BY: ED COLE
PHOENIX — There are going to be nights in baseball when you’re stuck in a pitcher’s duel, and the slightest mistake made by either team could turn tragic for them.
That happened to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Arizona pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and Miami pitcher Mat Latos were locked into a fierce battle on the mound, with neither pitcher giving up much of anything, until the fifth inning, when Hellickson – who was supposed to pitch around shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria – decided to go ahead and face him.
That was a bad decision, because Hechavarria smacked a single up the middle, which plated catcher J.T. Realmuto from third base with the game’s first run. Left fielder Michael Morse would take Hellickson’s 2-2 fast ball in the seventh inning, and deposit it into the right field bleachers, giving the Marlins a 2-0 lead. They’d go on to take Game 2 of the series, 3-0, in front of a crowd of 16,983 at Chase Field.
The Marlins’ pitchers – Mat Latos, Carter Capps, A.J. Ramos – held the Diamondbacks to just five hits on the evening. In seven innings of shutout ball, Latos gave up four of those five hits, while striking out seven and walking one. With the win, Latos improved to 4-6 on the season, while Ramos earned his 15th save of the season.
“Yeah, he (Latos) pitched well, very well. (He) kept the ball down,” Arizona manager Chip Hale said. “We had a hard time hitting him, so I always say the hitters tell you something about the pitcher, and we have good hitters, so he did a nice job.”
Hale mentioned that catcher Welington Castillo’s visit to Hellickson just before Hechavarria came up was so he could tell Hellickson to pitch around him in order to pitch to Latos, who’s a pretty good hitter in his own right at .278.
“There was some talk on the bench, and I said, ‘He’s (Latos) not as good a hitter as Hechavarria,'” Hale said.
Hellickson decided to disregard Castillo’s instructions and he paid the price for that decision.
Hellickson threw a curveball to Hechavarria, which hung in the air a lot longer than he intended it to, allowing Hechavarria to get a hold of it.
“I made a mistake,” Hellickson said. “I can get him (Hechavarria) out; I just made a bad pitch.”
Hellickson thought he pitched pretty well, despite a few bad throws. He went 7.0 innings, and gave up five hits, two earned runs, struck out six and walked none. His record is even now at 6-6 after the loss.
“(I) felt good. Stuff was good, command was pretty good. Just made a couple mistakes I can’t make when their guys are on like that,” Hellickson said.
There was some controversy surrounding Capps, and his unusual hop-step delivery to the plate. It’s a very strange and jarring delivery which actually has him throwing the baseball a few feet in front of the rubber, which definitely caught the attention of center-fielder A.J. Pollock, who faced him in the eighth inning. Pollock ended up lining out to outfielder Christian Yelich.
“Oh yeah, you notice it. It’s pretty unique,” Pollock said. “I guess they call it legal; I guess that was the ruling. The guy’s (Capps) throwing it 100-miles an hour from 55-feet; it’s pretty tough.”
Hale feels Major League Baseball needs to take a look at Capps’ delivery, because he feels it “plays to the integrity of the game.”
“The rule is that your foot’s supposed to be in contact with the rubber, (or) at least close, and he’s (Capps) not even close, and the league’s okayed it. The umpires really have no say in it right now; the league’s said it’s okay, and they have to let it go,” Hale said. “It’s very difficult to watch. He’s throwing 100-miles an hour almost, and jumping at you; it’s not easy. It’s not fair to the hitters.”
The final game with the Marlins this season will take place on Wednesday night back at Chase Field. Arizona will have Robbie Ray (3-4, 2.29 ERA) on the mound, and he’ll be opposed by Jose Fernandez (2-0, 2.37 ERA). First pitch is at 6:40 p.m.
“The only thing we know what to do is come prepared the right way, and play hard, and try to scrap together good at-bats,” Pollock said. “I don’t know what else you can do besides that.”