Dodgers take the fifth (and its six runs) to defeat the Diamondbacks
His itinerary did not allow much time to dawdle. A few hours after Brandon McCarthy steadied the Dodgers through a 6-2 victory over the Diamondbacks, he planned to drive to Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale. It was a momentous evening for the club, which counts McCarthy as part of the ownership group: The team was expected to introduce recently signed superstar Didier Drogba.
And it was not the highlight of his day. That had already happened.
“This is the priority,” McCarthy said. “That’s almost like a secondary life. I get to go over and see some friends. It’s a really fun thing to be a part of. But it would have been a whole lot less fun if today hadn’t gone well.”
The game unfolded in close to ideal fashion for both McCarthy (3-0, 2.25 earned-run average) and the Dodgers (9-10). Sapped by overuse during the first two nights here, the team’s bullpen entered the day desperate for a lengthy outing from a starter. McCarthy responded with seven innings of two-run baseball.
In the process, he became the first Dodgers starter to throw a pitch in the seventh inning this season besides Clayton Kershaw. It was McCarthy’s longest outing since April 13, 2015, two weeks before he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In his third season as a Dodger, after years ruined by injury, McCarthy resembles the pitcher this front office desired when the team signed him to a four-year, $48-million contract.
His performance Sunday brightened the spirits of manager Dave Roberts. As McCarthy fired fastballs at the knees of Diamondbacks hitters, inducing ground balls and soft contact, Roberts approached Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda, the starters on Friday and Saturday. This, Roberts explained to them, is what the Dodgers want.
“He’s just got a good look in his eye,” Roberts said. “I like the word ‘relentless.’ Right now, he’s in that focused mind-set, and he’s relentless.”
Roberts was able to rest his relievers heading into a four-game set in San Francisco. Both clubs will enter the series with losing records, but the Giants (6-13) appear caught in free-fall. They’ve lost four in a row and six of seven. Thus the matchup affords the Dodgers an opportunity against their longtime rival to stabilize themselves after a rocky April.
The offense was not the issue this weekend at Chase Field. The lineup produced five runs on Friday and five more Saturday. Those totals paled compared to the 24 scored by Arizona. With McCarthy mollifying the Diamondbacks on Sunday, the Dodgers surged ahead with a six-run outburst in the fifth inning. “That’s what good teams do,” Roberts said.
Trailing by two runs, McCarthy led off with a walk against Arizona starter Shelby Miller. Joc Pederson, who would leave the game with an injured groin an inning later, followed with a walk of his own, and Corey Seager doubled off the center-field wall to bring both runners home.
By this point, though, Miller had left the game because of stiffness in his forearm. In his place arrived reliever Randall Delgado. Delgado can generate impressive velocity. His command is less than reliable. He grooved a 2-2 fastball over the plate, which allowed Gonzalez to extend his arms and unleash a drive to the opposite field. The ball thumped off the left-field wall as two runs scored.
“I was just trying to get something in the air, and keep the line moving,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez did not linger on the bases for long. The next pitch Delgado threw was a flat changeup. Yasmani Grandal blistered the baseball beyond the right-field fence. The onslaught provided McCarthy with a four-run lead.
McCarthy had not allowed a hit since the first inning, when he paid for a mistake to Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He tried to thread a fastball past his fists. Goldschmidt responded by smashing a two-run homer. “It’s one of those ‘Don’t screw up to that guy’ things — and I screwed up to that guy,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy did not waver. He survived the inning and settled into control. The Diamondbacks did not hit the ball out of the infield again until the fifth. McCarthy collected seven ground-ball outs and struck out six. He fanned outfielder Yasmany Tomas with a 94-mph fastball to start the seventh, and finished the frame by inducing a popup by shortstop Nick Ahmed.
McCarthy headed back to his dugout, where an appreciative manager awaited him. The Dodgers needed an outing like this, Roberts said.
“Going into this big series in San Francisco,” he said, “we’re right on track.”
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