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First inning vs. Twins goes south on D-backs’ McFarland, Shipley

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher T.J. McFarland throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Between the top of the second inning Friday in Minnesota until the fourth inning Sunday, the Twins piled 25 unanswered runs on Arizona, nine of which came in a backbreaking first inning to begin the series finale. Most of the damage came against left-hander T.J. McFarland, who made his first spot start of the season for D-backs manager Torey Lovullo.

Lovullo opted for the long reliever over Triple-A starter Braden Shipley, who held a 6.35 ERA in five MLB appearances (two starts) for Arizona this season.

Turns out, neither McFarland nor Shipley had it Sunday in the 12-5 loss, and it took only the bottom of the first inning to find out.

McFarland threw 38 pitches and only recorded one out before he was pulled. By the end of the carnage, he’d been tagged for seven runs, all earned, with two walks and five hits against him.

“It’s just inconsistent command with the fastball,” Lovullo told the media after the game, per FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh. “It just seemed like every time he made a mistake out over the plate they put the ball in play and had a really good approach.

Shipley recorded the final two outs over 14 pitches but not before walking one and allowing one hit, a grand slam to left fielder Eddie Rosario — two of those runs were inherited.

“We made the best decision we thought possible,” Lovullo added when asked if the team should have started Shipley instead. “I’m not really big on second-guessing. We added up a lot of different components. It made sense to start T.J.”

And after Twins starter Bartolo Colon needed 29 pitches to get through the top of the opening frame, the entire first inning spanned 55 minutes from the 11:35 a.m. MST start.

Before the game, Lovullo told Walsh his thought-process for putting McFarland on the mound to start rather than Shipley.

“Well I think T.J.’s throwing the ball pretty good — well, he’s throwing the ball very well for us. We just feel like his ability to get quick, easy outs and work both sides of the plate, and you know, maybe turn some of these switch-hitters around,” the manager said. “Braden’s ready and I know he’s eager to get in there if needed. Hopefully we don’t get to that point.”

McFarland started the season on a tear.

He held a 0.61 ERA though 14.2 innings at the end of May and a still strong 1.78 ERA through June.

As a long reliever, he’d gone three or more frames three times this season and only allowed two unearned runs score against him in those outings.

But after the struggle of a start Sunday, McFarland has now allowed two or more runs in four of his last seven appearances. His ERA ballooned from 4.14 to start the day to 5.48 after the third of an inning.

As for the D-backs, the scoring drought finally ended in the top of the fourth inning, when J.D. Martinez’s solo home run ended the Twins’ 25 straight runs against them and pulled Arizona within 10-1. Brandon Drury followed in the same inning with a two-out, home run to make it 10-2.

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