D-backs are one-hit by Reds rookie
Davis, making first start since cancer diagnosis, pulled in fourth
CINCINNATI -- The D-backs really had no business being within striking distance at the end of Thursday's game with the Reds.
Arizona pitchers walked nine and the offense managed one hit. If you just looked at those numbers, you had to think they got beat handily.
Instead, the D-backs somehow were able to stay close and make things interesting in a 3-2 loss in front of 11,987 rain-soaked fans at Great American Ballpark.
"You're not going to win many games with one hit and walking nine guys," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
And you're not going to win many games when you face a pitcher that is dealing the way Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto was. The rookie right-hander mixed a 96-mph fastball with an upper-80s slider and changeup to strike out 10 in seven innings.
Wait, a changeup in the upper 80s?
"He threw everything hard," said outfielder Eric Byrnes, who fanned three times in the game, twice against Cueto. "He looked good. Obviously, he's got great stuff. Fastball, he spotted on both sides of the plate, good breaking ball, threw his changeup -- he had everything."
The lone blemish for Cueto came when Justin Upton led off the sixth with the D-backs' first hit, a homer into the left-field bleachers on a 1-2 fastball. Upton faced Cueto two years ago in the Class A Midwest League and saw the potential in the 22-year-old back then.
"He's the same guy, a little better command," Upton said. "He was unbelievable two years ago. He's got great stuff and he pounds the zone with it, and that's what makes him effective. He's just a great pitcher."
The D-backs fell behind in this one from the start when starter Doug Davis couldn't seem to find his command. The left-hander, who will have surgery on April 10 to remove a cancerous thyroid, lasted just 3 2/3 innings, having allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and walking a whopping six batters. Of the 87 pitches he threw, just 43 were for strikes.
"I got in trouble with walks, falling behind guys, you know, just not throwing to contact," he said. "After that, it was really hard for me to get into a rhythm. I had no rhythm out there. I was just falling behind. I couldn't find my release point."
A lot of times Davis is able to rediscover his release point, but he was unable to do so Thursday. Davis had trouble getting adjusted to the baseballs Thursday, though he was careful to point out that he wasn't using that as an excuse.
"Sometimes it was slick, sometimes it was grippy," he said. "It just was not consistent."
There's no question that Davis hurt himself with all the walks, but in fairness, he just as easily could have escaped the first inning with one or no runs scoring rather than two.
After the first two batters of the frame were retired, Ken Griffey Jr. blooped a ball down the left-field line that landed just inches fair for a double. Then, with the bases loaded and one run in, Scott Hatteberg hit a routine grounder to second. It was a ball that Orlando Hudson, who has won three straight Gold Gloves, usually could handle in his sleep, but this time he booted it to allow another run to score.
The Reds added a run in the second on a homer by Jeff Keppinger, and a 3-0 lead seemed insurmountable given the way Cueto was throwing.
"Like Griffey told me, he reminded him of a young Pedro [Martinez]," Hudson said of a conversation he had two days ago with the Reds outfielder. "If he holds out -- and I hope he does -- he'll have a great career."
The D-backs' bullpen came through in a big way, as they held the Reds right where they were with 4 1/3 scoreless innings, to keep things at 3-1.
In the eighth, Reds reliever David Weathers had his own troubles locating the strike zone, as he retired Stephen Drew to start the eight before walking three straight batters to load the bases.
Baker then summoned Mike Lincoln from the bullpen to face pinch-hitter Alex Romero, who lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score Mark Reynolds and cut the Cincinnati lead to 3-2.
The D-backs, though, could get no closer, as Chris Young fanned to end the frame. The punch out capped a frustrating day for Young, who was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.