A nine run, nine hit, fourteen batter fourth inning, featuring an inside the park home run by Cole Calhoun, three doubles, and a triple, buried the Astros in Phoenix tonight.
Kole Cal-Boom?— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 6, 2020
More like Kole Cal-Zoom. pic.twitter.com/KgsVdYzlkP
But perhaps worse, this pitching meltdown puts into serious doubt the prospect of a successful comeback for Lance McCullers in this short season of 2020. After throwing three perfect innings to start the game, in the fourth, after the roof was opened, McCullers allowed eight runs on seven hits, allowing seven straight batters to reach base. For the game he faced 20 batters, allowed 16 total bases, walking none, but striking out only one.
His season ERA after three games stands at 9.22.
Nivaldo Rodriguez followed McCullers with two out in the fourth, allowing a run of his own, two singles and a walk. Cole Calhoun and Christian Walker each had two hits in the inning.
Rodriguez allowed two more runs in the fifth with a two run homer to Nick Ahmed.
The Astros appeared to be coasting to victory before the fourth inning McCullers meltdown. They scored three runs in the second inning on a Correa double, an RBI Abraham Toro single, and a Kyle Tucker two run homer.
In the fourth Abraham Toro temporarily increased the Astros lead to four with a solo homer.
After the D-Backs took a 9-4 lead after the fourth inning, the Astros made a brief comeback in the fifth on a George Springer two-run homer, his third of the year. But the Backs got it back in the bottom of the fifth with two off Rodriguez
David Peralta added another for the Diamondbacks in the seventh with a solo homer off Brandon Bailey, the only run he surrendered in 2.1 innings.
In the eighth Yuli Gurriel got his second homer of the season, a solo shot to left center field.
In the bottom of the eighth another rookie reliever made his debut for the Astros, Carlos Sanabria. He threw some nice pitches, but coughed up a two run homer to Eduardo Escobar to finish the scoring, D-Backs 14, Astros 7.
The honeymoon with the rookie bullpen shows signs of coming to an end, as the three relievers that followed McCullers, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Brandon Bailey, and Carlos Sanbria, allowed six runs. But the greatest concern is the viability of Lance McCullers and the starting rotation in general.
Currently the anchor of the starting core, Zack Greinke, has a 5.00 ERA. McCullers, counted on to mitigate the loss of Gerrit Cole with quality innings, has utterly failed. Josh James is out of the rotation, replaced by 11th round draftee Brandon Bielak, another rookie pitcher who debuted in the big leagues just last week. Another starter in this group is Framber Valdez, who threw magnificently in relief Sunday against the Angels. But if you think that one appearance erases all doubt as to his consistency, you are living in wonderland.
The stopper in this group appears to be another rookie, 6th overall prospect in the Astros’ system, Cristian Javier. He has been superb in his first two big league starts. But regression of some sort is inevitable.
Behind these starters are Ryan Pressly, coming off leg and arm injuries, and 10 rookies.
Jose Urquidy and Yordan Alvarez where are you? Come home soon.
The rubber match of this three game series is tomorrow at 6:07 CDT.
Brandon Bielak makes his first major league start tomorrow against 25 year-old Zac Gallen. (2.70 ERA)
Note: There were 17 batted balls that exceeded 100 mph exit velocity.
Box score and videos HERE.