D-backs host Angels, hope for more feats of Clay
PHOENIX — After his second start for Philadelphia in April 2016, Clay Buchholz knew it was finally time to tend to the right arm that had been bothering him off and on since 2015.
The results have been spectacular.
Buchholz has become a mainstay in the Diamondbacks‘ starting rotation after being promoted from the minors in early May, and he will try to lift Arizona to a two-game minisweep of the Los Angeles Angels in an interleague series that concludes Wednesday at Chase Field.
Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1, 6.29 ERA) is scheduled to make his second start for the Angels since being acquired from Miami last week.
Buchholz (6-2) is coming off his best start in almost four seasons, a complete-game 5-1 victory at San Diego on Thursday in which he gave up five hits, including a solo homer. He struck out six, did not walk a batter and used 112 pitches — 76 for strikes.
“It felt good,” Buchholz told reporters after his most recent start. “I didn’t have my changeup, so to do that when you only have a couple of pitches to go to was pretty special.”
Buchholz retired 13 in a row after giving up a hit to the first batter of the game and finished with his 10th career complete game, his first since July 4, 2015, when he beat Houston 6-1 in Fenway Park.
“I think he had a little extra gear and a little extra momentum,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
“I know it is very gratifying for him. I’ve seen him for a long time. For him to do what he’s done and come back from the injury and come out the other side is very special. He deserves so much of the credit for attacking the game plan and doing exactly what he is supposed to do. He deserved the night.”
Arizona’s current regime has a long history with Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter with Boston in his second major league start in September 2007.
General manager Mike Hazen and Lovullo were in the Red Sox organization when Buchholz was there, and Hazen snapped up Buchholz and signed him to a major league contract after he was released by Kansas City.
Buchholz has been more than a reliable addition to a rotation headlined by Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke and Zack Godley. Corbin and Greinke rank in the top 10 in NL ERA, and all three have double-digit victories.
Buchholz, who has a 2.47 ERA in 12 starts, has given up more than three runs only once this season, and opponents have scored one or zero runs in seven of his appearances.
“I had hoped it would be something like this,” Lovullo said. “I know that Clay, when he is healthy, is a very special pitcher. He’s very talented. We were looking for that person to step up, and we knew the name. Everything fit. We needed to see what he looked like, and from the first bullpen on, we knew that something was in there. He has shown us that every day.”
Buchholz uses two fastballs and tops out at about 90 mph these days, down from his earlier years, and commands a cutter, a curve and a change. He has walked only 16 in 73 innings.
“I knew him when he was a little younger and things were probably harder with his fastball. And maybe more pitches that he could throw,” Lovullo said.
“But he’s simplified things. He’s matured to the point where he knows where all of his pitches are going. He knows how to attack a game plan. I can’t say that he knew how to do that as well when I first met him. The command was there. He had a lot of pitches that he liked to throw and maybe took away from a few of the really good strengths that he had. I think he has simplified it and is really staying with his strengths right now.”
Buchholz is 7-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) against the Angels, the last two in 2016. He is 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA in four home starts this season.
Rotation placeholder Despaigne, 31, broke camp with the Miami Marlins this season and made 11 appearances (10 in relief) before being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in June. He was 2-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 14 appearances (five starts) in the minors.
The Angels purchased Despaigne from the Marlins last week, and he gave up seven hits and five runs in four innings in his first start for the Angels, a 6-4 loss at Texas on Friday. He threw 78 pitches (47 strikes).
Despaigne spent his first two seasons in 2014-15 with San Diego and is quite familiar with the NL West. He is 2-4 with a 4.40 ERA in eight games (seven starts) against the Diamondbacks, and has his most career starts and innings (43) against them.
He has had trouble at Chase Field, however, going 0-3 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts, having given up 14 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings.