Change on 2010: +17
Very few may have predicted it, but this Sunday, the D-backs were trying to avoid a sweep against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game they played today was filled with excitement, unexpected heroes, and excellent pitching. It was a showdown between Clayton Kershaw, a young ace with a cannon for an arm, and Ian Kennedy, the surprise star, who is a control expert. Oh and by the way, CODY RANSOM!!! Hit the jump to find out how Arizona was able to come out on top and how Cody Ransom saved them.
After a successful road trip in California, where the Diamondbacks were able to defeat their rivals, the San Francisco Giants, 2 out of 3 times, it was time to head back to Chase Field for a home stand against a few below .500 teams. The first two games against the Dodgers didn't go so well, as AZ lost both times, and were lucky to stay only a half a game behind SF in the NL West race, being helped out by the Phillies who beat the Giants three times. Unfortunately, the Giants can't play the Phillies every day, so it was time for the Diamondbacks to get moving. Today, they faced 23 year Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.68 ERA), whose ERA is a dazzling 1.22 below league average. Going face to face with him would be Ian Kennedy (13-3, 3.17 ERA). Looking at the starters, this game was bound to be a pitcher's duel from the beginning.
Kirk Gibson was back in action today, after going home sick yesterday, and was hoping to help the DBacks out of their little slump, after they lost the last 3 games. Ian Kennedy threw in the first pitch at roughly 1:10 PM. It was a fastball. In fact, the first 6 pitches were fastballs. He was aggressive right from the get-go, not afraid to go after the Dodgers with the heater. Kennedy, although not a hard thrower, can be very effective without using much off speed because of his outstanding control. He got in a little bit of trouble in the first inning, giving up singles to Ethier and Kemp (no surprise there) with two outs. However, he was able to get out of the inning by striking out Juan Rivera with a change up on a 3-2 count.
This sent the Diamondbacks to the dugout, hoping to get an early lead. Kershaw took the mound, and fired fastball after fastball for balls. He walked Ryan Roberts on 4 pitches, all high fastballs, and went on to throw three straight balls to Kelly Johnson, all high fastballs again. After a mound visit, he fired a strike, and worked it to a full count. Right about now is when he made his first mistake. He grooved a fastball right down the middle, and KJ didn't miss it. Before everyone knew it, that ball was sailing over the right field wall, into the pool area. Ironically the bat that Kelly used belonged to Juan Gutierrez (no more word on that yet). The Diamondbacks had 2 runs just like that. Chris Young walked, but that was the only other base runner in the inning. After a Miguel Montero strikeout, the DBacks took the field again, this time with a 2-0 lead.
Ian Kennedy just kept on hammering in the fastball. Over and over Dodgers batters missed it, and when Kennedy did throw an off speed pitch, the Boys in Blue pretty much swung 4 times before it got to the plate. The "Key to the Game" on FSAZ, was Ten, Jack, Queen, King... What's missing? Ace. And that is what the DBacks needed. Their ace. Some great plays on defense by Cody Ransom including a Derek Jeter-esque play on a ball in the hole, and a double play in the third inning helped keep AZ in the game. Gibson said that Ransom was out there because Bloomquist needed rest, but Ransom didn't fool around this time when it came to getting a start, as people would soon find out.
In the fourth inning, Matt Kemp bunted (thank you very much) and was thrown out, and Ransom made another play in the hole very similar to the first one. Kershaw, possibly angered by the early lead he allowed the Dbacks to, was ROLLING. He looked untouchable. Luckily, Kennedy was looking the same. The game was 2-0, and Ian was still pounding the strike zone with the fastball. In the fifth, he tried throwing a change up against James Loney. That didn't really work out. The pitch was left up, and Loney said "Thank you very much," and delivered a souvenir to a fan somewhere in the right field bleachers. The score became 2-1.
With Kershaw looking very sharp, the DBacks couldn't score, but it was a different story for the Dodgers. In the top of the sixth, Aaron Miles singled up the middle with one out. That was followed by an RBI double by Ethier. Matt Kemp grounded out, but Juan Rivera hit an RBI single up the middle, and was thrown out in a run down, but the damage was done. The score was 3-2 with LA in favor now.
We'll skip ahead to the bottom of the seventh now, where Kershaw was making the DBacks look like a little league team. He had only surrendered 2 hits in 7 IP, and had issued 7 strikeouts. Cowgill hits a 1 out single up the middle, and this is when Cody Ransom does his magic. He smacks a fastball right down the middle (Kershaw's second mistake) over the left field wall. Chase field goes crazy, and Mark Grace wants a curtain call (which he never got). Next, Burroughs, pinch hitting for Kennedy, doubles to left. Mark Grace says he may have stretched a triple into a double, but I'll take an XBH from Burroughs any day. After a Ryan Roberts groundout, Kelly Johnson gives a ball a ride, but misses his second 2-run homer by a couple feet or so.
David Hernandez comes in and strikes out two of the three batters he faces, and the Diamondbacks don't score in the bottom of the eighth. So, J.J. Putz comes in for the save, and has to face the 3,4,5 hitters, Ethier, Kemp, and Rivera. After striking out Ethier and getting Kemp to groundout, J.J. delivered the last pitch of the game to Juan Rivera. The ball was put on the ground between 3rd and short. Ransom ranges, backhands it, and throws a one-hopper to first that barely beat the runner to end the game. 3 highlight reel plays, and a go-ahead 2-run homer? I say that's a nice day at the office. Nice work Cody.
800 comments on the nose, with 'charmer (144) and blue bulldog (97) well ahead of the pack, led by BulldogsNotZags' 67. Also present: Bryan J. Boltik, CardsForTheWin, NASCARbernet, Jim McLennan, hotclaws, asteroid, Rockkstarr12, 4 Corners Fan, txzona, iheartdbacks, Jdub220, Dan Strittmatter, mbarnard11, 7Insomniac, The so-called Beautiful, CaptainCanuck, since_98, oldspartan, Britback, Backin'the'Backs, GuruB, Wimb, Clefo, Muu, TinySarabia, Zavada's Moustache, Brian MacKinney and Baseballdad
Thanks to everyone who joined us on the pit (see roll call), but the comment of the day goes to Jim McLennan:
Cody Ransom and Sean Burroughs get back to back extra-base hits off Clayton Kershaw…
Well that just about wraps it up for today. Starting August 8th, the Diamondbacks take on the Astros in a 4-game series at home. I say it is time to take first place!