Someone once said baseball is a game of inches.
To support this theory, look no further than the seventh inning of Friday night’s game.
Diamondbacks’ right-hander Brandon McCarthy was locked in a classic pitcher’s duel with the Braves’ Julio Teheran. With the score tied at 2-2 and one out in the seventh, McCarthy managed to get ahead of Atlanta lead-off hitter Jason Heyward at 1-2 and delivered a 94 mile-per-hour fast ball on the outside corner.
Plate umpire Mike Muchlinski said the pitch just missed and ruled a ball. Two pitches later, Heyward walked and scored the game-winner on a double Andrelton Simmons. That’s when McCarthy went down to his eighth defeat of the season in an eventual 5-2 loss to the Braves before 24,504 in Chase Field.
At best, “the pitch” was marginal and McCarthy was not terribly upset with Muchlinski’s call.
“I thought it could have been called a strike,” McCarthy said afterward. “It was close and it probably could have gone either way. In the end, it was the umpire’s discretion.”
In taking the loss, McCarthy turned in a creditable game and was credited with his sixth “quality start” in 13 starts. Still, he’s saddled with an 1-8 record and threatens to be the first Arizona pitcher in the history of the franchise to be a 20-game loser.
“Right now, I was just want to make as many good pitches as I can,” McCarthy added. “The outcomes suck.”
Down 2-1 in the fifth, McCarthy actually tied the game with a single to left which scored David Peralta, who opened the inning with a double down the right field line. The run batted-in was McCarthy’s first career RBI but he said afterward, “I’d trade an RBI for a win.”
Then, Simmons’ game winner in the seventh and the Braves added two more in the ninth against Trevor Cahill.
For the Diamondbacks, the start was encouraging.
Didi Gregorius led off the game with his second home run in as many games. He led-off Thursday’s game against Colorado with a homer and he is now the only player in franchise history to lead off consecutive games with a home run.
“I’m just trying to look for a pitch to hit,” said Gregorius in an attempt to explain his recent power. “I changed my stance a little but you still have to react to every pitch. Just try and hit the ball hard somewhere.”
Gregarious started Friday night’s game at shortstop but will start Saturday’s contest against the Braves at second. Aaron Hill will get the day off and Chris Owings will move back to his usual spot at shortstop.
In response to the Diamondbacks’ schedule of 33 games in 34 games, manager Kirk Gibson explained the move is an attempt to rest players periodically as well keep players fresh.
Coming into the eighth and his team leading 3-2, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel finished the game and recorded his 16th save of the season. In the process, the 26-year-old from Huntsville, Ala. native picked up his 155 career save for the Braves. That established a team mark for saves and previously, Kimbrel was tied with John Smoltz for the franchise lead.
“I have been part of a lot of good teams and had a lot of opportunities,” Kimbrel said. “I had a chance in my first full season to be a closer and that doesn’t happen very often. That’s why we’re here talking today because I had an opportunity of lot of guys do not have. I feel blessed and grateful for it.”
The loss was the fourth in a row at home for Arizona and dropped the Diamondbacks 15 games behind the National League West Division-leading San Francisco Giants.
On the second of the three-day draft, the Diamondbacks selected eight players, including four pitchers, two outfielders and two infielders.
These include outfielder Matt Railey (number 89 overall), who hit .407 for North Florida Christian High School, right-hander Brent Jones (number 120), who went 2-3 with 2.50 ERA in nine starts for Cornell University, right-hander Mason McCullough, (150), who was 5-0, 4.09 ERA and 85 strikeouts for Lander University, Lefty Zac Curtis (180), 9-3, 1.89 ERA and led all Division I pitchers with 143 strikeouts out of Middle Tennessee State, infielder Tyler Humphreys (210), who led the nation with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs at St. Johns River State College, outfielder Grant Heyman (240), hit .377 with 24 doubles and 43 RBIs for The College of Southern Nevada, infielder Justin Gonzalez (270), a four-year starter at Florida State University and team captain. He hit .245 with 39 RBIs this past season. Also selected was righty Scott Schultz (300), who went 7-2, 1.61 ERA at Oregon State University.
Jones’ selection by the Diamondbacks was the highest a Cornell player has been drafted.
“It’s way too early to see who has a fast track to the major leagues,” said Ray Montgomery, the Diamondbacks’ director of scouting. “When you draft players at this age, it’s all about player development. Each guy develops differently and progress depends on each, individual player.”
The draft concludes Saturday with rounds 11 through 40.