D-backs bullpen falls apart, gives up 3-run lead in loss to Pirates

Aug 23, 2021, 8:45 PM
Pittsburgh Pirates' Yoshi Tsutsugo (32) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the seven...

Pittsburgh Pirates' Yoshi Tsutsugo (32) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

A season-long problem continued for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday in Pittsburgh.

Entering play on Monday, the D-backs had allowed 200 runs in the seventh and eighth innings, per Fangraphs. That’s 43 runs more than the Baltimore Orioles in second, and only one other team in baseball outside of those two has eclipsed 145.  To further emphasize the number being an outlier, looking back at the last three 162-game seasons from 2017-19, only six total times did a team reach 200.

Make it 204 for the D-backs after Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates, one in which D-backs relievers gave up four runs across those two innings.

It was a particular bummer in this game because right-hander Humberto Mejia was in line for his first MLB win in his debut for the D-backs.

It wasn’t a dazzling debut for Mejia, who threw 99 pitches in five innings, allowing six hits and two walks. Not everyone can pull off a no-hitter in their first start like Tyler Gilbert.

But at the end of Mejia’s five innings, he only had two earned runs to his name and struck out seven for a more-than-solid debut.

“He did exactly what he was supposed to do,” manager Torey Lovullo said.

The D-backs were up 5-2 through five innings. Right fielder Daulton Varsho hit a home run with nobody on in the second inning, making it his third straight game with a dinger.

In the fifth inning, Mejia got his first career hit, a double, and run after being scored by a Ketel Marte single. Another single later that inning by first baseman Christian Walker with the bases loaded brought home three more runs.

Reliever J.B. Wendelken stepped in for Mejia and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, but Taylor Clarke in the seventh gave up a solo homer and walked a Pirates hitter before being replaced by Joe Mantiply. The lefty immediately proceeded to give up an RBI triple and then another run on an error, giving Clarke a second earned run and Mantiply one of his own.

The seventh inning ended there at a 5-5 tie. After Arizona didn’t score in the top half of the eighth, Noe Ramirez took over for Mantiply and struck out his first batter before walking the next three. Jake Faria tried to hold the fort with the bases loaded and one out but allowed the eventual game-winning run to score on a groundout.

Mejia was acquired by the D-backs from the Miami Marlins last season in the Starling Marte trade. The 24-year-old made three starts for the Marlins in 2020, but only because of the team’s emergency roster situation due to a COVID-19 outbreak, as Mejia hadn’t pitched above High-A prior to that year.

“This is my first real good look at him … He’s got a tremendous amount of presence and composure and you can see that play out on the mound,” Lovullo said of Mejia.

Mejia made it to Triple-A Reno this season after debuting at the Double-A level earlier in the year. While a 5.93 ERA over his 12 starts for the Aces can produce pause, Mejia had three of his last five outings for them go at least six innings with two earned runs or less.

Lovullo couldn’t confirm if Mejia will continue to stay in the rotation after being called up on Monday. Starter Merrill Kelly is exiting isolation on Tuesday after a bout with COVID-19 and the rotation currently stands as Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Tyler Gilbert and Taylor Widener in the four other spots.

The loss dropped the D-backs to 42-84, making it three losses in their last four after stringing together a 6-1 homestand at Chase Field. They’ll look to bounce back in the second game of the series against the Pirates at 4:05 p.m. with Bumgarner taking the mound. You can hear that game on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.

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