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Diamondbacks Post-Season Post-Mortem: Game 3

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There: that's better, isn't it? And in just about every conceivable way: good pitching, clutch hits and another entry added to our ever-expanding collection of "Opposing Pitchers Losing Their Gloves in the National League Division Series at Chase Field." Collect the set...  There seems to be something special about Tuesday nights in Phoenix - for the second consecutive week, the Diamondbacks get a sterling starting performance from a rookie pitcher, but this was overshadowed by a grand-slam from a player that wasn't even supposed to be on the roster this season. Let's look at both of those, as we prepare for (yawn) another elimination game.

Josh Collmenter Pwns Milwaukee Once More
Collmenter's game last night was the best post-season debut, as measured by Game Score, in Diamondbacks history, surpassing the 71 posted by Brandon Webb in the opener of the 2007 NLDS against the Cubs. Here's how it stacks up against the other examples in the playoffs for Arizona.

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
1 Josh Collmenter
2011-10-04 MIL W 3-1 GS-7 ,W 7.0 2 1 1 2 6 0 93 60 73
2 Brandon Webb 2007-10-03 CHC W 3-1 GS-7 ,W 7.0 4 1 1 3 9 0 89 58 71
3 Doug Davis 2007-10-04 CHC W 8-4 GS-6 ,W 5.2 5 4 4 4 8 1 112 69 47
4 Ian Kennedy 2011-10-01 MIL L 1-4 GS-7 ,L 6.2 8 4 4 1 3 1 111 77 44
5 Omar Daal 1999-10-08 NYM L 2-9 GS-4 ,L 4.0 6 3 3 3 4 0 39
6 Daniel Hudson 2011-10-02 MIL L 4-9 GS-6 ,L 5.1 9 5 5 0 6 1 93 58 36
7 Micah Owings 2007-10-15 COL L 4-6 GS-4 ,L 3.2 6 6 2 2 2 1 84 52 33
8 Albie Lopez 2001-10-13 STL L 1-4 GS-3 ,L 3.0 4 4 4 3 0 2 51 30 32

Interestingly, this was a very similar line to that put up by our expansion siblings' rookie Matt Moore of Tampa Bay, in his post-season debut. Both men went seven innings, allowing two hits, two walks and striking out six. The only difference is that one of Collmenter's hits allowed left the park. I wouldn't expect the national media to notice Collmenter quite as much; of course, Moore is a good bit younger, and also did it after only one regular-season start.

Collmenter seemed to struggle with his control - or perhaps the strike-zone - early on. In the first inning, only half of the 20 pitches he threw were for strikes, though a couple more could have been called that way. However, the rest of the way, 50 of 73 were in the zone, a 68.5% rate which is right there with the 66.8% strike-rate Collmenter threw in the regular season.  Still, the three free passes [two bases on balls and hitting Fielder] he allowed was definitely upper-end for Josh. The only game in the regular season with more was July 29, where he had two walks and two HBPs.

On the other hand, this was countered by six strikeouts, more than usual too. When Collmenter gets K's, Arizona usually profits. Including last night, there have been eight games where Josh has had more than four strikeouts, and our record in those contests is 6-2, with Collmenter's ERA 2.53. Certainly, tonight's game ran counter to what some expected, predicting problems as teams grow more familiar with his delivery. This was the third time he has faced Milwaukee, but the results weren't much different. He has now thrown 21 innings against them, allowed six hits and one run. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked about this after the game:

That's what the coaching staff is asking ourselves, "Why is this guy so tough?"... It's just something about that deception on the fastball, and his changeup is very good. The changeup is down in the zone always, and he's got great motion on it, and then he spots his fastball well. I don't know. I've looked at other games that he's pitched and I've seen some where he's pitched well and some where he hasn't done as well and it comes down to command on that fastball. I can't see corners, but it looked like he commanded the fastball pretty good.

Here's what Collmenter had to say about his approach:

Coming into the game I knew I had success against Milwaukee. I knew if I executed my game plan, I could get them out. I didn’t have to pitch out of my head. I think that gave me some confidence to know that if I ever got in the situation with some runners on or got in a jam, I knew I’d pitch out of it by executing pitches against different guys... "I exceeded my expectations a little bit. My goal was to give the team a win – whatever I had to do just to keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win down the stretch.

Mission accomplished, Josh. Mission accomplished...

"#Beast Mode just got #Goldschmidtedon" [© Daniel Hudson, 2011]
As epic as the slam was, the lead-up to it was perhaps more interesting. Holding up four fingers has been one of the themes of this series so far: both giving (Game 2) and not giving (Game 1) them have backfired into Kirk Gibson's face, so it was nice to see the boot on the other foot. This was an even starker demonstration of why - and I'll keep banging on about this for as long as it keeps going wrong - "generally, an intentional walk is a poor strategy." Just as the crowd in Milwaukee may have played a key role in their big inning during Game 2, the same thing may have been the case in Arizona, on the play which set up the open base.

Marcum said Upton hit a fastball off the end of his bat, but he could not hear the bat splinter amid the Chase Field noise and expected a sharp come-backer. "I was upset that I didn't field it," Marcum said. "I thought it was coming back harder than it was. It just hit off the end of the glove and got away from me a bit and we weren't able to get the double play there."

As noted previously, Miguel Montero's previous at-bats certainly played into the decision to walk him. He looked an awful lot better in his first two trips to the plate, driving in a run with smooth, compact swings instead of furious hacks with the bat more appropriate to a montage from a Martin Scorsese movie. The platoon numbers likely played into the decision as well, with Miggy being a left-hander and Paul Goldschmidt a RHB. Except, here are their career splits:
Montero vs. RHB: .277/.346/.472 = OPS .818
Goldschmidt vs. RHB: .277/.351/.504 = OPS .855
Small sample size for Paul, but why would putting the former on base to get to the latter, seem a good idea?

During the regular season. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Kirk Gibson had an equal aversion to the intentional walk. The teams were tied for the lowest number in the NL, and it wasn't even close. Arizona and Milwaukee delivered 16, the next lowest was 41. Roenicke said of his dislike, "It bites us because we make bad pitches...  I don't like it. You load the bases sometimes when you have an open base, when you load 'em it puts that pitcher in a position where if he gets behind in the count he's in big trouble." After last night, I suspect that's a position which is unlikely to change.

And, just because: