Zack Godley hits rough patch, exits early in D-backs loss to Cubs
PHOENIX — The game was scoreless, but things were trending in the D-backs’ favor on Saturday with two outs in the top of the third inning. Cubs starter Yu Darvish had thrown 56 pitches in two innings, and D-backs starter Zack Godley had just struck out back-to-back batters.
Then Godley walked Daniel Descalso. Then gave up a double to Kris Bryant. Then balked home a run. Then gave up a double to Anthony Rizzo. Then walked Javier Baez intentionally.
David Bote homered. 5-0 Cubs.
“I felt like Zack was doing a good job for the first couple of innings of his outing,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “But with two outs and nobody on, a couple mistakes were made and you’ve got to give [the Cubs] some credit.
The next batter walked to end the outing for Godley, who went 2.2 innings, allowing 5 runs on four hits, four walks and three strikeouts. He threw 69 pitches, 38 for strikes, as the D-backs lost 9-1.
The loss ended a five-game winning streak for Arizona (16-12), which entered the game having won 10 of its last 12 games.
It wasn’t a banner day for the rest of the D-backs, either. But Godley’s sudden hiccup and removal from the game put the team in a position to lean on Matt Koch for 4.1 innings and have catcher Caleb Joseph pitch the ninth. The offense, also, mustered only one run on two hits.
“Honestly, I just couldn’t throw strikes,” Godley said. “I couldn’t get ahead of guys and when you fall behind like that, guys know what they’re looking for and you give them a pitch to hit, they narrow their zone to a certain pitch and when they get it to that spot, they hit it. And they hit it hard.”
The outing raised a question about Godley’s status in the rotation, to which Lovullo said he and his staff will discuss.
“It’s something that we’re going to probably round up and talk about as a staff,” he said. “I think we do a good job of removing some emotion from the moment and we’re going to let it calm down and probably have some conversations through the night about that very topic. I know he hasn’t thrown the ball well over the past couple outings, but we’ll circle up as a group like we always do and figure out what the best options are.”
Godley’s ERA was 6.67 when his start began. It ballooned to 7.58 by the time he was removed for Koch. It was the fourth time in six starts this season he has given up more than four runs, and also the fourth time he has exited the game before reaching 100 pitches. He has not pitched more than six innings in an outing this year.
The right-hander’s ERA is by far the highest of the D-backs’ five starting pitchers, who otherwise have ERAs of 3.33 (Luke Weaver), 3.72 (Zack Greinke), 3.94 (Merrill Kelly) and 4.18 (Robbie Ray). His WHIP (1.71) is also the highest of the rotation.
Once Weaver and Kelly make their sixth starts of the season, so long as they pitch at least three innings and 0.1 innings, respectively, Godley will have pitched the fewest number of innings in the rotation this season.
On the other hand, Godley has made two pretty solid starts this season — one of them a quality start by official definition and the other very close to a quality start. It’s been a mostly-forgettable but up-and-down season through the first month of play.
It was suggested that part of Godley’s issue is hitting a rough patch in a game and that spiraling into something worse. Lovullo agreed with that assessment.
“We’ve identified that that’s an issue,” Lovullo said. “When things back up, they back up in a hurry. … I think identifying it is one big thing, and what happens I think is more of maybe an internal belief that he’s going to make pitches and get out of the jam and will pitches. Every player at some time wills things to happen. … I think he’s kind of neutral right now and unable to force his way through those things as he has in the past.”
Don’t forget that Godley threw 333 innings over the last two seasons and posted an entirely serviceable 4.10 ERA in that span. He struck out 350 batters in that time. His ERA in 2017 was 3.37.
“There’s a few things that I have to work through,” Godley said. “I’ve been working with [pitching coach Mike Butcher] on them. So just trying to get that stuff figured out and get back to doing what I’ve been doing. And I know that what I have done so far this year is not what I normally do and what I’ve shown that I can do, and I’ve got to get better.”
Meanwhile, Koch gave up four runs in his 4.1 innings, allowing eight hits and striking out four. He gave up home runs to Anthony Rizzo and Bote, the latter of whom had two dingers on the day. Bote also was hit by a pitch, prompting the benches to clear in the seventh inning.
On the other side of things for the D-backs on Saturday, the offense’s one run scored was courtesy of a home run by David Peralta, his fourth of the season.
It was the sixth time in 28 games that Arizona’s offense has scored one run or fewer, despite the fact that the D-backs entered the day with the second-highest team batting average and third-most runs scored in MLB. Arizona left the bases loaded in the first inning.
“Obviously this game didn’t go the way we wanted to,” Lovullo said. “I felt like Darvish was on a very slippery slope early, and we were one or two hitters, at-bats, hits away in that first inning from having this be a totally different story. Unfortunately, they got back into their rhythm, they kind of punched us in the face and scored five runs and it totally turned.”
The D-backs will play their series finale against the Cubs on Sunday before playing a two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday next week to complete the homestand. Luke Weaver is expected to face Jose Quintana on Sunday.