Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke has been carrying the team’s starting rotation this season. And he should, but only to a certain degree.
Through the D-backs’ first 35 games, Greinke has seven of the team’s 15 quality starts, meaning that starting pitcher went at least six innings and allowed three runs or less. Zack Godley and Robbie Ray, the two names up after Greinke in the Opening Day rotation, have only one each. Thanks to Merrill Kelly and Luke Weaver on the back-end of the rotation (three quality starts each), on top of Greinke’s terrific form, the starters have been an overall plus for the D-backs.
But Godley’s departure to the bullpen on April 30 had a new name set to join the group and the first pitcher to get the chance to win the spot was right-hander Taylor Clarke on Tuesday.
Clarke made a good case and impressed in his first major league start, giving the team exactly what they’ve been lacking: one of those quality starts.
In a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Clarke went 6.0 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits, no walks and 90 pitches.
It’s quite the feat considering in this gigantic moment for Clarke’s career he saw the first pitch he threw go over the center field wall via Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe’s bat.
Clarke never truly got in a rhythm by giving up a hit in every inning, but to his credit, he limited the damage and kept his pitch count manageable. In the bottom of the fourth, Tampa Bay third baseman Yandy Diaz doubled to start the inning and first baseman Nate Lowe singled the next at-bat. Clarke forced a double play on the next batter, which brought in a run and a 2-1 deficit as a result.
Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t help the D-backs get a win. Reliever Yoshihisa Hirano allowed three earned runs in the seventh and Matt Andriese gave up another in the eighth. That made solo home runs by Wilmer Flores and Carson Kelly in the ninth not matter when they would have given the D-backs the lead had the bullpen kept the Rays to two runs.
Tampa Bay closed it out in the ninth, making it a series loss for the D-backs.
Arizona gets right back at it with an early start on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. in Tampa Bay on ESPN 620 AM.