PHOENIX – On paper, the Arizona Diamondbacks weren’t supposed to win on Tuesday night. And they didn’t.
Taylor Clarke was making just his fourth Major League start for Arizona, and his first-ever appearance at Chase Field. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers were countering with a Cy Young candidate. In fact, Hyun-Jin Ryu has been arguably the NL’s top pitcher through the first 62 games of the season. Plus the D-backs have been patching together a depleted lineup as players work their way back from injury, while LA has perhaps the most talented roster in baseball.
So, no, that’s not typically a recipe for success. And it all added up to a 9-0 home loss for Arizona, in front of 29,784 fans.
Much like Monday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Dodgers, offense was the Diamondbacks’ main issue. Through the first two games of this series, they have just six total hits and only one run. That won’t cut it against any team, let alone the one with the best record in baseball.
Clarke gave the D-backs 5.0 decent innings, surrendering just two earned runs, plus another that was unearned. He was following up a rough outing in Colorado last Thursday, so there was some urgency to deliver a bounce-back performance. After struggling through a 30-pitch first, he managed to settle in. And while he hasn’t been dominant, he’s at least been serviceable in three of his four starts.
“I thought Taylor Clarke did a really good job of managing himself through some really tough situations,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo pointed out. “Had a brief conversation with him about the mound presence, and his ability to repeat his delivery and throw quality strikes in some pretty difficult circumstances. So I thought there was a pretty good situation for him to learn, and I think he’s going to be better the next time. That’s really what it’s all about when you’re a rookie pitcher.”
That’s not bad for a first-year guy who was called upon to fill a void in a rotation that’s been shredded by the injury to Luke Weaver and ineffectiveness of Zack Godley. Problem is, it’s also not good enough to beat the Dodgers right now. It takes a Herculean effort across the board. And it’s tough to keep them off the basepaths.
“You’ve got to make quality pitches with them,” Clarke explained. “And quality pitches inside the strike zone. That’s what makes them such a good lineup is that they don’t chase out of the strike zone too much. So you have to kind of come into the strike zone and make quality strikes to get them out.”
On the other side, Ryu cruised through 7.0 innings with ease, despite three errors by the defense behind him. He essentially had to get five outs in the first, when Adam Jones reached on an error by David Freese, and David Peralta did the same thanks to an error by Corey Seager.
Seager actually had another misfire at short in the seventh, but Arizona just couldn’t cash in. Meanwhile, a finally-well-rested bullpen fell apart after Clarke left. T.J. McFarland gave up three runs in 2.1 innings of relief, and Archie Bradley continued to struggle, surrendering another three in the final 1.2 innings.
“I just want him to step back and execute a gameplan and execute pitches,” Lovullo said of Bradley. “Sometimes he throws pitches and you’re just scratching your head as to how it’s getting squared up. But we’re constantly trying to monitor that.”
Now the D-backs need to find a way to at least salvage the series with a win on Wednesday afternoon. But they may very well have to do it without Jones, who left tonight’s contest with what was called right hamstring tightness at the time. Lovullo suggested he was hopeful it might just be cramping after the game though.
Either way, Arizona can’t really afford to lose him. With Wilmer Flores and Jake Lamb already out of the lineup, and Peralta still looking to find his swing since coming back on Monday, they need all the help they can get at the plate now.
“I think our offense is capable of a little bit more,” Lovullo acknowledged. “And I want to challenge those guys to remember how good they are and what they can do, in some special ways.”
The Diamondbacks are now 1-5 against the Dodgers in 2019. Jon Duplantier will be making just his second career start on Wednesday, while LA sends Kenta Maeda to the mound.