PHOENIX – As soon as Eduardo Escobar’s homer landed in the right field seat in the fifth inning, all the focus was on Arizona Diamondbacks starter Luke Weaver.
The drama shifted to the offer of a pitcher for the story.
Weaver, the 27-year-old right-hander, had a perfect game through five innings against the Cincinnati Reds and a six-run lead. He overpowered thugs with his mid-1990s fastball and a nasty move that turned away from bats.
The Reds, who set a franchise record for most runs in the first eight games of the season, avoided making any other kind of story. Weaver’s perfect game ended when he pitched Alex Blandino in the sixth inning and Eugenio Suárez broke the no-hit bid with a single with a broken racket to center in the seventh with an out.
A tough weekend for the Reds ended in a 7-0 defeat by the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, which was exceeded by a total of 12 runs in the last two games. Weaver got a standing ovation and “Luuuke” sang out of the crowd of 10,981 at the end of the seventh inning.
“It was pretty obvious that Weaver had good things,” said Reds manager David Bell. “We hit three, four or five well-hit balls in either an infielder or an outfielder, I think we counted. That will happen. With the other bats he was pretty much in command of his fastball and dominated him and his move . “
Though the Reds dropped a streak at the Diamondbacks, they gave themselves a cushion with their hot start. They are number one in the National League Central with a 6-3 record.
It’s the first time the Reds have lost two games in a row this season, but they will have some reinforcements this week. Sonny Gray, her opening start in 2020, could already make his season debut on Friday. Jesse Winker, the team’s top hitter last season, hasn’t started six of the last seven games but should be back in his everyday role on Monday.
“We’ve just been beating the last two days,” said Kyle Farmer. “There’s a lot of baseball left. Our line-up is still solid. I would put our line-up against anyone any day of the week.
“Our locker room is very laid back. It’s great. It’s a great group of people who take no loss to heart. We have great leaders on this team. As long as they keep the positive attitude we have right now, we’ll be fine be. “
Red starter José De León, who could lose his place in the rotation to Gray, has shown his potential but remains inconsistent. His “stuff” was probably as good as Weaver on Sunday. He’s compared his career high to nine strikeouts and showed an excellent slider that is usually his third best pitch.
“I should have done more, I think,” said De León of his slider, which was responsible for five of his nine strikes. “It was my first time that I really had it, so I wasn’t sure how to use it when things are going as well as it is today. You know, I study every time.”
The problem for De León is that when he left a space above the plate, he was in the sweet spot. In the third inning, he handed a triple homer to David Peralta, an explosion that landed in the Chase Field pool behind the fence in the center right. De León saw his mistake immediately, grimaced, and put his hands on his knees on the hill.
De León scored eight hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings and spent three walks. He’s stranded the bases loaded in the fourth inning and kept the Reds in play for another inning, but Escobar put the D-backs 6-0 ahead with his homer from two runs in the fifth.
“I was ahead of the boys and couldn’t expand in two strokes,” said De León. “I left the pitches way too beatable. I have to make some adjustments.”
The main question after the fifth inning was whether Weaver could finish his perfect start.
“Everyone is in the dugout, screaming for a perfect game without a batsman,” said Farmer. “They’re trying to play around with all of these superstitious things and we’ve done as much as we could.”
In Weaver’s first trip through the hit sequence over the first three innings, he knocked out five in 39 pitches.
The Reds had no firm contact on a field until Joey Votto shot a fastball straight into the glove of shortstop Nick Ahmed, who was moved to the right side of the infield. The ball left Votto’s racket at 108 mph.
Farmer smashed another lineout to open the sixth inning, this time in the traditional position. Two batters later, Weaver lost control of a 92 mph fastball that hit Blandino on the shoulder.
Weaver wasn’t perfect anymore, but he still carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He appeared to be showing some signs of fatigue and took Votto for a walk in four fields before Suárez broke up the no-hitter.
Then, with two runners on the base and one out, Weaver threw himself out of the jam by beating Aristides Aquino and triggering a flyout against Nick Senzel.
“Throughout the game we thought we’d recruit a few runners and get back in,” said Bell, “but it didn’t happen.”