep center field to put Houston ahead 4-0.
– Rubby De La Rosa may have been the biggest surprise of the D-backs’ pitching rotation this season, but his final start didn’t go well. He was chased from the game after three innings, having given up four earned runs, six total runs and six hits. The righty also walked four and struck out four.
– Josh Collmenter’s second pitch was hit into center field for a home run by Correa, who tied an Astros rookie record with his 22nd blast of the season – he did so in only 97 games after being called up midseason. Correa finished a double away from a cycle.
STAT OF THE GAME
21 – The number of runs allowed by the Diamondbacks, a club worst. The Colorado Rockies scored 20 on Arizona in September of 2003.
HE SAID IT
“I think that was one of the bright spots tonight: I think we had four pinch-hitters and four hits. And we won the fifth and the ninth. And we got tacos for the fans. And there are fireworks going on now. And there was a lot of fireworks during the game, unfortunately, not shut off by our bats.” — D-backs manager Chip Hale, when asked about Peter O’Brien’s first career home run.
– The Astros control their own destiny in regard to the American League’s last wild-card spot, and they showed the urgency to keep their lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins, who began the evening a game behind Houston in the chase. The Angels kept pace with the Astros, beating the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Friday, while Minnesota fell to Kansas City and sits two games behind Houston.
– Houston set a record for the most runs in a nine-inning game, surpassing their previous record of 19.
Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound in Arizona’s second-to-last game of the year. Once again, the Diamondbacks expect to have the Astros’ full attention with their chase for a wild-card berth in good shape.
Collin McHugh (18-7) gets the start for Houston and he’s on a roll. McHugh is 9-2 in his last 13 starts and has excelled on the road, posting 11 quality starts (at least six innings and no more than three earned runs) in 15 games.
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