Diamondbacks 3, Nationals 2: Nothing Wrong with Being Average

Paul Goldschmidt is congratulated by fans and team-mates after his 8th inning removal. - Christian Petersen

Record: 81-81. Pace: 81-81. Change: 0.

With the Diamondbacks out of the play-off race mathematically for a while, and logically for much longer, there was nothing to play for but pride and hopes of finishing a second straight season at .500. Call that average, call it mediocre, call it whatever—at least it’s not a losing season. The Washington Nationals seemed willing to give this one away, sitting anyone even remotely noteworthy on their roster. No Jayson Werth. No Bryce Harper. No Ryan Zimmerman. No Ian Desmond. Instead, we got dudes with names like Stephen Lombardozzi. And, yet, Arizona still found a way to make it "exciting" and far closer than it should have been.

When the series started, the D’Backs needed to take one of the three games in order to end up 81-81. Over the last couple of days, the Nationals have made it look like that might not happen. There was still one shot left, though. Gibby decided he’d continue being a "players’ manager" by having Willie Bloomquist lead off in what might be Willie’s last game in Sedona Red. In another homer decision, Gibby ran Tuffy Gosewich out there as starting catcher, leaving Miguel Montero on the bench throughout and using Wil Nieves for no more than pinch hitting duties. The rest of the team, however, could be considered the A Line-up, and was facing a Nationals team that was anything but.

Wade Miley started with a bit of a shaky first inning. After getting Jeff Kobernus (who?) to fly out to center, Miley allowed a single through the left side to Anthony Rendon. The fact that former D’Back Scott Hairston was hitting in the three hole should tell you a lot about the Nationals’ line-up. He lived up to expectations by popping up to Aaron Hill in shallow right field. After working a 3-1 count, Tyler Moore was able to move Rendon into scoring position with a single into center. Fortunately, Miley was able to strand both runners by getting Zach Walters to fly out to Gerardo Parra in right.

My questions about Gibby’s line-up seemed silly when Bloomquist led off the bottom half of the first with a single to center field. Adam Eaton followed with a bunt to the left side of the infield. Tanner Roark made a mess of things, throwing the ball away and allowing Bloomquist to move to third and Eaton on to second. Two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Paul Goldschmidt followed with a sac fly to score Bloomquist and pad his National League RBI lead. Martin Prado would follow with a ground ball to third. For some reason still unknown to humankind, Eaton decided he’d break for third with the ball right in front of him. Not surprisingly, Walters threw to Rendon to get Eaton out. Prado ended up on first base due to the fielder’s choice. Aaron Hill would end the inning with a grounder to second, but at least we had the lead!

The top of the second saw a plethora of Nationals batters with names meant to puzzle the best of spell checkers. Miley gave up a single to Lombardozzi, but was able to erase that with a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Jhonatan Solano. Eury Perez followed with a single to center, bringing up the pitcher. With two outs, seeing the pitcher up should have been a relief. Miley did his best for that not to be so, needing eight pitches to get Roark to finally strike out and end the inning.

The game seemed to be zipping right along, but only because offensive futility was the mark of the day for both teams. It wasn’t until Arizona’s defense decided that the Nationals needed a bit of help that Washington’s offense was able to get anything going. The likelihood of a sub-.500 season reared its ugly head in the top of the sixth. Tyler Moore hit it hard at Martin Prado. Prado was able to corral the ball, but threw wildly and Goldy wasn’t able to dig the ball out. The throwing error by Prado was the second of the day by a D’Back infielder, but this one left a mark that Bloomquist’s error two innings prior had not. Walters again hit a fly ball to right field. Parra charged on the ball, but was unable to get to it, allowing it to roll all the way to the right field wall. Some of the online play-by-plays indicate this was scored as an error on Parra, but others indicate errors were committed only by Bloomquist and Prado. Either way, his misplay allowed Walters to advance. Moore scored to tie the game, and Walters ended up on third base. Lombardozzi followed that up with an RBI single to left, giving the Nationals a 2-1 lead. Miley was finally able to get his team back in the dugout with a foul-out by Solano, a strike-out from Perez, and a ground-out by Roark.

The Diamondbacks tried to get it going in the bottom of the seventh. After Prado was retired, Hill was walked to end a streak of nine in a row sat down by Roark. The Nationals decided to share in the defensive futility, putting A.J. Pollock on first via a throwing error by Rendon. Parra followed that up with a single to left. Matt Williams put up the stop sign for Hill, who was unable to score even though left fielder Kobernus had difficulty getting a handle on the ball. At least bases were loaded with only one out, right? Well… Gosewich would strike out looking at one right over the heart of the plate. Nieves was sent in to pinch hit for Miley, but could only ground out to second and end the hopes of tying the game. Far too many instances of leaving the bases loaded this season, especially when runners have been in scoring position with fewer than two outs.

David Hernandez came in to pitch the eighth, and continued with his much improved performance since coming back up from Triple A. The pitching change on the part of the Nationals would not go so well, as Ryan Mattheus came in to pitch the bottom of the inning. He got Bloomquist to strike out on one in the dirt, but Eaton followed with a single to center field. After working a 3-0 count, Goldschmidt moved Eaton to 3B with a single to right. Thus, Goldy ends the season on a 19-game hitting streak. Prado followed with a single to left, scoring Eaton to even the score at 2-2. At this point, Tony Campana was sent in to run for Goldy at second. Hill’s sac fly moved Campana up. Two down. Would we get the lead? Pollock said, "Hell, yes!" The go-ahead RBI came courtesy of an infield single that struck Mattheus and rolled away. Pollock was in at first on a headfirst slide, and Campana crossed the plate to make it 3-2, Arizona. Xavier Cendeno would enter to pitch, getting Parra to end the inning on a grounder to second. But we were only 3 outs away from a .500 season.

Brad Ziegler came in to do his thing, while Eric Chavez replaced Goldy at first. Ziegler got Solano out on a swinging third strike way out of the zone. Sandy Leon came in to pinch hit, and was also dismissed via the strike out. Corey Brown was then sent in as the Nationals’ last hope…and ended the season with a ground out to Chavez.

The season started out with a major revamp of the team. It seemed headed for good things, with the Diamondbacks leading the division for most of the first half. There might even be play-offs in the picture, we thought, making everyone who questioned the revamp look mighty silly. Unfortunately, we came back to reality and the Dodgers remembered that they’re spending lots of money to win this division. So, here we sit right where we were last September—a .500 team who is done before October. You can blame it on the injuries, you can blame it on the philosophy of the front office, you can blame it on the ridiculous amounts of money the Dodgers are able to spend. It doesn’t much matter, though. Even after I stopped hoping for the play-offs, I enjoyed the hell out of this team. I hope they shore up the weaknesses, but that will inevitably mean that guys we love will get traded away and we will angrily debate the wisdom of it all once again. It’s part of baseball. Just don’t trade Gerardo Parra, dammit!

See y’all in Sydney next spring!

COTD goes to GuruB:

81-81 81-81….. We are not a losing team!!!

Professional Lurker... if you see this, there may be a problem..

*Diamondback Game Day Threads excluded* @GuruB_Tucson on twitter

by GuruB on Sep 29, 2013 | 3:40 PM reply rec flag

Bells and whistles

[Click to enlarge, at]
Paul Goldschmidt: A.J. Pollock, +27.8%
Gerardo Parra: Ziegler, +17.0%; Eaton, +12.7%;
Goldschmidt, +11.2%; Prado, +11.0%; Miley, +10.3%
Jason Kubel: Tuffy Gosewisch, -17.7%
Ian Kennedy: Wil Nieves, -15.5%

We go out on a high note, with exactly 600 comments between the preview and gameday thread. SongBird just pipped imstillhungry95, 85-83, with Clefo in third place. Also seen, bidding farewell to the 2013 season were: 4 Corners Fan, AzDbackfanInDc, Diamondhacks, FatBoysEatMeat, GuruB, Jim McLennan, Paper Clip, The so-called Beautiful, asteroid, azshadowwalker, catbat, cheese1213, hotclaws, kishi, onedotfive, shoewizard, soco and xmet.

Thanks to azshadowwalker for the last guest recap, and the Diamondbacks now get to spend the next five-plus months on a winning streak. :) We, however, are far from done here, so keep checking back regularly for updates as the post-season and off-season progresses.

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