PHOENIX — Brandon McCarthy was not consulted, in large part because his answer was obvious. Certainly he would have wanted to remain in the game after pitching eight shutout innings against the Phillies on Sunday.
Starting pitchers do not want to stop.
But after McCarthy was removed with a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning, the game quickly turned in favor of the Phillies, who ended up rallying for a 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks in 10 innings.
Leaving McCarthy in the game would have made sense. McCarthy had thrown only 88 pitches in eight efficient innings while giving up seven hits, all singles. Only three Phillies had reached second base, and McCarthy had not gotten as far as a three-ball count to any of the 29 batters he had faced while maintaining the 2-0 lead that Gerardo Parra, Didi Gregorius and A.J. Pollock had provided in the first inning.
Yet McCarthy was not given a chance to throw his first complete game since Sept. 3, 2011, and the opportunity for first victory since Aug. 30, 2012, went away when the Phillies scored two runs off Heath Bell in the ninth to tie it and two runs off Matt Reynolds in the 10th to win it.
McCarthy was surprised, but at the same time made some of manager Kirk Gibson’s case for turning to Bell, who had converted three straight save attempts.
“Yeah. At 88 (pitches), I was kind of a little tired in the eighth, but I felt I was at least shoring some things up. It’s an inning that I’d always like to go back out,” McCarthy said.
“The last few weeks here, where things haven’t been smooth and I haven’t really been a guy to be counted on … but I’d like to get that reputation back, where it has been the last couple of years (where) if I get in that situation there, it’s a no-brainer I get the ball for the ninth.”
Gibson said he spoke with pitching coach Charles Nagy and catcher Miguel Montero before reaching his decision to pull McCarthy, who is 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA.
“And I guess we just went with the way we thought was the best way to go. It didn’t work out. We know now it didn’t work out. Even if I had left him in, we don’t know how it would have worked out. You make decisions and sometimes they don’t work out,” Gibson said.
“I’m not going to get specific, but I did what I thought was the right move. It didn’t work out. Give the Phillies some credit. We didn’t execute the pitches when our relievers came in.”
Montero said he agreed with the decision, which was similar to the one made when Trevor Cahill was replaced with a runner on first in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game after throwing 88 pitches against the Giants on April 30. The bullpen failed to hold that lead in a 2-1 loss.
“For that guy, I wouldn’t call it scuffling, but he’s been giving up runs every outing,” Gibson said of McCarthy. “I thought it was good to take him out in the eighth. That’s what we have a closer for. We have guys out there that can get the job done.”
Chase Utley, who had four hits, doubled and scored on Delmon Young’s one-out double to make it 2-1, and Domonic Brown followed with a hard single to tie the game. It was the D-backs’ league-leading 11th failed save conversion.
After Jimmy Rollins singled and Utley doubled again in the10th, Ryan Howard ended an 0-for-18 drought with a soft single to right field. Howard had been 0 for 17 with nine strikeouts in the series.
“McCarthy pitched an outstanding,” Reynolds said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow when you are the bullpen and he pitches a great game like that and we can’t come through and finish the job for him. It’s tough for him, too. To not get the win out of it is probably pretty disappointing for him, too.”
McCarthy did not see it that way.
“The disappointment is with us not getting a win. I really don’t care if I don’t get a win. It is an inconsequential stat. It has no effect on me one way or the other. We’d like to win that game as a team. That’s what matters,” McCarthy said.
In a larger lens, McCarthy on Sunday was the pitcher the D-backs believed they had acquired when they signed him to a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent contract in the winter. McCarthy led the NL with 62 hits allowed coming into the game, but he was never in trouble, seldom even behind in the count.
The Phillies put two runners on base in only one inning, the second, and McCarthy got out of the inning on a groundout. He got double-play grounders to get out of the seventh and eighth innings in what turned out to be easily his best start of the year. The outing was a continuation of the mindset that established in his last start in Los Angeles, a no-decision in which gave up one run in his last 4 1/3 innings against the Dodgers.
“I know that when I feel sharp and I can put the ball where I want it, I can be successful. So there is a lot of that, clearing it mentally and just, ‘I’m going to try to throw this right here,’ and if it does I’ll be successful,” McCarthy said.