PHOENIX -- There’s no one reason why the D-backs’ 2021 season didn’t go as the club expected. It was a combination of various injuries and struggles that brought Arizona above the 100-loss mark and looking toward ‘22 and beyond in late September.
The D-backs’ starting rotation is the source of some of those woes. What looked to be a solid group at the beginning of the year has lacked consistency. Multiple starters have gotten hurt. Others haven’t found a rhythm. For Luke Weaver, it’s been both. But the right-hander feels things have been getting on the right track for him late in the season.
On Tuesday night at Chase Field, Weaver pitched into the seventh inning for the first time since early April. But he also allowed a career-high-tying three home runs in his fourth start since returning from a 3 1/2-month stint on the injured list, which was more than enough offense for the Braves to hand the D-backs a 6-1 loss, their 103rd of the season.
“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Weaver said. “There’s really two goals -- put up no runs is the obvious one, but the two goals are to control the counts and get deep into the game. Those are two really big ones for me, I feel like I accomplished both of those tonight.”
All five runs allowed by Weaver (two of which were unearned) came on homers. He gave up a pair of two-run long balls -- one to Austin Riley in the first and another to Ozzie Albies in the third -- and a solo shot to Jorge Soler in the fifth. The only other time that Weaver has allowed three homers in a start was his first outing of 2021, when he gave up a trio of solo shots in a no-decision at Colorado on April 6.
There were several positives for Weaver to take away. He went 6 2/3 innings and threw a season-high 102 pitches in his longest outing since going seven innings on April 11 vs. the Reds. Weaver also recorded seven strikeouts, one shy of his season high, which also came in that start against Cincinnati.
“I thought Luke threw the ball extremely well,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “He was commanding the baseball. I just thought there were a couple mistakes at the wrong time. But overall, he did a fantastic job.”
Added Weaver: “All in all, I thought there were some really good pitches that were hit, I executed some good pitches and at the end of the day, some of those things are out of your control. But the things I wanted to control, I thought I did a pretty good job of.”
This was Weaver’s 12th start of 2021, which matches his workload in each of his first two seasons in Arizona. Here’s how his numbers this year stack up to ’19 and ’20:
2019: 4-3, 2.94 ERA, 69 strikeouts, 14 walks and a 1.07 WHIP in 64 1/3 innings
2020: 1-9, 6.58 ERA, 55 strikeouts, 18 walks and a 1.56 WHIP in 52 innings
2021: 3-6, 4.38 ERA, 56 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 1.15 WHIP in 61 2/3 innings
So while Weaver has performed better than he did during the shortened ‘20 campaign, he still hasn’t reached the level he was at in ‘19, immediately after he came over from St. Louis in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals.
But if Weaver can finish the year strong, the 28-year-old could set himself up for an opportunity to produce even better results in 2022. And that’s what he’ll try to keep doing the next time he takes the mound.
“There’s definitely some good momentum going,” Weaver said. “I want to establish in the one or two more starts doing exactly what I tried to do tonight.”