Despite loss, Collmenter shows improvement

PHOENIX — Josh Collmenter didn’t go deep into Thursday’s game, but he did make his longest start of the season. He didn’t baffle Braves hitters, but he did allow fewer runs than in either of his previous two starts this season.

It wasn’t pretty, but Collmenter rediscovered some much-needed confidence Thursday night and bought himself more time in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation.
While taking the loss in 5 1/3 innings, Collmenter (0-1) allowed four runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk. The outing, he said, leaves him in a much better place going forward than his previous starts.

“I don’t have to try to look at film or analyze stuff that went good last year and why it’s going bad this year,” Collmenter said. “I actually felt like I was pitching tonight instead of just throwing it and forcing the ball to go where it was. I was able to make pitches and get outs when I needed to. That was definitely reassuring and something I’m happy about.”

Though Collmenter had allowed five earned runs in each of his past two starts, neither of which lasted more than four innings, there had been no outright indication that another bad outing would cost him his spot in the rotation. But it seems likely another rough night would at the least numbered Collmenter’s days in the rotation.

Collmenter looked much better Thursday night despite a shaky start that saw him give up a two-run homer just three batters into the game. He retired 15 of the next 18 hitters he faced, only allowing singles.

“I finally felt really comfortable on the mound,” Collmenter said. “About the third inning I really started settling in, feeling like I was throwing the ball like I always have. … It was nice to finally understand what I was doing and establish some type of consistency.”

Collmenter’s final line didn’t quite reflect his improvement in the D-backs’ 10-2 loss either. After getting Freeman to pop out leading off the eighth, Collmenter gave up back-to-back soft singles. That was enough for manager Kirk Gibson to make a call to the bullpen, bringing in Wade Miley.

Miley, too, fell victim to a couple tough breaks in a pair of broken-bat hits that allowed both runners to score, doubling Collmenter’s runs for the day.

“He actually threw the ball really well for us tonight,” Gibson said. “It wasn’t really justice what happened to him, but it did and he can certainly feel good about the way he threw the ball tonight.”

Collmenter was also frustrated by the turn of events. He was more happy, though, to find a comfort zone, which made it easy to take the loss in stride.

“Wade came in and did his job too, but two broken-bat hits — what can you do about that?” Collmenter asked. “It’s just luck was on their side and they kind of broke the game open from there.”

Though the results could have been better, the outing has to be encouraging for the D-backs. They’ll certainly want to see it continue into Collmenter’s next outing, as one solid start in every three probably won’t cut it. But with a good start despite the result, Collmenter earned himself a chance to keep working at it in the majors.

For the first time this year after a Collmenter starter, the greatest concern wasn’t his performance. It was a flat offense that collected just five hits on the night, including none in the first two or last five nights.

Catcher Miguel Montero had the night off, and it could have been just your average off night. Braves starter Mike Minor had it going too — Gibson said he was “about as good as we’ve seen this year” — but with Chris Young on the disabled list, Justin Upton limited and Paul Goldschmidt struggling, production could become an issue. The D-backs struggled to score Wednesday as well, failing to back Daniel Hudson’s strong effort.

“You play a 2-1 ballgame like we did yesterday and you come out on the short end of it, you start thinking ‘What happens if we have our best hitter C.Y. in the lineup? What happens if we have Justin in there?” Hudson said. “You just start thinking about it, but at the same time you know those guys have to get better. So it’s up to (the starting pitchers) right now to kind of put the team on our back and shut the other offense down.”

Hudson wasn’t calling out his teammates, nor was he making any excuses, but with two key hitters out of the lineup for an unclear amount of time, the onus is on the offense even more when starters have good outings. They know it, but they’re not sweating it yet.

“Everyone in here is capable of doing big things,” second baseman Aaron Hill said. “Yeah, it hurts having those two guys out, but there’s no reason why we can’t go out and win ball games.”

Gibson added after the game: “We have 25 guys, and we’ve got to go out and find a way. … We’re playing the game right but we’re not swinging the bats as good as Atlanta right now, and we couldn’t keep up with them.”