PITTSBURGH — Nick Burdi's combination of grit and resilience — oh and a fastball that can touch triple digits — helped the Pittsburgh Pirates reliever carve out a spot in the big leagues less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right arm.
One innocent-looking pitch to Arizona's Jarrod Dyson on Monday night likely signalled another abrupt turn in Burdi's roller coaster career and the Diamondbacks' 12-4 comeback victory.
The 26-year-old, a former touted prospect in Minnesota who found traction in Pittsburgh, threw a 96 mph fastball to Dyson in the eighth inning then crumpled to the ground before clutching his right arm while tears filled his eyes. He wept while teammates tried to console him on the mound.
Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said Burdi was dealing with pain in his biceps and elbow, but it was too early for a diagnosis.
"It just takes the breath right out of you," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.
Burdi had struck out 17 over 8 1/3 innings prior to Monday after making the Pirates out of spring training. Christian Walker touched him for a two-run home run in Arizona's seven-run seventh inning and Burdi gave up three straight singles to start the eighth before his second pitch to Dyson altered the trajectory of Burdi's season, if not his career.
"It's awful," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. "We're competitors up until something like that happens. We're all in the same family. You hate to see anything like that happen. The way he went down, you're just hoping for the absolute best."
Burdi's teammates stopped by to check on him in the aftermath. While the prognosis is uncertain, the Pirates are confident Burdi will find a way to navigate the difficult path ahead.
"He's in good spirits," Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove said. "He's engaging. He's talking to us. He's not in a corner crying. He's ready to face whatever it is. He's got the work ethic and the mentality to bounce back from something like this."
The Diamondbacks put together their major league leading ninth comeback by exploding in the seventh and eighth after falling behind 4-1. A walk and a single chased Musgrove, and Arizona poured it on against reliever Kyle Crick (0-1) and Burdi.
Swinging bunts by John Ryan Murphy and newly acquired Blake Swihart — singles that didn't even reach the pitcher's mound — and a flare to left field over a draw-in infield by Eduardo Escobar drew the Diamondbacks within 4-3. David Peralta then drilled a shot to the gap in right-centre off Crick, and Walker followed two batters later with a towering flyball off Burdi that landed in the first row of seats in the right field stands. In a span of minutes, a three-run deficit morphed into an 8-4 lead.
"I think it's just a tribute to the guys we have," said Walker, whose seven home runs have all come in the seventh inning or later. "Our pitches are out there battling and keeping us in games. We want to do everything we can to score runs and win and all that."
Escobar added his third home run and finished with three RBI for Arizona. Murphy finished with three hits for the Diamondbacks, who improved to 5-2 on their current 10-game trip. Matt Andriese (3-1) picked up the win in relief.
Pittsburgh right fielder Gregory Polanco doubled and singled in his first game back after undergoing left shoulder surgery last September. While Polanco acknowledged his throwing arm probably won't be at 100 per cent for a while, he looked comfortable in the field, too, though he declined to take any risks on a pair of sinking flyballs sent his way in the later innings with Pittsburgh already trailing.
ALL SHUCK UP
The portion of Pittsburgh's second-smallest crowd (9,233) that stuck around for the ninth got a chance to watch outfielder JB Shuck make his second major league appearance on the mound. Shuck — who gave up a run in an inning of work for the Chicago White Sox in 2016 — allowed a walk and a hit but kept the Diamondbacks from adding to their huge lead.
"Unfortunately, you never want to be in that situation, but somebody, I guess has to do it," said Shuck, who reached 91 mph. "I don't mind doing it and hopefully helping out in some way."
Pirates: 2B Kevin Newman will spend some time in the outfield at Triple-A Indianapolis working in the outfield as he recovers from a laceration in the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. Hurdle said Newman will also get in some work at shortstop, though Newman could find himself as more of a utility player at the big-league level.
Pittsburgh's Trevor Williams (1-0, 2.59 ERA) will look for his first victory since March 31 on Tuesday. Arizona starter Luke Weaver (1-1, 3.92) tossed five shutout innings in his last start, a win over Atlanta on April 18.
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