When the story of the 2012 season is written, there's a very good chance that last night's dispiriting defeat to the Florida Marlins will represent the game which finally ended our flickering hopes of retaining our NL West title. Losing a game is one thing. Losing a game at home, against the cellar-dwellers in the NL East, after being five runs up at the end of the first inning, is quite another. There's an awful lot of possible targets for the blame game in this one, so let's round up the usual suspects and enjoy a day-trip to Recrimination Nation.
First seven batters: 4-for-4 , 5 R, 5 RBI
Next 38 batters: 4-for-32, 0 R, 0 RBI
For an offense which was so productive up until they made the first out, the rest of the game showcased a startling lack of clutch. The Diamondbacks certainly had chances to add on. But after they got hits in their first three plate-appearances with runners in scoring position to take that 5-0 lead, they were then 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way. However, it's hard to blame them too much: regardless of whether you score them all in one inning or across them all, five runs at home should be enough for a victory. In the NL this year, teams that do that have gone 83-38, including last night.
Kirk Gibson: "We had a five-run lead; he threw 34 pitches in the second inning, walked the leadoff guy and gave up two runs... He didn't shut them down and get deeper, and it hurt us." If Cahill had shut the Marlins down, there's a good chance they would not have troubled the Diamondbacks the rest of the way. Instead, he gave the Marlins that most dangerous of all weapons: hope. Even a single run might have been okay, but for a supposed sinkerballer to allow a ground-rule double to the opposing pitcher is close to unforgivable. A better performance from Cahill would also have helped out the bullpen, before a double-header that will tax our relief corps to its limits.
New rule: who gets charged with inherited runners depends on where they are. If they're on first base and the reliever lets them score, they're his, not the starter's. Albers had been decent in his previous appearances, but chose a really bad time to have his first stinker, as three of the five base-runners he faced, reached safely, and he fully deserved to be named Deputy God-Emperor of Suck for his -19.8% WPA.
Congratulations, Sam Demel. Your first game of the year, and you may just have effectively ended the D-backs season.— AZ SnakePit (@AZSnakepit) August 22, 2012
I got some flak for the above Tweet, but I stand by it: there are good reason Demel was stashed in the minors, not least a major-league ERA after the All-Star break last year of 12.71. I was surprised to see him promoted, and really wish we had a better option than using Demel in a tied game. The result, however, was thoroughly unsurprising.
So, let me get this right: you intentionally walk Jose Reyes to pitch to Carlos Lee - but won't intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton (career OPS: 138) to pitch to Greg Dobbs (career OPS: 88)? That's what happened in the 10th, and Stanton duly delivered the game-winning RBI single. However, Gibson was left playing with one hand, both off the bench and in the bullpen, for a couple of reasons - it's hard to blame him much for that.
Justin Upton and Gerardo Parra
Upton left after the first because of tightness in his right hamstring. He's listed as day-to-day, and it's probably a case of the team being cautious; they likely thought the game was in the bag with a five-run lead. Replacement Parra led off three times, twice with the game tied, and once in the final inning when we trailed by one, but failed to get on base. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the five hole, leading all batters with a -17.9% WPA. His early entrance into the game, led to a domino effect which ended with our only available bench player - John McDonald, who hadn't played since August 12 due to a shoulder issue - making the final out with the tying run on second.
Saunders short outing left the bullpen having to throw 5.1 innings, leaving them short in available options for last night's game. Brad Bergesen went three-plus innings of mop-up, but it's been more than a year since he has thrown 45 pitches in the majors, so he may not be available for today's double-header either. As a result of being used on Monday, Brad Ziegler had to go back-to-back and was lucky to escape with the bases loaded, while that was Shaw's second appearance on consecutive nights and he was unavailable. If Saunders had gone deep, we might have been able to replace Drew with a position player, and not been short-handed on the bench.
There are plenty of candidates for the supporting nominations, e.g. Jake Elmore, whose hesitation in the 10th let the lead-off runner reach base, and eventually score. And it's hard to argue we should have won a game where the Marlins stranded 15 base-runners and had 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But anybody I missed whom you feel was particularly worthy of a nomination?