Corbin: "Dude, Henry, this MLB stuff is tough." Blanco: "Tell me about it. But be glad you're breaking into the league now, kid. My first big-league plate appearance was against a velociraptor."
[h/t to Soco for helping me fit as many fish puns into the title as possible]
Bright and early for the folks back in Arizona, it was the early afternoon for me in South Bend, and I had MLB.tv rared up and ready for southpaw Patrick Corbin's MLB debut. I was expecting a challenging match-up for Corbin, with big right-handed power bats like Giancarlo Stanton to give Corbin trouble and a touch opponent on the mound for Miami in veteran lefty Mark Buehrle. I had figured that if Arizona were going to win this one, it would be a close game eked-out by a run or two scratched across the board on dinks-and-dunks. Well, hey, that's what I figured.
|Final - 4.30.2012||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|WP: Patrick Corbin (1 - 0)
LP: Mark Buehrle (1 - 4)
Marlins starter Mark Buehrle set down the D-backs in order in the top of the first, quickly bringing Corbin into the limelight for his first inning of work. Corbin got a ground ball to second base - and a nice play by Ryan Roberts there - to retire Jose Reyes, but Corbin quickly found himself in a jam. Emilio Bonifacio reached on a ground ball to short that would have been an easy out for other, slower hitters, and then Hanley Ramirez smoked a fastball left up and right down the chute for a double to center field. Thankfully, A.J. Pollock did a great job closing on the ball and keeping Bonifacio at third base, which would prove crucial later in the inning. Corbin then missed with a fastball inside and plunked Austin Kearns on the elbow, loading the bases with one out. This brought up Omar Infante, who gave Corbin exactly what he needed - a slow roller to Corbin that started a 1-2-3 double play, weaseling his way out of the jam.
Paul Goldschmidt led off the second inning with a single - a nice opposite-way line drive that we're used to seeing from Goldy when he's clicking at the plate. Goldschmidt stole second, but it proved to be somewhat irrelevant because of the efforts of Cody Ransom. On another 3-0 count - side note: I love this team's aggressiveness on 3-0 counts; those are often the best pitches you're going to get as a hitter - the white-hot third baseman took an 85 mph fastball right down the chute from Buehrle and drove it into the Clevelander, giving Arizona an early 2-0 lead.
The D-backs weren't done pressuring Buehrle in the second, as A.J. Pollock popped a bunt just in front of the plate which John Buck could have caught had he seen it, but which ended up as a single for Pollock. Henry Blanco followed that up with a single to center, and Corbin's sac bunt moved the two runners into scoring position with two out. Buehrle then made a choice that I imagine hasn't been made often, effectively pitching around Willie Bloomquist with a four-pitch walk that was nowhere near the zone. This brought up Ryan Roberts with the bases chucked and two out, and although Roberts worked Buehrle to a full count and fouled off several pitches, he eventually swung at ball four way outside the zone, ending the threat.
Corbin continued working in a fashion similar to his first inning, working around any baserunners he allowed with the cunning use of ground balls. He was adept at attacking the inner and outer edges of the strike zone with his fastball and occasionally showing a sharp slider - one he buried at the back foot of Emilio Bonifacio for a swinging strike three was particularly impressive, as were two in the fourth that induced swinging strikeouts of Giancarlo Stanton and Gaby Sanchez - and a changeup with about ten mph of velocity separation from his fastball. He left the changeup up in the zone a few times, but had incredible command of the slider. Corbin also showed a good ability to keep the running game under control, with a nice pick-off move helping to keep the likes of Reyes from taking extra bases.
Arizona tacked on in the fourth, with Gerardo Parra and Pollock leading off the inning with back-to-back singles. Henry Blanco popped out, but Corbin followed with what was supposed to be his second sacrifice bunt of the day. Corbin had an impressive bunt, deadening it just in front of the plate on the grass, but none of the three Marlins defenders there to pick up the ball did so immediately, and Corbin - running hard - beat out the throw, loading the bases with one out. Willie "Buehrle Killer" Bloomquist followed this by lining a double to right-center field, plating Parra and Pollock and putting Arizona up 4-0.
A sacrifice fly from Ryan Roberts tacked on another run, and brought Justin Upton to the plate with two out and a runner on second. Upton took another mistake from Buehrle and deposited it above the Clevelander, about six rows up in the stands out in left field. The rout was on, with Arizona up 7-0 on the floundering Marlins club. Paul Goldschmidt's shallow pop-up to left fell between Kearns and Ramirez for a two-base error, but Cody Ransom grounded to short, stopping the bleeding for Miami and sending Corbin back out to the mound with a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Corbin ran into trouble in the fifth, beginning with a lead-off single to Buck. Corbin fell behind pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy 2-0, then threw a nice pitch on 2-1 - a fastball on the inside edge of the plate and low - that Murphy simply put a better swing on, roping a home run just over the left field fence, putting Miami on the board. Corbin then hung a 1-2 slider to Reyes, who lined a single into left-center. Corbin got the lead runner in Reyes on a grounder to short from Bonifacio, then struck out Ramirez looking on an impeccably-located fastball on the inside black (not awfully dissimilar to the pitch Murphy homered on, coincidentally enough). A fielder's choice from Kearns ended the inning and kept the score at 7-2 after five.
A pair of crummy hits - a slow swinging bunt down the third base line by Infante and an end-of-the-bat bloop liner from Stanton into right field - put runners on the corners with nobody out to start the sixth. Corbin got Sanchez to fly out to deep left, plating Infante, and then once again spotted a perfect strike three fastball on the inner black to get Buck looking. Unfortunately, pinch-hitter Logan Morrison lined a 2-1 fastball - after perhaps catching a break on the second pitch of the plate appearance, which was called a ball despite being right over the plate - into left field, putting runners on the corners again and ending Corbin's day. Reliever Craig Breslow came on to finish off the inning, retiring Reyes with the help of a run-saving throw across the diamond from Ransom.
Corbin's final line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R (3 ER), 6 K, 3 BB, 1 HR, 7 groundouts, 2 flyouts. Corbin threw 99 pitches, 61 of which were for strikes. An impressive debut from I was sitting, though certainly with some things to improve.
Miami worked around a lead-off walk to Goldschmidt in the top of the seventh to put up a zero, sending Breslow back out to the mound for the bottom of the eighth. With one out in the inning, Breslow made the all-too-common mistake of trying to stick his glove out on an infield pop rather than getting out of the way of the rest of the infielders, interfering with Ransom and causing the ball to drop in for an error. The following hitter, Kearns, naturally made the D-backs pay for the error, crushing a home run over the left field fence to bring the game to within two runs. After getting Infante to line out to short, Breslow struck out Stanton to end the inning and limit the damage (as well as keeping the heavily-worked Bryan Shaw in the bullpen).
Arizona threatened to extend their lead in the eighth off of reliever Ryan Webb, with pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay hitting a one-out single and Bloomquist getting on base via an error by Webb on a chopper to his right that ate him up. With two on and one out, however, a brutally-slumping Ryan Roberts killed the rally, grounding to shortstop and starting an easy double play. Roberts had an 0-3 day with a walk, lowering his batting average to a paltry .152 and hitting just 1-for-28 since April 18 (h/t to Jim for this depressing figure). We have to start wondering if Arizona is getting to the point of making a move with Ryan, trying to upgrade their lineup at third base outside of relying on Ransom and Josh Bell. The hot corner seems like the most likely spot for a trade deadline rental to me, though this is likely a discussion for another day.
The D-backs threatened again in the ninth against struggling (and, might I remind everyone, ridiculously-paid) Marlins closer Heath Bell. Arizona quickly loaded the bases with nobody out on a single from Upton, a walk from Goldschmidt, and a hit-by-pitch of Ransom. Parra grounded out to first, with Sanchez perhaps unintentionally getting the force out at first before making an errant throwing home, to score one run. Pollock followed this up with a sac fly to deep center, plating Goldschmidt and putting Arizona back up by four. Henry Blanco flied out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Closer J.J. Putz was brought on the for ninth to preserve the lead, largely because he hadn't worked a game since April 22nd. Putz surrendered a lead-off double to Reyes, but followed it up with a slow bouncer back to the mound from Bonifacio, a grounder to first (and a great play from Goldschmidt) by Ramirez, and a strikeout looking from Kearns on a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner. That last pitch - perfectly located - was awfully reminiscent of 2011 Putz, velocity and all. Bam, series over, Arizona takes three of four games on the road in Miami's odd circus of a ballpark.
FanGraph for the day:
MVP! MVP!: Cody Ransom (+15.0%)
Complimentary Pieces: Willie Bloomquist (10.7%), Patrick Corbin (10.3%)
25th Man (Truly Sad to See): Ryan Roberts (-9.8%)
A pair of lively game-day threads for an early-morning Monday game, with nearly 1300 comments between the two threads at the time of writing. Arizona now heads to Washington for a set against the
Strasburgs Harpers (and Bears, oh my!). Comment of the day goes to Clefo, for his link to Rob Neyer's bit of well-timed snark: