Record: 72-70. Pace: 82-80. Change: +2
Sunday's game was nearly all about pitching, with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner striking out nine in six scoreless innings and Wade Miley nearing matching that performance with seven innings of 2-run ball. But it turned into a crazy game, with both teams making extensive use of expanded rosters, and with a rare un-blown call along the way. By the time it was over, Arizona had dropped to 16-6 in extra-inning games, as the offense scuffled yet again.
Entering the day, Arizona had been 23-20 against lefty starters this season (49-49 vs. RHP), and Kirk Gibson stacked the lineup with right-handed batters to try to take advantage. The lineup featured six RHH batters and buried LHH Miguel Montero and Adam Eaton sixth and eighth. To accomplish the run of righties, Willie Bloomquist was positioned in left field, pushing Eaton to right and Gerardo Parra to the bench. The lineup games didn't work, however -- as Jim McLennan noted in the game thread comments for the comment of the day, this was the eleventh consecutive game in which the D-backs scored 4 or fewer runs. Even America's First Baseman struggled, as Goldy went 0 for 3 with two intentional walks - Giants pitchers kept dropping balls low and away in the zone, which has become more of a weakness for Goldy this season as he has dominated the inside of the plate (more on that here).
The game started quietly as Bumgarner and Miley both mowed down hitters -- Bumgarner struck out five consecutive batters to end the first and to get all three outs in the second, and Miley successfully mixed his two- and four-seam fastballs with a slider that seemed to have more movement than normal. All told, Miley relied mostly on his sinker again, throwing it 57 times -- but he relied on the slider a bit more than usual, throwing it 24 times, more than his 4-seamer (18), change (6), and curve (4).
The Giants did their damage in the bottom of the fourth inning, after Buster Posey doubled to move Tony Abreu to third base with no outs. Hunter Pence was unable to check his swing and was called out on strikes, but Hector Sanchez continued his success against the D-backs with an RBI flare to right field. With Buster Posey then on third, A.J. Pollock tried to limit the damage with an incredible diving catch in very short center field - Buster Posey had advanced as if the ball would fall, and was shackled to third when Pollock popped right back up with the ball in his glove. Posey scored anyway, however, after Montero ran almost halfway up the first base line to field Miley's 13th wild pitch of the season.
The Diamondbacks finally scored their first run in the 8th inning, tying up the game. After Chris Owings dropped in his third career hit for a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Adam Eaton hit a line drive to left, advancing to second on the throw. With runners on second and third and no outs, Eric Chavez (a.k.a le Petit mort) contributed his second big pinch hitting appearance of the series, hitting a sacrifice fly deep enough to advance Eaton to third in addition to scoring Owings. Bloomquist then grounded out to shortstop, but with the infield playing in, Eaton was unable to score. With two outs, Pollock stepped in for his second big play of the game, working a long at bat against Casilla before singling to center to score Eaton. After Pollock stole second, Casilla walked Goldschmidt before ceding the mound to Giants closer Sergio Romo -- who then ended the inning with a single pitch, as Aaron Hill lined out to second.
In the bottom of the eighth, David Hernandez was looking for some redemption in his third appearance since getting called back up from AAA Reno. Although the inning was not without excitement -- Joaquin Arias singled with a dying quail to right field to start the inning, and was moved to second by an Abreu sacrifice bunt -- Hernandez got Posey to fly out before ending the inning by overpowering Hector Sanchez with high fastballs.
It seemed like Arizona had a rally in the makings at the top of the ninth with a no-out walk by Matt Davidson, but after Tony Campana came in as a pinch runner, he was quickly picked off first base before Montero hit a line drive down the right field line. Pence did get the ball in quickly, limiting Montero to a single, but having Campana advance to third with no outs there could have made the difference in the inning. Romo quickly slammed the door after that, striking out Owings and inducing a ground ball to second from Eaton.
Because the Giants would bat at least twice more if the D-backs were to win, Gibson handed the ball in the bottom of the ninth not to Brad Ziegler (who never did end up pitching), but to Will Harris. Pollock misread a fly ball off the bat of Gregor Blanco for a single to lead off the inning. Angel Pagan came in as a pinch hitter, and after getting rattled by a boat horn, he grounded softly to Hill to advance Blanco to second. After a long at bat, Brandon Crawford advanced Blanco to third with a very deep fly ball handled by Eaton. But Gibson wanted no part of pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval, putting him on first with an intentional walk before Sandoval advanced to second on defensive indifference. Arias hit an easy ground ball to Owings to kill the rally and send the game to extras.
Because Sergio Romo had already pitched an inning and a third, he was removed in favor of George Kontos. Bloomquist hit a hard line drive to left just out of reach of Blanco, but the real story in the inning was a call blown and un-blown by crew chief Tim Hallion at first. After Goldy was walked intentionally, Hill hit a soft ground ball in between the first and second basemen. Although Kontos clearly got his foot down to get the force, crew chief Tom Hallion initially called Hill safe; the umpire then immediately called a conference with his colleagues, however, making the rare move of reversing himself to end the inning. Gibson was not a fan of the reversal, arguing with the umpiring crew long enough or vehemently enough to get tossed before the bottom of the tenth.
The bottom of the 11th was a different story. Joe Thatcher came on to pitch the home half of the 11th, and when Hector Sanchez hit yet another single, he was lifted in favor of pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza. In the following play, Miguel Montero threw to second awkwardly (around the second base umpire) instead of throwing to first to nail Blanco -- and when Pagan sliced a line drive to left, Montero was unable to hold onto the ball in the play at the plate to give the Giants the win.
The Giants' walkoff detracted from the Arizona narrative this season - the D-backs have 13 walkoff wins to lead the majors, but had only suffered four walkoff losses until today made it five. It looked for a while like Arizona would add to its league-leading mark of 41 comeback wins, but the eighth-inning rally only prolonged the game. This was a tough loss for the D-backs, who settled for a 2-2 split of the Giants series. Entering the day, FanGraphs gave Arizona a 0.4% chance of making the playoffs, using ZiPS and Steamer projections for player performance. Even using season-to-date stats, the team's chances were considered a mere 0.7%. I think most of us had given up on the season already, but today's loss was another form of punctuation on the end of the Arizona season.
Bells and whistles
On a day when most people seemed more interested in football, soco led all commenters with myself and Dbacks4eva10101 in third. Also present: 4 Corners Fan, AzDbackfanInDc, Diamondhacks, GuruB, RobbieFVK, cheese1213, cole8865, ford.williams.10, hotclaws, insidethezona, luckycc, onedotfive, preston.salisbury, shoewizard and txzona. Comment of the thread belongs to soco:
greatest rival is traffic.
Don't look up.
Thanks to Ryan from Inside the Zona for guest-recapping this: be sure to check out his site for more on the D-backs. It's off to Los Angeles for the Diamondbacks, with little but moral victories and an over-.500 record to play for. But beating LA remains always a pleasure.