D-backs, Taylor Clarke beat Orioles to win series finale
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks, a week away from the trade deadline and in danger of losing a series to the second-worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, needed a win on Wednesday. Taylor Clarke needed one, too.
Clarke entered Wednesday having given up seven runs in his last 7.1 innings pitched across two starts. His ERA on the season was 6.50 with a WHIP of 1.64. Even for a team that has exhausted much of its pitching depth, they probably needed more out of their rookie hurler.
The 26-year-old went six innings, allowing two runs (both on solo home runs) on four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts on 87 pitches. Clarke and the D-backs (52-51) won by a score of 5-2 to take the series win over the Orioles (32-69).
“It’s no mystery. I’ve been telling you guys here for the past four days and even before that, that he needs to step up and get the job done,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “And he did. He did. There was a lot of toughness there. It started to get a little bit wobbly there in his last inning, and one of their best hitters comes up to the plate and he strikes him out [Renato Nunez] to finish his outing. Those are the things that I look for.”
The D-backs were down, but only for a short time, after Anthony Santander clubbed a solo home run in the fourth inning for Baltimore. Apart from an infield single in the third inning, Clarke was otherwise perfect to that point. But Santander’s home run didn’t give the O’s the lead for long, as the D-backs responded in the bottom of that frame with a three-run home run by Carson Kelly.
“I thought the real key blow was the three-run home run by Carson,” Lovullo said. “He continues to be a very consistent offensive player for us.”
Arizona did the same thing in the sixth inning, when a long-ball by Trey Mancini cut the D-backs’ lead to 3-2 before Ketel Marte hit a home run of his own in the bottom of the frame. At that point, it was 4-2 Arizona.
By no means did Baltimore put on a defensive clinic; the O’s made two errors officially, but also failed to get an out on a soft ground ball and overthrew first base on a play that would’ve scored a run, if not for umpire interference wiping out the whole sequence. Those two plays that weren’t ruled errors both happened in the D-backs’ seventh, which did yield a run for Arizona when the Orioles walked in a run.
Either way, it was a well-earned win for the D-backs, who have been hovering around .500 and entered the day three games back in the NL Wild Card race, and a well-pitched game by the rookie Clarke, who lowered his ERA to 6.10.
“Just being a little bit more sharper,” Clarke said. “I felt like getting ahead of guys and kind of feel like I established my fastball pretty well today, a lot better than [my last outing]. And so just getting ahead and then putting guys away I think was the biggest difference from last week.”
Another pitcher who had struggled, Archie Bradley, continued Wednesday a streak of now eight consecutive games without allowed an earned run. His ERA on the year has come down to 4.40, which wouldn’t have been the case if not for him pitching out of his own bases-loaded jam (Bradley struck out the first two batters he saw, but the next three reached base before he struck out Chris Davis to end the inning).
“There were some situations where I felt like we may have walked ourselves into some tough grinding moments. But the bottom line for me is they executed when they had to and got out of those situations,” Lovullo said. “I feel good about our bullpen. You add Archie in the mix and Yoan [Lopez] threw the ball exceptionally well today after two tough outings. I think we’re adding pieces down there, and that’s what we want to do.”
Greg Holland entered the ninth to get the save, but exited after walking the first two hitters he faced. Yoan Lopez instead pitched, recording three pop-up outs to close out the game. Yoshi Hirano also pitched for Arizona.
“I’m not sure exactly what was going on with the command [with Holland]. He wasn’t hurt,” Lovullo said. “We went out there with a trainer. The stuff just wasn’t coming out the way that we’ve seen it, so that just led us to think that something was wrong. He assured us that there wasn’t anything wrong. But those are hard decisions that I need to make.”
–Marte, with his home run, became the first player in D-backs history to hit 10 or more home runs from each side of the plate in a single season.
The D-backs have an off-day Thursday before heading to Miami for a four-game series. The Marlins (37-62) are the worst team in the National League. From there, the D-backs go to New York to play the Yankees for two games.