PHOENIX — Josh Collmenter is not the sexiest arm in the Diamondbacks’ rotation, and he never will be.
There is nothing he can do about that, and that is OK with him.
As long as Collmenter continues to stack results like those he put up again Sunday in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs, he will have a place in the conversation when the talk turns to the composition of the starting rotation going forward.
Collmenter gave up a solo home run to Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo — the third for Rizzo in the series — but that was it as the D-backs won their fourth straight game while finishing off a three-game sweep of the Cubs, their first home sweep of the season.
"It was vintage ‘Colly,’" Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
Collmenter gave up four hits and a walk, and only two other Cubs got as far as second base. The D-backs rewarded him with a victory when they scored twice in the sixth and once more in the seventh.
Even Rizzo’s remarkable defensive play in the sixth worked in their favor. With runners on the corners in a 1-1 game, Rizzo made a sensational catch reaching over a railing in front of camera well at catch Aaron Hill’s foul pop. But because Rizzo fell and took the ball out of play, the runners were awarded an extra base, enabling David Peralta to score from third for a 2-1 D-backs lead that Peralta pushed to 3-1 with an RBI single an inning later.
"From the first hitter, he had great location," Gibson said of Collmenter. "He came inside early the first time through. He had a live arm today, good separation on his pitches. It was a big start for us."
That is "Colly," as in wholly effective.
It is hard to imagine where the D-backs would be without Collmenter this season. Called on to fill a rotation spot in mid-April, Collmenter is 8-5 with a 3.64 ERA. He leads the staff in victories (one was in relief) and his ERA is the lowest among the starters who have been here all season. He is second on the staff with 111-1/3 innings, and his WHIP is 1.24, the same as San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner’s and a one-hundredth of a point behind Wade Miley’s.
If you want a comp, Mark Buehrle might be a good one. Buehrle has done it for a lot longer but he and Collmenter use similar styles. Throw strikes. Locate. Pitch to contact. With an 87 mph fastball and 77 mph changeup, Collmenter has to work that way. His deceptive delivery helps, as has the addition of a curve ball, which he drops in every once in awhile. Three of Collmenter’s four strikeouts Sunday were on off-speed stuff.
Collmenter deserves a spot at the table when the 2015 rotation is fleshed out, even if he never seems to be mentioned as prominently as Miley, top prospect Archie Bradley and 2013 All-Star Patrick Corbin. The candidates are many — Chase Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vidal Nuno have cases to make over the final 2-1/2 months, and Bronson Arroyo has vowed to return by mid-July after Tommy John surgery last week.
If Collmenter flies under the radar, it might be because people do not see the subtleties a touch-and-feel pitcher brings to his craft.
"I think people tend to focus what is deemed as great stuff, and they promote that and the velocity," Gibson said. "He is a different type of pitcher. Maybe that doesn’t excite people as much, but he is very steady. He’s been outstanding for us in all we have asked him to do. As good as anybody."
Collmenter looks a lot like the guy who went 10-10 with a 3.38 ERA in the 2011 regular season, the pitcher who kept the D-backs alive by winning the third game of the 2011 NLDS against Milwaukee after the Brewers won the first two before spending most of the 2012-13 seasons in the bullpen. He credits experience.
"I think it’s working smarter instead of harder this time around," he said. "The curve ball has been huge for me, too."
Self-awareness helps, too.
"It’s not going to jump off the page," Collmenter said. "It’s not going to wow you. But I was always told if you get outs, they will find a place for you to pitch. There are some things you just can’t teach, guys that can hit, guys that can pitch. You have put them in the lineup."
Collmenter is not looking ahead. The next game is the thing. But as the second half plays out, he wants to keep it that way as the D-backs plan for 2015.
"I want to be able to look back at the end of the year and say, ‘This is what I’ve done.’ And make them make the decision to keep me in the rotation or take me out,"
Collmenter said. "Who knows what we do with trades, free agency or the young guys coming up. From the minor leagues on, I wanted to make sure my name was always in the discussion.
"I want to make sure my name is still in the hat for a starting spot."
Adrian Gonzalez could argue, but a case could be made that the National League’s two best first basemen were in town over the weekend. Paul Goldschmidt (4.7) and the Cubs’ Rizzo (2.7) entered Sunday’s game the top two in WAR — wins above replacement player — at their position. St. Louis 1B Matt Adams (2.6) is third, but he does not bring the glove that Goldschmidt and Rizzo do.
2:02 — the time it took replay officials to reverse an obvious missed call when Mark Trumbo was called out while attempting to steal second base in the seventh inning. That’s 122 seconds we will never get back.
Rizzo’s spectacular tumbling catch will make all the highlight reels, but the D-backs got a key run on the play, too. After Peralta doubled in a run to tie the game in the sixth, he was able to score from third when Rizzo fell into a camera well while snaring Hill’s popup by the Cubs’ dugout. Since Rizzo took the ball out of play, by rule the runners are awarded an extra base. "I don’t think there is any Cubs fan that wanted me to miss it or any Diamondbacks fan that wanted me to catch it," Rizzo said. "It was just instinct. Instincts take over right there I wasn’t really worried about it right there. I didn’t think I would go in. But it was a little farther then I thought."