Diamondbacks 6, Reds 14: A Cloud of Starlings

@dbacks, via Twitter

shoewizard had a rule of thumb which said that, in early spring training games, the score after first five innings was a better indicator of overall team strength. On that basis, this was a solid victory for the Diamondbacks, who prevailed over the Reds at Salt River Fields by the score of 4-1. The last four innings? Not so much.

And when I say, "not so much," I mean that from the sixth through the ninth innings, Cincinnati outscored Arizona by a margin of 13-2. Ouch. Let's get the good stuff out of the way first, beginning with Brandon McCarthy 's return to competition, for the first time since he had his skull fractured by a comebacker last season. It went almost as well as could have been hoped, as he worked two innings, allowing a run on two hits, with no walks and four strikeouts. The first inning was particular impressive, as he struck out the side around a single. He threw a total of 31 pitches, 22 of them being for strikes. That'll do for a start, literally.

After that, a name from the past resurfaced, as Nelson Figueroa faced the minimum over three innings of work. He allowed a lead-off walk in the third, to the renowned speedster Billy Hamilton. who stole a mind-boggling 155 bases in the minors last year (for the record, the major-league mark is 138, and that was set 126 years ago(. However, Figueroa got him picked off and then retired the next eight batters he faced in order. Not bad going, against a basically full-strength Reds line-up, for a guy who didn't pitch in the majors at all last year, and had an 8.69 ERA the last time he did, over 29 innings for the Houston Astros in 2011.

If only we'd stopped there, under T-ball rules - send the fans home happy, and there are orange slices for everyone! However, Starling Peralta came in and quite possibly booked himself a ticket back to the North Side of Chicago, as the Rule 5 draft pick failed to live up to hopes, and also failed to retire any of the six batters faced. Instead, they went double, RBI triple, RBI single, walk, walk, two-RBI double. Joe Paterson allowed both inherited runners to score, charged to Peralta, and was left in for a second inning, which resulted in one run of his own, a home-run clanging off the foulpole down the line in left-field.

Seth Simmons allowed one run in the eighth, on two hits, and then Taylor Siemens - whom I managed to combine with Simmons the last time the pair of them pitched - allowed an almost Peralta-esque line, retiring one of the five batters he faced. The other four reached on two hits and two walks, and all of them came round to score in the ninth, along with another one, as J.R. Bradley completed the mop-up work with three hits, including a homer. The final tally over those last four innings for the Arizona bullpen? Four innings pitched, thirteen hits, four walks and thirteen runs, all of them earned. Over our three losses, the D-backs have conceded 41 runs, with 58 in all six games so far.

On offense, things started brightly enough, with our hitters scoring two before an out had been recorded. Adam Eaton singled, Martin Prado reached on a botched effort to turn a double-play, and Aaron Hill brought them both home with a double that just missed being a three-run homer. Hill scored on a Cody Ross sacrifice fly later in the inning, to make it 3-0, and Arizona got another run in the second frame, when a Cliff Pennington triple was followed by an RBI single off the bat of Prado.

Trailing 7-4 going into the sixth, the Diamondbacks took advantage of some wildness by the Reds, scoring twice without a hit. Walks to Tony Campana, A.J. Pollock and Mark Teahen loaded the bases with no outs, and Matt Davidson was robbed of a potential bases-clearing knock and had to settle for a sacrifice fly. An RBI ground-out by Brad Snyder made it a one-run game, but that was as close as we came, and the end of the Arizona scoring. After the Reds made it a two-run lead again., Pollock almost brought us level or gave us the lead in the seventh, just missing a three-run homer and two-run double, both balls drifting foul by inches.

Hill finished the day with two hits and a pair of RBI, Jason Kubel reached safely twice, with a pair of walks, but that was it of note, as the Diamondbacks were held to eight hits and six walks. We did get through this one without committing any errors, and I don't recall there being any TOOTBLANs this afternoon either - Snyder stole a base. Gerardo Parra was a late scratch from the originally posted line-up, after reporting slight pain in his left arm. Manager Kirk Gibson may also have wanted to give him a mental health day, after a couple of cases where the ball has gone under an apparently new glove. Gibson saying, "He's definitely thinking about throwing a guy out."

I was providing plau-by-play in the Gameday Thread, so led the way in comments - BattleMoses and blank_38 were tied for second, and also to be seen were Bryan J. Boltik, John Baragona, Joseph D. S, PR151, Paper Clip, RobbieFVK, SenSurround, Shawnwck, Tim Huwe, dbacks79, deerhaven, emilylovesthedbacks and grimmy01. It's the Reds again tomorrow afternoon, this time in Goodyear. Ian Kennedy will take the mound for the Diamondbacks, in his first Cactus League start.

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