Former Etowah pitcher Spruill struggles in first start
by The Associated Press
August 02, 2013 12:19 AM | 720 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Zeke Spruill's first major league start began well enough, but he soon allowed three homers to the Rangers and was taken out after four innings.

<BR>Associated Press photo
Zeke Spruill's first major league start began well enough, but he soon allowed three homers to the Rangers and was taken out after four innings.
Associated Press photo
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Arizona starter Zeke Spruill became too predictable in his first big league start, giving up five runs after consistently falling behind to batters.

The former Etowah High School pitcher only had to look at his counterpart for pointers in the Diamondbacks’ makeup game Thursday night against the Texas Rangers.

Texas starter Yu Darvish struck out 14, matching the most in his 50 major league starts, and the Rangers hit three solo homers off Spruill to beat the Diamondbacks 7-1. It was Arizona's fourth loss in five games.

“The pitches they hit, I feel like they knew they were coming or at least they had a good idea that fastballs were coming,” said Spruill, whose first start came after four relief appearances. “I've got to mix it up a little bit more.”

Spruill gave up seven hits, struck out three and had no walks in four innings. But he was behind in the count on all three of the homers he gave up — to A.J. Pierzynski (3-1 count), Mitch Moreland (3-2) and David Murphy (1-0). After Murphy's homer, Leonys Martin had a two-run double, though he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.

“The first inning you saw how good Zeke can be,” said catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, who made his major league debut. “Later in the game we might not have gone in enough. Keep hitters uncomfortable is the name of the game, and we might not have done that late in the game.”

The right-hander retired the first four batters he faced, with two strikeouts, before Pierzynski connected.

Meanwhile, Darvish (10-5) had no walks and scattered five hits while throwing 78 strikes in 111 pitches over seven scoreless innings. It was his major league-leading eighth game this season with at least 10 strikeouts.

Darvish struck out 10 of his first 13 batters, marking the 16th time since he joined the Rangers from Japan last season that he fanned at least 10. Dwight Gooden with 20 is the only other pitcher since 1900 with more in his first 50 starts.

It was the fourth game this season Darvish reached 14 strikeouts. There are only two other 14-strikeout games in the majors this season. It is the most 14-strikeout games in one season for the Rangers, surpassing Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan's three in 1990. Over seven seasons in Japan, Darvish had 15 strikeouts three times.

“He threw a good game,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. “Fourteen strikeouts — you have to make adjustments. Last time we beat him, we hung in there and we got him late. We weren't able to hang in there tonight.”

Darvish also had 14 strikeouts when he faced the Diamondbacks just more than two months ago. But they managed to score four runs over 7 2/3 innings that night and won with a run in the ninth.

The only Arizona starter who didn't strike out was Cody Ross. Leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra, who had a 10-game interleague hitting streak, and All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt both struck out three times against Darvish.

“He was as good as I've seen him all year, counting the almost perfect game he threw the first start of the year. His stuff was just nasty,” said Pierzynski, also the catcher when Darvish retired the first 26 batters at Houston four months ago. “He was throwing fastballs to the corners, he had a really good split, and obviously he always has a slider. And he just kept mixing it up and the strikeouts just kept coming and coming. Nights like that are fun.”

The Diamondbacks scored their only run in the ninth inning on Martin Prado's RBI single.

Arizona had to make a side trip to Texas, on the way from Tampa Bay to Boston, to make up the game postponed on May 29 because of unplayable field conditions. A severe thunderstorm hit the area about an hour before that scheduled game, and the grounds crew struggled to get the tarp on the field.

For the makeup, it was 101 degrees when the game started and still in the upper 90s when it ended.

NOTES: Gosewisch has his first major league hit when he singled to center in the eighth inning. ...The announced attendance was 41,569, but a lot of those purchased tickets went unused. ... Rangers SS Elvis Andrus extended the majors longest active hitting streak to 14 with a double in the seventh. ... According to STATS, Darvish was the sixth pitcher since 1974 to have 10 strikeouts in the first 13 batters. The last was Ricky Nolasco for Florida on Sept. 30, 2009.

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