D-backs' Cahill still searching for consistency
PHOENIX -- Call it unlucky. Call it streaky. Whatever the spin, 2012 has been about as inconsistent a season as they come for Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill.
Though Cahill's ninth loss of the season Wednesday night was not all that bad of an effort, it served as an example of all that has been hard to figure about his first season with the D-backs.
"I'm not really where I want to be, but it's just one of those things you've got to grind out," Cahill said. "I felt a lot better today so hopefully I can just take that as a positive and go from there."
Cahill got off to a rough start in the 4-2 loss as he has much of the season. He allowed a first inning run for the 11th time in 20 starts after surrendering a leadoff triple to Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler and a sacrifice fly to second baseman Marco Scutaro. That bumped his first inning ERA this season to 7.65, compared to 3.14 after the first inning.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson discussed said before Wednesday's game Cahill just hasn't been able to get comfortable early in games. That's been a running theme for Cahill all the way back to spring training, but especially lately. He has now given up at least one first-inning run in seven straight starts, including two to the Astros last Friday.
"For whatever reason he just has not been able to find a groove early on," Gibson said. "Usually once he gets through the first inning he kind of gets on a pretty good roll."
Cahill has no explanation for it either. It's nothing new in baseball for a starter to struggle often at the start of games, but Cahill's splits are particularly noticeable lately. Wednesday's first was, though, really a matter of one batter, as Cahill sat the next three down after Fowler's triple.
"A leadoff triple is tough," Cahill said. "Other than that I thought I made my pitches. … My stuff feels good. Other than that I don't know what you can do."
Though Cahill did give up two runs in the third inning and one in the fourth Wednesday, he has cruised this season following rough first innings. Including Wednesday's start, Cahill has a 2.36 ERA in the second through fifth inning this year.
After that, things get a little shaky again. In the sixth inning this year, Cahill has a 7.05 ERA. Cahill managed fine in the sixth Wednesday and retired the first two batters of the seventh before being pulled following a single and a walk.
"Once he gets to 90 (pitches) lately, it's been just like the first inning," Gibson said.
Both inconsistencies have contributed to Cahill's up and down year. He has also lacked run support at times and been a victim of bad luck, like when Scutaro's two-run double in the second inning just snuck past D-backs third baseman Willie Bloomquist, but it's the results that matter most.
Cahill has earned a decision in 11 straight starts, the first of which was a loss. The next three provided Cahill's best stretch, as he went 3-0 with a 0.77 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. Since, however, Cahill is 3-4 with a 5.44 ERA.
Then there are Cahill's confounding home/road splits. At home, Cahill has a 4.87 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .294 with a .360 on-base percentage against him. On the road, he owns a 2.91 ERA, .210 opponent's batting average and .298 OBP.
Cahill admitted Wednesday he has not been able to carry momentum over for more than a start or two much of the season, save the three-game stretch in June. He suggested some mechanical adjustments might be in order, but despite the ups and downs Cahill feels good about what he is doing now and can only hope the results get better.
"It seems like he's had a hard time repeating," Gibson said. "We walked to him about why, and he hasn't really figured that out yet."