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Sedona Red Recap: De La Rosa’s career outing spoiled by late Pirates comeback, lack of D-backs offense

PHOENIX — At the beginning of the year, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ wins came via good offense and solid outings from the bullpen. The starting pitching just wasn’t there.

Now, all of the sudden, D-backs starters are on an excellent run, turning in nine consecutive quality starts, but the offense has been missing in action and the bullpen has often faltered in each of their last five losses. The team has scored just one run in four of those.

And that’s exactly what they did before 38,859 on Saturday, losing 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took the series with the win.

In stride with the rest of the D-backs’ staff, starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa was excellent against the Pirates, turning in seven innings while giving up just a run and striking out eight. De La Rosa agreed after the game that the outing was probably one of the best of his career and undoubtedly the best since he joined the D-backs.

Manager Chip Hale raved about the start, too, in his postgame press conference, saying De La Rosa looked “beautiful” and that his performance Saturday justified the D-backs’ trade for him.

“He’s starting to get there,” Hale said after the game. “He threw all of his pitches for strikes.”

De La Rosa mixed all four of his pitches brilliantly, seeing his four-seam fastball touch 97 mph in the first inning and utilizing a dynamic change-up to keep Pirates hitters off balance all night. The hard-throwing right-hander turned to a slider from time to time, too, to change the look of his off-speed offerings, and he did well with keeping his two-seam fastball down all night. His eight strikeouts tied a career high, and he was able to avoid walking any of the the 25 Pittsburgh hitters he faced.

“Everything was under control, and I tried to attack the zone as much as I could,” De La Rosa commented following the loss, also mentioning that he had a lot of confidence in his off-speed pitches.

The D-backs’ first run came in the second inning and looked like a lot of others they’ve scored this season. Second baseman Chris Owings stole second base after knocking a two-out single to right-center field. Tuffy Gosewisch plated him in the next at-bat, singling to right field, where the Pirates’ Gregory Polanco had difficulty getting the ball out of his glove before his throw home ended up down the first base line, allowing Owings to score with ease.

Burnett was perhaps equally as good as De La Rosa, allowing just one run over seven innings. He gave up five hits and a pair of walks in the effort while striking out four.

Burnett got off the hook for the second-inning Owings run when his offense used a pair of fourth-inning doubles down the right field line to tie things up. Neil Walker scored the run on a Pedro Alvarez RBI.

Both Gosewisch and Hale said after the game that De La Rosa’s only real mistake of the night came on the Alvarez double. With an 0-2 count, Gosewisch was calling for a ball in the dirt, but De La Rosa delivered over the plate on the inside corner, allowing Alvarez to pull a line drive down the right field line. Gosewisch said after the game he regretted not going to the mound to talk over the situation with De La Rosa to ensure the two were on the same page.

Leadoff man Ender Inciarte began the eighth inning with a chop single down the third base line and A.J. Pollock followed with a line drive single to center field. Paul Goldschmidt stepped in to face Pirates left-hander Tony Watson with both men on. The crowd was loud, but Goldschmidt grounded out to third. Mark Trumbo then pinch hit for cleanup man David Peralta, but also failed to bring home Inciarte and Pollock, leaving things up to third baseman Aaron Hill, who hit safely in his previous at-bat. But Hill’s season-long woes would continue with a strikeout to end the inning.

The Pirates put together a rally of their own in the following frame, stringing together three consecutive hits with two outs. Walker doubled for the second time of the night, this time off Addison Reed and to the left-center field gap on a 2-0 fastball, which was left high in the zone. That was followed with a deep flyball to the warning track in left-center field off the bat of Andrew McCutchen, who is mired in an 0-for-16 slump.

Reed again fell behind to the next hitter, left fielder Starling Marte. The D-backs pitcher’s 2-0 offering was a slider, which he tried to keep out of the zone, but Marte was able to get to it with the end of his bat, rolling it between shortstop Cliff Pennington and the second base bag to plate Walker.

“It was an alright pitch, but it shouldn’t have even been hittable,” Reed said after the game. “I should have gotten it a little bit lower, but it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

Reed finally got out of the ninth after facing six Pirates batters and throwing 32 pitches.

Gosewisch collected his second hit of the night with one away in the bottom of the ninth and was promptly pinch run for when Nick Ahmed entered the game; the D-backs had stolen three bases off Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli earlier in the game. Hale and first base coach decided to send Ahmed, but he was thrown out at second with Pennington at the plate in a 2-1 count. Pennington eventually earned a walk and Yasmany Tomas was announced as the pinch hitter. Though falling behind 1-2, Tomas battled to a full count and fouled off a couple of 3-2 offerings before grounding out to second to end the game.

The D-backs are 2-3 with a series split in six series so far this season.

THE GOOD

Chris Owings is hitting .343 over his last eight games, raising his batting average from .083 to .241. The second baseman began the season 0-for-14 and then 2-for-23, but seems to have turned things around of late. He has a double, a triple, a home run, five RBI and five runs scored over the eight-game span.

THE BAD

Last year’s second baseman, Aaron Hill, has really struggled this season, as he did in spring training. He was 1-for-4 Saturday, but he struck out to end the bottom of the eighth with men on second and third. Hill is striking out at a career-high rate — in 22.7 percent of his at-bats — and making worse contact than he ever has. He is hitting .163 on the year.

HE SAID IT

“That’s what we expect. That’s why we traded for him, and he’s starting to get there.” – Hale on De La Rosa

STAT OF THE GAME

9: D-backs starting pitchers have turned in nine consecutive quality starts.

UP NEXT

The D-backs will send right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the mound Sunday as they look to salvage a win in the series. Helickson got a win — his first of the year — in his last start, which came against the Giants in San Francisco. In three outings thus far, he has a 4.58 ERA on the year.

Hellickson has never faced the Pirates before in his career. Opposing him is Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano, who has twice faced the D-backs in his career, allowing four earned runs in 12 innings pitched. The 10-year veteran has a 3.00 ERA in three starts this season. Though going seven innings on Opening Day, Liriano has only lasted six and five innings in his last two starts, respectively.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning on Arizona Sports 98.7. FM 30 minutes prior.

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