Bases loaded, 2 outs in the 11th and here comes ... the pitcher?!

D-backs' reliever strikes out in 1st career PA to end loss to Yanks

April 4th, 2024

PHOENIX -- The homestand started off better than the D-backs could reasonably have expected with manager Torey Lovullo calling their Opening Day thrashing of the Rockies just the way you draw it up “times 10” after they scored 14 runs in one inning.

The D-backs got their NL Championship rings the next night, and with them, another victory. All told, they took two of three from the Rockies.

The homestand, though, ended with a thud -- and a pitcher at the plate taking a called third strike -- in a 6-5 loss in 11 innings to the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field. New York captured two of three in the series and left Arizona frustrated as it boarded its charter plane to Atlanta.

“There’s a lot to unpack here,” Lovullo said after the game.

The D-backs skipper is right about that, but let’s cut right to how the game wound up ending with Arizona reliever Scott McGough taking a called third strike with the bases loaded.

Here’s what led to it:

The decision to hit for Alexander
With one out and no one on in the ninth, Lovullo decided to pinch-hit the left-handed-hitting Jace Peterson against Yankees right-hander Jonathan Loáisiga.

In hitting Peterson for the right-handed Blaze Alexander -- who hit his first career home run in the second inning -- Lovullo left himself without an infielder on the bench. Peterson entered to play second for Alexander and the club's usual starting second baseman, Ketel Marte, was in the starting lineup as the designated hitter.

An unexpected injury
The D-backs would have been OK had shortstop Geraldo Perdomo not injured his right knee while rounding first base on Anthony Volpe’s throwing error in the bottom of the 10th. That play brought Arizona within a run, but Perdomo exited for pinch-runner Jake McCarthy -- who scored the tying run two batters later on Corbin Carroll's infield single that pushed the game to an 11th inning.

The extent of Perdomo's injury is uncertain at this time, with Lovullo saying that he felt something in his knee rounding first. Though McCarthy -- an outfielder -- entered as a pinch-runner, Lovullo's only option to play the infield in the 11th was to put Marte into the game at shortstop to start the 11th.

No more DH
When a team moves its designated hitter to a position in the field, that club loses the DH for the remainder of the game, meaning the pitcher has to hit.

For Arizona, that pitcher was McGough, whose last at-bat came in 2019 when he was playing in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.

Smart move by Boone
After the Yankees scored two runs in the top of the 11th against McGough, the D-backs began to rally in the bottom of the frame.

With two outs, rookie Jorge Barrosa singled home Lourdes Gurriel Jr., cutting the deficit to one with runners on the corners and catcher Gabriel Moreno coming to the plate.

Knowing that Lovullo did not have any position players left on the bench, Yankees manager Aaron Boone immediately signaled to intenionally walk Moreno to load the bases -- and put the potential winning run in scoring position -- to bring McGough to the plate.

Boone said even if Barrosa’s single had loaded the bases instead of scoring a run, he would’ve walked Moreno -- and forced in a run -- just to get the matchup with McGough.

“I was absolutely [dead set] on doing it,” Boone said.

McGough took a called strike before looking at a ball. He then fouled a pitch down the first-base line before taking a called third strike on a pitch that appeared to be just off the outside corner of the plate.

“I was just kind of like, 'All right, try to put the ball in play,'” McGough said. “Be athletic.”