• Brian L. Barefield

The Roof Is On Fire: Arizona uses a torrid fourth inning to defeat Houston 14-7.

Lance McCullers Jr. Photo credit: Bob Levey

PHOENIX, AZ- What was setting up to be a beautiful comeback story for Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1) quickly turned into a horror movie like the Nightmare on Elm. St. series with the bats of the Diamondbacks playing the role of fictional boogey man Freddy Kruger.

Arizona (4-8) used an immense fourth inning led by outfielder Kole Calhoun’s weird inside the park homerun to put nine runs on the board after trailing by four coming into the inning to defeat Houston (6-5) by a score of 14-7. It was the most runs given up in an inning by the Astros since the Texas Rangers put up 11 on them during the 2013 season.

“I have seen some weird hops and balls run along the walls because they have a bunch of angles out there,” said manager Dusty Baker about the Calhoun homerun that bounced around the outfield.

It wasn’t a game Houston wanted to be a part of, but it was definitely one Arizona felt they needed for team morale winning for just the fourth time in 12 games.

“We were able to smile in the dugout for the first time in a long time,” said Calhoun. “We needed to relax, it felt like everyone was putting a lot of pressure on themselves to be the hero. Baseball doesn’t show up like that. It’s when you’re relaxed and in the flow of the game, that’s when special things happen.”

McCullers had coasted through the first three innings of the ball game retiring all nine batters that he faced keeping the Diamondbacks bats at bay by not allowing a single ball to be hit out of the infield. He was also working on a no-hitter going into the fourth inning.

“I was on pace for a very efficient and long-term game,” McCullers said of his performance through three innings.

Houston took a four-run lead into the bottom of the fourth inning after a three-run homer by Kyle Tucker and a solo blast by Abraham Toro off of Arizona starter Robbie Ray (1-2) who struggled with command issues all night. That lead would soon be decimated as McCullers who was pitching for just the third time since Tommy John surgery kept him sidelined for all of the 2019 season gave up hits to the first seven batters, he faced in the fourth. He would be replaced by 23-year old reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez after giving up eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched tying his career high in runs given up in a game.

Arizona came into the game as one of the worst hitting teams in the league and through 26 innings, they had only scored two runs, but ended the game with 14 runs, 16 base hits, and 10 extra base hits.

The 2017 All-Star pitcher was not happy with the roof being opened up at Chase Field after the third inning, an arrangement Arizona said they had discussed earlier with both teams.

“Opening the roof in the fourth (inning) was ass,” said McCullers. “There were some routine balls that got up there and carried deep. I was trying to lick my fingers (for better grip) and was told I couldn’t do that due to COVID. So, I was having a hard time in the fourth. No excuse. It just is what it is.”

Houston wasted great performances at the plate by outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. Springer added two more RBIs in the game to bring his total to 11 this road trip and Correa added two more hits to push his batting average to .400 on the season.

The final game of the series is Thursday at Chase Field with the first pitch is at 6:07pm CST.

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