Friday, June 2 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks continue their 3-game series on Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals. Follow our updates on the series at Chase Field.

Sometimes, the first inning is enough indication of how a game is going to unfold. For the Diamondbacks’ Ryne Nelson, Tuesday was one of those nights.

Against the first batter of the game, he left a slider up and in, forcing him to throw a 2-1 fastball that was roped for a single. Against the second batter, he got away with a curveball left up. Against the third batter, he couldn’t bury a slider, surrendering a single. Against the fourth batter, the levee walls broke with another hanging slider. This one, to the Royals’ Edward Olivares, was smashed into left field for an RBI single.

Nelson limited the damage there, but it set the tone for a night in which he allowed four runs and 11 hits in five innings — another start in what has become a trend for Diamondbacks pitchers. Not terrible, but not good enough.

Outside of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, Diamondbacks starters have only pitched into the sixth inning twice in 15 games. Even excluding Madison Bumgarner, they are averaging under 4⅔ innings per start with a cumulative ERA of 5.47.

Those types of outings put undue stress on the rest of the team.

In Tuesday’s 5-4 loss, the Diamondbacks strung together 10 hits and their bullpen allowed just one run in four innings. Thanks to a late-game charge, they managed to bring the tying run to third base with one out in the ninth.

Ketel Marte then popped out on a swing Manager Torey Lovullo called “over anxious,” Corbin Carroll walked and Christian Walker grounded out to third. Better execution there could have changed the feeling surrounding Nelson’s outing.

Instead, that ninth inning only accentuated the notion that, without sufficient starting pitching, everything else needs to be close to perfect.

“We know the recipe,” Lovullo said. “Good starting pitching, good defense and then let the relievers do their work and keep them strong all year long. We’ve gotta get back to that.”

The issue has become especially pronounced over the past week. Since a win in St. Louis last Monday, the Diamondbacks have needed an average of 14 outs per game from their bullpen. For the most part, the unit has responded well, but their usage is by far the highest in baseball over that span.

“It’s taken its toll on the bullpen a little bit and I want those starters to take responsibility and try to pitch deeper into the game,” Lovullo said.

On Tuesday, Nelson still had 18 pitches left when he was pulled, based on the criteria Lovullo uses to determine pitch count. But because he had allowed 11 hits, the Royals were already approaching their fourth turn through the order.

“That fourth time, the numbers increase radically,” Lovullo said. “So they’ve gotta be real dominant for me to give them that fourth time.”

The key, then, is being able to get deep into games without opponents cycling through their lineup three times. “Get more outs,” as Nelson succinctly put it.

He wasn’t able to do that in large part because of ineffective off-speed pitches. All night, he struggled to locate either his slider or his cutter in the bottom third of the strike zone, where they can induce weak contact and whiffs.

That issue was particularly pronounced in the first inning. The Diamondbacks have now allowed 25 first-inning runs in 25 games, compared to .52 runs per inning beyond that. Those slow starts make it difficult to go deep in outings.

“We’ve gotta stay away from 20-plus pitch innings in the first couple of innings,” Lovullo said. “I think we’ve gotta get established with our fastball, go to work and set a tone. That’s quality starting pitching. We’ve got quality arms. Still early in the season, I know there’s some growing pains for these young guys.”

The question, then, is how the Diamondbacks break this trend. Drey Jameson earned a demotion to Triple-A with his issues, but Tommy Henry was not much better Monday. Nelson now has been mostly mediocre. Even with Brandon Pfaadt waiting in the wings, the rotation is dotted with question marks.

Eventually, those questions need answers.

— Theo Mackie


Corbin Carroll’s speed helps D-Backs score two on Aroldis Chapman

The Diamondbacks scored a pair of runs off Royals reliever Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning, pulling within one run on Tuesday night. They trailed the Royals, 5-4, after eight innings.

Corbin Carroll beat out an infield single to open the inning, using his speed to win a race to the bag with Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who should have tossed to Chapman covering.

After Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled to left with one out, he and Carroll executed a double steal, putting men on second and third with one out.

Pinch hitter Emmanuel Rivera, added to the roster in place of Jake McCarthy, who was optioned earlier in the day, followed with a ball that shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. kept on the infield on a dive. Witt should have left it at that, but instead tried to pop up and throw to first. His throw went wild, allowing a second run to score on the play.

With the tying run on second, the Royals turned to reliever Scott Barlow, who struck out Gabriel Moreno and Alek Thomas to end the inning.

Apr 25, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ryne Nelson (19) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsApr 25, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ryne Nelson (19) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 25, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ryne Nelson (19) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks trail Royals despite Corbin Carroll triple

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Corbin Carroll crushed a triple off the center-field wall. The ball bounced away from centerfielder Kyle Isbel, and Carroll might have had a chance to turn it into an inside-the-park home run had third base coach Tony Perezchica not held him up. With nobody out, it turned out to be a prudent decision. Carroll scored one batter later.

That, though, was one of few highlights through seven innings for the Diamondbacks. Ryne Nelson was roughed up, allowing four runs on 11 hits through five innings. And the offense has been mostly quiet. They loaded the bases in the seventh, putting the tying run on first base, but could only get one run across on a sacrifice fly from Josh Rojas.

The Diamondbacks trail, 4-2, through seven.

Royals own early lead on D-Backs, Ryne Nelson

A slew of hard contact against Diamondbacks right-hander Ryne Nelson allowed the Royals to take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday night at Chase Field.

Nelson gave up singles to three of the first four batters of the game as the Royals took a 1-0 lead. The Royals scored again in the fourth when Hunter Dozier shot a double over the head of left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Nicky Lopez followed with a single to center.

The Royals have hit seven balls 96 mph or harder, all of them either line drives or deep fly balls.

In fairness to Nelson, his defense has not been much help. Second baseman Ketel Marte had three chances that he was unable to convert into outs, and Gurriel appeared to have a pair of catchable balls sail over his head, though both were hit hard.

‘Robust’ competition prompts D-Backs to option Jake McCarthy, Drey Jameson

In the span of a day, the Diamondbacks optioned two of their most promising young players to Triple-A Reno, sending right-hander Drey Jameson and outfielder Jake McCarthy down at a time when both were struggling.

Stretch the timeline out a bit longer and there was a third consequential decision, the one they made to cut ties with left-hander Madison Bumgarner last week despite still owing him more than $34 million in salary.

Each decision was made on its own, but each seems to be tied to a central fact: For the first few weeks of the season, the Diamondbacks have looked like a possible contender. They are hoping they stay that way.

“Internal competition is more robust here than we’ve ever had it,” Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen said. “I don’t think that that’s saying that from, like, trying to put pressure on guys. It just is what it is.”

Said manager Torey Lovullo: “To me it means we’re a good team that wants to be competitive and expects to go out there and win every single night.”

Hazen said that when it came to McCarthy, the decision was largely about the club trying to do what it felt was best to get him back on track at the plate.

McCarthy had just nine hits in 63 at-bats, giving him a .143 average in 22 games. Last year, McCarthy hit .283 with eight homers and 23 stolen bases, much of the production coming over the final two months of the season.

Hazen said the Diamondbacks had been waiting to make a move but ultimately felt they couldn’t wait any longer because McCarthy wasn’t making the sort of progress they wanted to see.

“We just weren’t getting there,” Hazen said. “We can’t do this for the whole season.”

Lovullo believes McCarthy never was able to overcome the time he missed during spring training due to illness.

“Something got interrupted for eight days there,” Lovullo said. “I think he was still working on the timing of the fastball. I don’t think he ever got all of his swing coordinates down based on pitch selection.”

At one point last season, the Lovullo called McCarthy into his office to tell him he was being sent down. McCarthy pointedly told him he thought the team was making a mistake. He came back shortly after and played himself into the club’s long-term plans, making the club more willing to trade outfielder Daulton Varsho in December.

When he received the news on Monday night, McCarthy responded differently, Lovullo said.

“I think he felt there was something he needed to go down there and work on,” Lovullo said. “We’ve identified that. We’ve been working hard over the past couple of days.”

McCarthy was at Salt River Fields on Tuesday, working with the club’s hitting coaches on implementing swing adjustments. Lovullo said the goal is to get McCarthy taking his ‘A’ swing more often rather than feeling for contact. The hope is that with consistent at-bats in Reno, McCarthy can return sooner than later.

“He’s a good player; he’s a very good player,” Lovullo said. “We need to get him back to that finish swing where he drives the baseball.”

The club is hoping for similar improvement out of Jameson, who the Diamondbacks believe became too one-dimensional. Without the ability to throw his slider for strikes, he leaned too heavily on his fastball.

“He’s got to be more of a pitcher,” Hazen said. “He was too much of a thrower the other day. He’s got to be more of a pitcher. He has that in him. He knows how to do it. We saw that last year. When he attacks and he dominates with all of his pitches, he is a force. We need to get that back.”

The Diamondbacks did not wait around long with either McCarthy or Jameson. Hazen said the decisions speak to where the club is in the competitive landscape — and what it needs to remain there.

“This is what good teams have,” he said. “This is what good teams do. Yes, I would love to have a 26-man roster where it’s just 26 guys or an injury makes it 27 or 28. But I don’t think that’s the way we’re constructed right now. I think our roster requires us to maximize every player’s performance. We are not relying on two or three players to make us a good team.”

Wednesday’s Royals-Diamondbacks pitching matchup

12:40 p.m., Bally Sports Arizona

Royals LHP Ryan Yarbrough (0-2, 7.62) vs. Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (3-1, 2.59)

Gallen takes a scoreless streak of 21 2/3 innings into Wednesday after going seven scoreless with two hits, no walks and 11 strikeouts against the Padres in his most recent outing. … He faced the Royals last year in Kansas City in the middle of his 44 1/3-inning scoreless streak, giving up three hits and three walks in six innings. … Gallen has induced a 42.9 percent swinging strike rate on his curveball and a 40 percent rate on his change-up. … Yarbrough came into his last outing after an opener, working four innings of two-run ball against the Angels. … He threw 52 pitches in that outing, which likely means he won’t be going much over 75 pitches on Wednesday. … Yarbrough, who has never faced the Diamondbacks, throws roughly an equal mix of cutters, curveballs and sinkers, with a change-up mixed in as well. He averages 87.5 mph with his sinker.

Coming up

Thursday: Off.

Friday: At Colorado, 5:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly (1-3, 3.42) vs. Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (2-2, 4.28).

Saturday: At Colorado, 5:10 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Tommy Henry (0-0, 6.23) vs. Rockies TBA.

Sunday: At Colorado, 12:10 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Ryne Nelson (1-0, 4.91)* vs. Rockies LHP Austin Gomber (1-4, 9.28).

*Stats entering Tuesday.

Diamondbacks eke-out ‘grinder’ win over Royals in series opener

The ball that drove in the go-ahead run on Monday night left Nick Ahmed’s bat at 30.4 mph. A key out in the ninth was tracked down near the dugout railing by none other than reliever Andrew Chafin.

The Diamondbacks’ starter did not complete five. The offense did not deliver much in the way of timely hits. An out was made at home plate on what looked like a botched double steal.

So, no, things did not exactly go the way the Diamondbacks drew it up, but they beat the Kansas City Royals, 5-4, at Chase Field, and in their eyes, that was pretty much all that mattered. It counted as a single victory in the standings, just the same as the most well-played, well-executed performance they could turned in.

“To win these tweeners where we feel like we have a chance to win and it’s a matter of executing and holding them off one more inning or something like that, for me these are the games when you look back and you end up being proud of a season,” Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker said. “These are the wins that need to happen, these grinders.”

They won despite a shaky effort from left-hander Tommy Henry, who lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and four walks, in his first start in the majors this season.

And they won despite what Lovullo called “overmanaging” on his part, namely that he started bringing in his leverage relievers in the fifth, a decision that resulted in Chafin having to record the final five outs of the game — and needing 35 pitches to do so.

“I was just trying to connect some dots,” Lovullo said. “The dots were a little bit longer than I wanted.”

Chafin’s outing started on somewhat shaky ground with a walk and a game-tying single in the top of the eighth, but after the Diamondbacks reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning, he got the final three outs. One of them came on a play not seen all that often.

The Royals’ Edward Olivares popped a ball into foul territory toward the visitors’ dugout. Both catcher Gabriel Moreno and Walker gave pursuit before yielding to Chafin, who called them off and made the play a few feet in front of the railing.

“That guy power shags in the outfield every day during BP,” Walker said. “I felt real comfortable letting him catch that one.”

Said Chafin: “It’s been my dream to try to make a Top 10 play. Obviously, that’s not even close. But I’m always ready to jump off a mound and try to make a play.”

Lovullo viewed it in much the same way he viewed the game as a whole: He’ll take it.

“Him calling off the first baseman and the catcher? I don’t love it,” Lovullo said. “In fact, I don’t love it at all. But he caught the ball, so I’ll take an out. He made the play, but it’s not how we design it here.”

For a Diamondbacks team that has had trouble working walks at the plate, this game stood out: They drew eight walks, including one by Walker to lead off the eighth that led to the go-ahead run.

That said, Walker got a little help. Ball 2 was courtesy of Royals reliever Aroldis Chapman apparently coming set too quickly, before Walker had time to get in the box.

That made the count 2-1, and three pitches later Walker trotted down to first. He moved to third on Gabriel Moreno’s single, then scored when Ahmed cued a two-strike slider from Chapman to the first-base side of the mound.

Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino gloved it but threw wide of catcher Salvador Perez, allowing Walker to slide home safely.

“I was early,” Ahmed said. “It’s hard to stay back on his slider when he’s got that 100 (mph fastball). Thankfully, I hit it slow enough to let Walk get in there.”

It felt like the sort of win that might have been as much a result of the competition — the Royals dropped to 5-18 to start the year — as it was the Diamondbacks’ performance. But when games end with handshakes and smiles, those kind of details are easy to overlook.

“We won the baseball game,” Lovullo said, “that’s the bottom line.”

Moving down: Diamondbacks option outfielder Jake McCarthy to Triple-A

Diamondbacks option Drey Jameson to Triple-A

The Diamondbacks optioned Drey Jameson to Triple-A Reno ahead of their series opener against the Royals.

Left-hander Tommy Henry was already in line to be promoted Monday. Henry is starting the opener of a three-game set in what had been Madison Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation before the veteran was designated for assignment last week. However, the move to option Jameson comes as a surprise.

Read more here: In surprising move, Drey Jameson sent down

Christian Walker out of Diamondbacks’ lineup again

First baseman Christian Walker was out of the lineup again on Monday, missing a second consecutive day after being struck on the left forearm by a pitch on Saturday night.

“It feels good,” Walker said Monday afternoon. “Much better than yesterday. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be in there tomorrow.”

Walker said he has not had any additional tests performed on his arm since Saturday night when he underwent X-rays, which came back negative.

This is the first time Walker has been out of the lineup on consecutive days since September 2021.

-Nick Piecoro

Diamondbacks’ prospect Bryce Jarvis promoted to Triple-A

Right-hander Bryce Jarvis, the club’s first-round pick from 2020, has been promoted to Triple-A Reno after a solid three starts to open the year in Double-A Amarillo.

Jarvis, 25, had a 3.86 ERA with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 14 innings in Amarillo. Perhaps his most notable improvement is that he has yet to allow a homer after giving up 27 in 106 2/3 innings in Double-A last year.

This year, Jarvis worked to improve his fastball extension and add deception. Coaches have also praised his secondary stuff, in particular his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes.

“We asked Jarvis to make some adjustments this off-season with both usage and his delivery and to his credit he did a good job with that and we have started to see it pay dividends in his game performance,” farm director Josh Barfield said. “He has thrown the ball well so far and he was an easy choice to go up in our minds.”

-Nick Piecoro

More: Arizona Diamondbacks’ upcoming schedule provides golden opportunity after brutal start

Tommy Henry is scheduled to make his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 season on Monday night.Tommy Henry is scheduled to make his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 season on Monday night.

Tommy Henry is scheduled to make his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 season on Monday night.

What to know about the Kansas City Royals

The Diamondbacks open a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday. The two teams played each other four times last season with Arizona winning three of the four, including both at home. Kansas City is off to a miserable start in 2023, 5-17 entering the series, but four of those wins came on the road. Not much is expected competitively from the Royals this season, but they have some promising young talent and one of the game’s top catchers in Salvador Perez. First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino is off to a hot start with a .874 OPS. On the pitching side, only Kris Bubic has been effective so far this year, but he will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.

José M. Romero

More: Without his best pitch, Drey Jameson struggles as Diamondbacks fall to Padres

More: Diamondbacks catcher Moreno has throwback style that has helped him throw out runners

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Diamondbacks Daily: Corbin Carroll shines in loss to Royals

Source: Yahoo Sports


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