August 7, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) prepares his bat in the on-deck circle against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Record: 56-54. Pace: 82-80. Change on 2011: -5
I was writing the obituary for this one as we headed into the eighth inning, down by a run to to the Pirates. After all, how often had we managed to come back that late in a game? That's a rhetorical question: coming in, Arizona were 3-41 when trailing after seven innings, and the Pirates were 53-0 when leading at that point. But, get out the Crayolas and color me Tickled Pink, for another couple of Chris Johnson bombs helped turn this one around, salvaging what could have been a nail in the coffin of our season, and turning it into a blowout victory for the Diamondbacks.
The game started brightly for Arizona, with Stephen Drew singling to lead things off, advancing on a couple of ground-outs, and scoring after Paul Goldschmidt pinged one off the butt of the Pirates' starter. However, the lead didn't last long, as a pair of hits greeted Patrick Corbin to put runners on the corners with no outs. Andrew McCutchen hit a fly-ball to Gerardo Parra, but out center fielder tried to throw home while omitting the important step of catching the ball. Fortunately, he was able to recover and get the runner out on a force-play at second, and Corbin retired the next two batters to keep the game level.
Parra's unfortunate afternoon continued in the second. Miguel Montero led things off for the Diamondbacks with a double to left-center, and advanced on a ground-ball by Chris Johnson. However, Parra was unable to convert with a man on third and one out, staring at strike three. Inevitably, Montero was stranded. Add in the recent talking-to Parra received from Kirk Gibson about base-running kindly describable as "over-enthusiastic," and this hasn't been the kindest of months for Parra: he's currently 1-for-August, in 14 at-bats. [The talk, I note, didn't stop another TOOTBLAN from Gerardo in the eighth]
Arizona did manage to retake the lead in the third, though again, one sensed they should have done better. Drew led off things with his second home-run of the year, and with one out, Jason Kubel singled and Paul Goldschmidt doubled to right-field - as the commentators noted, it meant that he had half of the team's eight hits to that point in the series, having got both our knocks last night. But with a runner on third and one out, it was Justin Upton's turn for some offensive futility, waving at strike three after coming back from 0-2 down to work a full count. Montero couldn't deliver either, flying to left for the final out, but at least the D-backs were ahead again.
This one didn't last long either, though there's an argument to be made that blowing this lead was at least partly on Gibson. With two outs, the Pirates doubled, bringing McCutchen to the plate. Instead of putting the .367 hitter aboard and pitching to the .203 guy, Corbin pitched to the man leading the league in batting average. The RBI single which followed was almost striking in its inevitability, tying the game up once more. But the Pirates repaid us in kind our next time up. After a Parra single and excellent two-strike bunt by Corbin, Pittsburgh opted to pitch to the left-handed Drew rather than the right-handed Aaron Hill, and Drew delivered with his third hit of the night, giving us lead #3.
It stuck around for a bit, though it got more than a bit dicey in the bottom of the fifth, as the Pirates started with a lead-off double. Their pitcher failed to get the bunt down, however: a walk and a ground brought McCutchen up, once more with two outs and an open base, men this time being on second and third. Gibson didn't mess around this time, Montero putting up four fingers to load the bases. It was only the tenth intentional base on balls the D-backs have handed out all season: that's the fewest in the league, and it's not even close, with the 15th-place Mets having 60% more, on 16. But it worked here, as the .203 hitter grounded out to Drew.
Corbin stranded another two runners in the sixth, and his night was over there. He allowed two runs on six hits and three walks, with a career-high seven strikeouts, so certainly did his job. It extended the streak of quality starts by the Diamondbacks pitchers to eight, the most they've had in a row since posting 11 consecutive games from September 12-22, 2008. However, the offense had gone missing too, with Arizona being held hitless in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, with the only base-runner managed being a two-out walk to Drew in the seventh. Both teams went to their bullpen that frame, with the D-backs still holding to a one-run lead.
That worked better for the Pirates than the Diamondbacks, as Takashi Saito allowed a home-run to the first batter faced, tying things up for the third time. Worse followed, and followed quickly, as the Pirates then went single, double, and Gibson then opted for an intentional walk to load the bases. That made tonight the first Arizona game in more than a year with their pitcher issuing multiple IBBs, the last one being June 19th, 2011. Mike Zagurski came in, and got an out, but it was just deep enough for the Pirates to take the lead, despite a strong throw from Kubel; Brad Ziegler cleaned things up with his 13th double-play in 43.1 innings.
However, with only six outs remaining, things seemed dire for the D-backs. You'd have got long odds against them scoring four runs before recording an out, given they hadn't scored four runs in the preceding 16 innings. But that's exactly what happened. Goldschmidt slammed a hard double off the wall, Upton followed with a single, and Montero tied things up with an RBI single, despite his patented "free tacos" swing. Chris Johnson then clobbered his fourth homer in eight games with Arizona, a three-run shot that gave him 13 RBI since coming here: that's more now than John McDonald and also passed Geoff Blum over his entire two years with us.
David Hernandez showed no apparent ill-effects from taking a comeback off his calf on Sunday, and retired Pittsburgh in order in the eighth. The D-backs then piled on, with an RBI double from Montero, and Johnson picking up his second homer of the day and another two RBIs in the top of the ninth. J.J. Putz, having already warmed up, came in to protect the six-run advantage, and had no trouble doing so, closing out a victory with Arizona successfully protecting their four lead of the day.
The Sea Hawk: Paul Goldschmidt, +32.3%
Pirates of the Caribbean: Johnson, +22.6%, Montero, +12.8%, Corbin, +12.3%
Cut-throat Island: Takashi Saito, -49.2%
An enthusiastic Gameday Thread tonight with 850+ comments. DC piped ish95 for the most comments, and third-place commenter asteroid was twice as far behind. All present were: blank_38, snakecharmer, piratedan7, hotclaws, imstillhungry95, asteroid, soco, Bcawz, txzona, AzDbackfanInDc, CoachD11, onedotfive, dbacks79, Airwave, Turambar, Clefo, Murricles, Muu, sonic barracuda, rd33, porty99, Kevin Nguyen, Gildo, Medusas_Daughter, Rockkstarr12, GuruB, DivineWolfwood, PR151, egboyz, peachBazket, Bryn21, CaptainCanuck, The so-called Beautiful, Husk, deerhaven, and Fangdango.
Tonight's Comment of the Thread goes to GuruB with a sardonic commentary on the use of Mike Zagurski instead Brad Ziegler with the bases-loaded and no outs in the seventh.
More tomorrow, folks, with the same two teams facing off at the same Pirate-time, same Pirate-channel. If it's the same Pirate result, I wouldn't mind...