Here’s a man walking a very steep tightrope.
That’s the result Diamondbacks’ right-hander Brandon McCarthy experienced Tuesday night in Chase Field. For the first four innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, McCarthy was easily on shaking grounds. For the final three innings, he looked a changed and refined pitcher.
Yet, the bottom line shows McCarthy as a pitcher in transition, and one in hope of discovering some type of magic potion.
For McCarthy, who came into his second start of the season Tuesday night against Pittsburgh at Chase Field with a 10.80 ERA, the 6-7 right-hander continued to face acute challenges. Lasting into the seventh inning, McCarthy appeared to settle in late in the game but had a penchant for finding trouble early.
Surprisingly, McCarthy worked out the kinks in the later innings, and retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced before lifted with two outs in the seventh inning. Prior, he could not hold a three run lead and looked like a pitcher ready to implode.
Eventually, the Diamondbacks dropped a 6-5 decision to Pittsburgh before 19,872 in Chase Field. That represented the second straight loss to the Bucos in as many nights at home.
If the Diamondbacks brought McCarthy to be a solid member of the rotation, the early results are far from encouraging. In his two starts to date, McCarthy is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA, but he says the early starts represented an educational process.
“These hitters are new to me and I’m learning,” he said afterward. “I had no problem with my consistency but I seem to get away from my stuff early.”
Within the perspective of the rotation, Trevor Cahill and McCarthy are out of the gate in a very precarious way. Wade Miley suffered from “dead arm” syndrome over the final weeks of spring training and Patrick Corbin, after a 6-8 season a year ago (4.54 ERA in 22 starts) won the fifth and final rotation spot in the final days of spring training.
What appeared a creditable assembly of strong arms now has a few “red flags” raised. Still, there is little concern because manager Kirk Gibson went out of his way to indicate McCarthy had little team support Tuesday night.
“We didn’t take advantage of certain situations, and (McCarthy) was unable to make pitches we he needed,” Gibson said. “We should have handled situations better but McCarthy was better later in the game. The execution is on me and we have to do a better job.”
While McCarthy allowed a first inning run, the situation there could have been disastrous. He escaped a second-and-third situation, two outs when Pedro Alvarez grounded the second. In the second, a double play bailed McCarthy out of a first-and-third situation with one out. And in the third, he gave up a one out single to Andrew McCutchen but retired the next two hitters.
“I was getting ahead in the count and the pitches I made to get to 0-2 and 1-2 should be made deeper in the count,” McCarthy added. “If I’m able to get ahead that way, then I have to throw those pitches to get the hitter out.”
Then in the fourth, the Pirates batted around and scored five times, their highest single inning production to date this season.
As well, the Diamondbacks came out of the gate with a powerful, four-run opening frame, but fell silent thereafter.
For the game, the Diamondbacks managed just six hits, and combined with four on Monday night, that’s a total of 10 for the two games against Pittsburgh.
After forging out to a 4-1 advantage after the opening frame, the D-backs could only gather a lead-off double from Gerardo Parra in the fifth, a lead-off, pinch hit double off the bat of Alfredo Marte and a two-out, harmless ninth inning single from Martin Prado the rest of the way..
Simply and to the point, Gibson ended this forgettable night by adding, “this was not our best game of the season.”