When the sixth inning started Tuesday night and there were five new D-backs players in the field, there was plenty of speculation as to why.
Was manager Torey Lovullo trying to send a message to his team, which was on its way to an 8-2 loss to the Astros at Chase Field, falling to 3-8 while continuing to struggle on offense?
“No, I don't send messages like that,” Lovullo said. “I’ll send messages directly face to face with the guys and have those conversations. I just want to get some of our [that] have been going every day a little bit more rest, get them off their feet. So [it] definitely wasn't the intent to send any type of message.
“I just wanted to maybe live to fight another day and let them watch some baseball, let the understudies get some at-bats, some meaningful at-bats. A couple of them are going to be playing tomorrow, and I just didn't want guys to get stale. So that was my way of accomplishing two things -- getting the right guys the rest and getting the understudies a couple of at-bats.”
Ketel Marte, Kole Calhoun, Starling Marte, Christian Walker and Eduardo Escobar spent the final four innings watching from the dugout.
They saw Andy Young get his first big league hit -- his first two, actually -- but still the offense managed just one seventh-inning run the rest of the way.
The D-backs have hit just two home runs and have been held to three or fewer runs seven times in their first 11 games this year.
“These are grinding times right now,” Lovullo said. “This is what tests your ballclub, tests its character. These guys are going to grind their way through these, these rugged times. I can see how badly these guys want it. I watch their work days. I watch how they come together, they come to fight together, and I just believe in these guys too much to say that this is going to continue for an entire season. So, you know, in the grand scheme of things, I know we're going to be OK.”
That’s a lot easier to say in a 162-game season, but when it’s only 60 games like it is this year, every loss gets magnified.
And while the D-backs’ offense looks to solve its woes, left-hander Madison Bumgarner is trying to figure out where things have gone wrong for him this year.
Signed to a five-year deal in the offseason, Bumgarner averaged a career-low 87.9 mph on his fastball in his first two starts. Yet, in each of those games, he found a way to keep the D-backs in the game.
On Tuesday, the Astros scored three runs in the first two innings against him and then put up a five-spot while chasing him from the game in the fifth.
“I just wasn’t very good, to put it bluntly,” Bumgarner said. “It just seemed like I couldn’t get anything going for us, and that can’t happen, especially in a season like this one.”
Bumgarner’s fastball averaged 88.1 mph on Tuesday, and he’s been working with the coaching staff to try to figure out why the velocity is down from an average of 91.4 mph last year despite the fact that he feels healthy.
The veteran has looked at video, the coaching staff has looked at Trackman data and he said the spin on his pitches is as good as ever, but the velocity isn’t there.
“I'm trying as hard as I can to get everything dialed in and get it right and get where I want to be,” Bumgarner said. “And I think everybody's doing the same.”
The effort is there. The results, right now, are not.