First, starter Shelby Miller was forced to leave the game after allowing five runs in the first inning with tightness in his right elbow. That was not a good sign for a pitcher who was making his fourth start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.
Miller caught a late flight to Phoenix and was examined by team doctors on Thursday. He was diagnosed with elbow inflammation and placed on the 10-day disabled list.
"He was giving us everything he possibly could," said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who spoke with Miller by phone after the game. "But he just felt some tightness in his elbow towards the tail end of his outing."
Before the game even started, Lovullo was concerned about the recent workload his bullpen had been saddled with, including throwing almost 11 innings in Sunday's 16-inning loss to the Padres.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland, who usually can pick up innings when needed, lasted just two batters Wednesday due to stiffness on the left side of his neck. So Lovullo used two position players -- Daniel Descalso and Alex Avila.
McFarland, too, was placed on the DL on Thursday. Right-handers Matt Koch and Silvino Bracho were recalled from Triple-A Reno.
Descalso threw 2 2/3 innings allowing three runs on four hits while Avila, in his first professional appearance on the mound, allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings.
"It was definitely interesting," Avila said. "I had fun with it. Glad the game is over with, so we can move on to tomorrow and forget that one."
Lovullo was not thrilled about having to use position players to pitch, but because he was able to get 4 2/3 out of Descalso and Avila, the bullpen should be rested for Thursday's finale.
"The whole template broke down today," Lovullo said. "Those days are going to happen. It gets to the point where you turn the page, punt and get ready for tomorrow. Today only counts as one loss and we'll be reinforced tomorrow."
The use of two position players to pitch two or more innings in a game is a fairly rare occurrence, with the last time being on July 31, 1956, when twin brothers Johnny and Eddie O'Brien each pitched two innings for the Pirates against the Cardinals.
When Descalso entered the game in the fourth inning, it marked the earliest a position player had come on to pitch since the Brewers' Sal Bando pitched the fourth inning on Aug. 29, 1979.
DEADLINE NEEDS If Miller is out for a prolonged period of time, or the bullpen continues to be overworked, it could strengthen the case that the D-backs should be focused on acquiring pitching help rather than adding a bat prior to the Trade Deadline.
So far, the only player the D-backs have been linked to publicly in trade rumors is Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, but they are likely also looking hard at the pitching market.
GOT TO BE CAREFUL After catcher Jeff Mathis threw an inning in Sunday's 16-inning loss, he talked about how sore position players can be after taking the mound. Descalso's outing was his second of the year already. Avila had ice on his arm after the game and said he was already feeling the soreness that comes from doing something they're not trained to do.
"We've got to really guard against what's going on with them, with their lower half and their tired bodies," Lovullo said of the trio. "We don't want to put them in a situation where they're going to miss time."
SOUND SMART The D-backs' winning streak at Coors Field came to an end at nine. It was Arizona's first loss at Coors since June 20, 2017.
HE SAID IT "At a certain point, it took on a whole new level of 'just get through it without getting anybody else hurt,' and that was our goal." -- Lovullo
UP NEXT The D-backs close out the three-game series with the Rockies on Thursday afternoon at Coors Field with left-hander Robbie Ray (3-1, 5.23 ERA) on the mound. Ray allowed four runs over 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Padres. He is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA in five road starts this year and he has won nine of his last 10 decisions dating back to last Aug. 24. The Rockies will counter with lefty Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.18).