PHOENIX — Things are looking up. Miguel Montero and Eric Chavez were reinstated from the disabled list Monday. Martin Prado remains hot. The wild-card-leading Reds have 16 games remaining against the Cardinals, Pirates and Dodgers.
And Brandon McCarthy feels like himself again.
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McCarthy last week corrected a small flaw that he believes has kept him off track for the better part of a full year, and it seemed to make a big difference Monday, when he kept the Padres off-balance for most of the night in a 6-1 victory at Chase Field.
It was McCarthy’s first victory since May 24, although that number is skewed because he spent nine weeks in the interim on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation before returning Aug. 4. He had been up and down in four starts since, though, and said the last game — seven runs allowed in 2 1/3 innings against the Reds — was the last straw.
McCarthy looked at film, and a subtle mechanical defect hit him right between the eyes. With the help of pitching coach Charles Nagy, the reformed McCarthy returned to the mound Monday about as good as a starting pitcher can be — one unearned run, five singles, one runner past second base in seven innings.
“At least I can leave the game feeling that I carried my weight and kind of did what I was supposed to do. I was kind of able to get back to where I wanted to be,” McCarthy said.
“It’s just keeping my body in line and keeping my front side closed and keeping my glove close to my body. And anytime I do that … I throw actually harder, the ball moves later. I can get away with more mistakes because the movement is there, as opposed to what we have seen the last few weeks, where if a pitch isn’t perfect it’s going to get hit because the movement is not late and it’s not sharp.”
McCarthy said he had not had that feeling since the middle of last year. The issue was camouflaged by some strong starts along the way, such as when he threw eight shutout innings against the Phillies on May 12 and followed that with a three-hit shutout against the Marlins on May 18, but it was still there. And for a guy who’s 6-foot-7, it comes with a degree of magnification.
“It just slowly snowballed to where I never felt as consistent, never felt as sharp. I was able to get some decent outings, but I’d lose that consistency from pitch to pitch, and tonight I think was a good first step. This week everything felt normal again, and I could see the results immediately following,” said McCarthy, who said last week that he may not have shaken the effects of being struck by a line drive last September.
“A lot of my issues have been directional. Too many times the last few weeks, it has been this soft drift to the left. Where that is a mechanical things or a subconscious thing, it wasn’t anything that I felt tonight,” he said. McCarthy gave up singles to the first two batters, a sharply hit ball to right field and an infield single, and San Diego scored when Didi Gregorius threw past McCarthy as he attempted to cover first on the back end of a double play.
From there, it was a smooth night. The Padres did not get another runner to second while McCarthy struck out five without a walk. He threw 93 pitches, 60 of them strikes. While his ERA is at 5.03, this is the time of the season to look forward, not back, and McCarthy’s outing made it seem reasonable to expect more of the guy who was 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA in 2012.
With Prado and Paul Goldschmidt driving in five runs between them, the Diamondbacks had their second relatively easy victory in a month while gaining a game on the Reds for the final NL wild-card spot. The D-backs are six back, five in the loss column, with 32 games to play after Cincinnati’s loss to St. Louis on Monday.
Patrick Corbin has pitched well all season, while Wade Miley has been strong for the last three months and Randall Delgado for the last two. If McCarthy can continue his return to form, the D-backs will have a rotation that should be able to keep them in games down the stretch.