PHOENIX – Diamondbacks starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy said after his start Tuesday that he threw perhaps better than he ever had before, which is odd considering the first-year D-back is now 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA after a 6-5 loss to the Pirates.
“That was as well as I’ve thrown a baseball in my professional career, without a doubt,” a visibly perturbed McCarthy said after Tuesday’s game. “I absolutely felt like I was able to do what I wanted to do.
That doesn’t sound like a pitcher who through two starts has allowed 10 earned runs on 19 hits in just 11 2/3 innings, the worst two-game start of his big league career. So what’s going on? How did McCarthy give up six runs (four earned) on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday night?
“We weren’t changing things up enough, which is — I’ve got to be smart right there and shake (signs) and mix things up more, the way we did there in the fifth through seventh inning,” McCarthy said. “Otherwise there was no problem with consistency, there was no problem with anything. For the way I felt and the way I threw, it’s just an unacceptable outing.”
If that sounds a little like an indictment of the catcher, it’s because it was. McCarthy didn’t directly point to catcher Miguel Montero’s calls as the reason for Tuesday’s results and included himself in the blame (“we”), but reading between the lines, it was clear the two were not on the same page.
Reason to be concerned? No, it seems, as Montero put the blame squarely on his own shoulders.
“Probably I didn’t call the right pitches — let’s put it that way,” Montero said. “I called too many good pitches with two strikes. That’s probably my fault.”
Montero was presumably referring to Pittsburgh’s five-run fourth inning in which McCarthy got ahead of three batters with 0-2 counts before allowing run-scoring hits on the next pitch, all fastballs, each time.
“I can’t really blame it on him, because it was my fault,” Montero said. “I was the one putting the fingers down and he pretty much went with me, he trusted me, and unfortunately I guess I didn’t have the right fingers today.”
Manager Kirk Gibson blamed himself for the loss, citing a lack of execution, but agreed McCarthy was not throwing the right pitches at the right time.
“After he gave up the five runs, we talked about some things,” Gibson said. “He used all of his pitches better and threw much better. He got pissed off, and he started using all four of his pitches and was much more effective.”
That’s where concerns going forward should be quashed. After the disastrous fourth inning, McCarthy retired eight of the next nine hitters before leaving with two outs in the seventh. It seemed he and Montero found a rhythm, but it came too late to matter Tuesday.
“Those last few innings kind of got us back to where we want to be,” McCarthy said.
If McCarthy is truly pitching as well as he feels he is, the results should not be far behind. In the innings in which he did pitch well Tuesday, he looked good. And after joining a new team, it might simply be a matter of time in terms of he and his catcher getting acclimated to each other; keep in mind that Montero had a shorter stint in camp than usual due to his participation in the World Baseball Classic.
So if he and Montero are now on the same page, as they seem to be, McCarthy’s next start should be telling.
“If we could do that game over, it would be entirely different,” McCarthy said. “You don’t want to overreact too much, but it’s something that if we could do it again, I think that next time out we’ll see it much sooner.”