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Madison Bumgarner’s struggles intensify in D-backs’ loss to Astros

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) looks away in between pitches against the Houston Astros during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — When starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in December, you could feel the buzz around the Valley.

Not only did the team land an ace, but they got a starter who has been to the World Series and gotten the job done in big moments.

But fast forward to Aug. 4 and it’s a whole different scenario.

The buzz around the offseason signing has dissipated, as Bumgarner has continued to struggle on the mound.

Tuesday was no different, as the pitcher turned in his worst performance as a D-back in the team’s 8-2 loss to the visiting Houston Astros.

Making it just 4.1 innings (83 pitches/56 strikes), Bumgarner allowed seven earned runs on seven hits. He walked two, a pair of hit by pitches, gave up two home runs and struck out two. He also hit three Astros with pitches.

“I think there were a couple key counts, a couple key at-bats where he didn’t make the pitch at the right time,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “… I think if I were to add everything up, they’ve got some really good hitters that are going to do some damage but I think there was several key moments later in the batting order where he didn’t make a big pitch to get that big out that we’ve seen him get.”

With Bumgarner’s performance Tuesday night, all but Zac Gallen (2) have allowed three home runs. As a team, Arizona is at the bottom of the MLB in homers allowed with 20.

Bumgarner’s first pitch of the game resulted in an out, providing some hope that this could be his coming out party for the team.

Instead of firing off zeroes the rest of the inning, Bumgarner allowed a Jose Altuve home run on his second pitch of the game, extinguishing any kind of momentum from the start.

The struggles only enhanced in the second inning.

Just three pitches in, Houston made it 2-0 thanks to a Carlos Correa dinger. Bumgarner would add two more walks and a single before recording his second out of the inning, a sac-fly from outfielder George Springer, to make it 3-0.

Bumgarner did, however, record scoreless innings in the third and fourth, the latter of which would turn out to be the pitcher’s best inning of the night. With just one walk, Bumgarner got out of the inning unscathed, with 16 total pitches thrown.

But after weathering what could have been a much larger storm, the pitcher couldn’t stay above water in the fifth inning.

A quick two-pitch out started the inning before turning into Bumgarner’s nemesis. A double ensued, followed by an intentional walk, a Bumgarner error that led to a run and another walk before the pitcher was sent to the dugout by Lovullo. Two more runs crossed the plate with pitcher Stefan Crichton in a bases-loaded situation as Bumgarner’s relief.

“I just wasn’t very good, to put it bluntly,” Bumgarner said after the game. “Just seemed like I couldn’t get anything going for us and that can’t happen, especially in a season like this one. The one that’s going to wear on me the most is the throwing error more than any of the pitching stuff because we’re out of the inning right there.

“That’s tough, I could make that play a 100 more times and not make a bad throw and unfortunately I did today.”

Bumgarner’s outing continued the concerning trend of a lack of velocity for the hurler.

In the 4.1 innings pitched, Bumgarner reached the low 90-mph range eight times in the first inning. From there, the ace couldn’t top out over 89. He threw a total of 23 fastballs after the first inning without touching 90 mph.

Prior to his start against the Astros, Bumgarner’s velocity was sitting at 88 mph, down from 91 the last three seasons.

But no matter the pitching performance, a team isn’t going to have any chance at taking home a victory without some solid swings of the bat.

Adding fuel to the fire, the D-backs have managed just two dingers on offense through 11 games. They’ve combined for 11 hits in the last two outings.

“We’re trying, trying is just a word, but we’re doing everything we can to do to turn this around,” Bumgarner said. “That’s all you can do right here at this point. Everybody’s working, everybody’s trying to figure it out and we just haven’t turned it around just yet. But we got to keep moving forward.”

Looking to change the team’s fortunes, Lovullo decided to start prospect Daulton Varsho in left field, giving David Peralta a day off of fielding as Arizona’s DH.

Unfortunately, the spark Lovullo was hoping would ignite his offense wasn’t present in Tuesday night’s loss. Varsho grounded out, lined out twice and struck out in his first career start.

The team’s first RBI of the game came courtesy of third baseman Eduardo Escobar. Escobar brought outfielder Kole Calhoun across the plate with a single ripped down the third baseline.

Escobar’s RBI in the fourth inning snapped the D-backs’ scoreless inning streak at 17.

“Offensively, I thought we built some innings late, we had some situations where we loaded the bases,” Lovullo said. “We started to press the baseball and really make some solid contact.”

Say what you will about the performance, but the team’s recent woes aren’t for a lack of trying. Lovullo sees his players working day in and day out to improve their play. The skipper believes it’s not a matter of if but when the team turns it around.

“These are grinding times right now,” Lovullo said. “This is what tests your ballclub, tests its character, but we’ve spoken about these types of moments. We’ve spoken and budgeted for rough times, and what I just continue to reemphasize every single day and even in those earlier discussions when there was zero stimulus and 0-0 record is to trust one another.

“Dig hard, dig together, accept coaching and these guys are going to grind their way through these rugged times.”

The D-backs will look to get the bad taste of Tuesday’s lopsided loss in Game 2 of the three-game home series against the Astros. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m.

Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

 BASE HITS

– Second baseman Andy Young recorded his first career hit as a D-back with a double in the seventh inning. He went 2-for-2 with a run scored.

– Outfielder Tim Locastro brought in the team’s only other run after recording an RBI-walk with the bases loaded in the seventh.


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