Ryne Nelson gives D-backs more to consider in win over Phillies

May 23, 2023, 6:32 PM | Updated: 7:15 pm

Ryne Nelson #19 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch in the bottom of the first inning agains...

Ryne Nelson #19 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch in the bottom of the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

It’s a good problem to have. After the way the Arizona Diamondbacks’ young arms have picked it up in the back-half of May, Arizona’s got one and a choice to make with it.

Ryne Nelson’s lone run allowed in six innings on three hits and no walks with four strikeouts in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies was his second straight strong outing. It has come at the best possible time.

It follows a strong 5.2 innings of two-run work from Tommy Henry on Monday, and those two plus rookie Brandon Pfaadt are at an interesting crossroads for their 2023 seasons.

Right-hander Zach Davies threw 4.2 scoreless innings in a rehab start for Double-A Amarillo on Saturday. Davies only made two starts this season before injuring his oblique, and that plus the departure of Madison Bumgarner opened the door for Henry and Pfaadt to enter the rotation. The pair previously lost out on the fifth spot to Nelson, something worth noting as a decision nears on who gets replaced for Davies.

Here are the numbers for the trio this season. All three have had their better outings recently and own fairly similar numbers, further complicating the decision.

Henry: 6 GS, 4.68 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 32.2 IP, 32 H, 14 BB, 18 K, 17 ER

Nelson: 10 GS, 5.02 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 52.0 IP, 56 H, 15 BB, 36 K, 29 ER

Pfaadt: 4 GS, 7.65 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 20.0 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 17 ER

Henry’s next turn up in the rotation is on Sunday and Nelson comes the day after, while Pfaadt is earlier in the week on Friday.

Nelson seems like a safe bet to stick given he was the original pick and has now found a real rhythm.

Pfaadt is Arizona’s top pitching prospect, and those guys typically don’t bounce back and forth between the minors and majors. And to the same point on Nelson, Pfaadt got shelled in his first two starts before settling in considerably to four runs allowed for his last two outings compared to 13 in the opening two.

Henry has been the most solid and is the lefty. He’s avoided disastrous games, not giving up more than four earned runs in an outing, but hasn’t been lights out for any either, allowing at least two runs in al six contests.

Pitchers on the edge of the rotation are often going to sink or swim based on timing. Most of the time it’s simply about who is pitching better across just a few outings when that concrete name is set to return, and one guy is going to get the short end of the stick.

Nelson began Tuesday retiring five straight batters before back-to-back Phillies hits scored a run. A Bryce Harper single in the fourth inning was after four consecutive Phillies were sent out, and Harper was the last to reach on Nelson, with eight empty trips in a row off the righty ending his night.

The terrific showing was timely on a night when Arizona’s offense could have done more.

A Gabriel Moreno two-run bomb in the second inning and Ketel Marte RBI triple made up the three runs through seven innings. Marte’s triple followed a leadoff Geraldo Perdomo single, meaning the D-backs did not advance him in three outs. The same happened the next inning for a Corbin Carroll double.

The third time was the charm in a 3-3 tie for the eighth inning. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got to third base on a passed ball after his double began the inning. Christian Walker, erm, walked and then Carroll scored the deciding run on an RBI single. Arizona later loaded the bases with one out but again did not get runs out of it.

Philadelphia gave the ball to reliever Matt Strahm, who made his seventh start but first as more of an opener. Strahm’s pitch count in those previous outings varied from the high 50s to low 80s but the Phillies had to put him in the rotation due to injury and are now being weary of his innings count after his arm only had 44.2 innings on it last season in 50 appearances. He’s now up to 35.0 innings in 12 contests.

Strahm lasted two innings, giving up the homer to Moreno, before the Phillies turned to Dylan Covey. They claimed him off waivers on Saturday and he was making just his second MLB appearance of 2023, with rough career numbers of a 6.54 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 72 appearances.

Covey was the guy Arizona should have done more damage to but he produced five innings off 91 pitches and gave up just a run. Seranthony Dominguez took his place and was throwing the ball all over the zone, failing to retire any of those first three batters in the eighth inning.

Gurriel’s hitting streak has reached 15 games and Tuesday was Marte’s 23rd straight game reaching base, a new career high. In addition, Carroll had three hits. To reiterate the theme of the recap for the game prior, Arizona’s heart of the order has been elite this season.

Nelson didn’t get the win because of two earned runs on Kyle Nelson’s record for the seventh inning that tied it, a situation Jose Ruiz could not bail the lefty out of when inheriting two runners in scoring position. Andrew Chafin and Scott McGough briefly ran into trouble in the eighth with two on and two out but a clutch sliding grab by Dominic Fletcher in center saved the day.

Miguel Castro picked up his fifth save of the season to wrap up the ninth.

The D-backs are now 29-20 after their fourth straight win.

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