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Diamondbacks 3, Nationals 5: Snakes slither home

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The weather co-operated, but the D-backs didn’t, and the final road game of the 2016 campaign ended in defeat.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Record: 66-93. Pace: 67-95. Change on 2015: -12.

Predictions from some quarters that there would be a deluge of Biblical proportions proved to be incorrect. Though it was hardly ideal baseball weather (Jody Jackson had her poncho on again!), today’s game in Washington started on time, and proceeded to its conclusion without any weather-related interruptions. There will therefore be no need for the team to fly back to Washington on Monday for a make-up game. Though since the Nationals are now 2.5 up on the Dodgers for NLDS home-field advantage as they head into the final series, it looks less likely that would have been necessary.

Early on, it seemed that the Nationals batters were the ones who wanted to get this over quickly, while the D-backs wanted to hang around. Jean Segura drew a 12-pitch walk to open the game off, and it took Nationals’ starter Joe Ross 18 pitches to record his first out. In contrast, it took Diamondbacks’ starter Robbie Ray 18 pitches to get through the first two innings. This pattern continued, with Ross requiring 58 pitches to get through the Arizona batting order the first time - particularly remarkable, because he didn’t actually allow a hit to that point.

That streak ended in the top of the third inning. His first pitch whistled narrowly over the head of Segura, who stared back at the mound inquiringly, then banged the next pitch back up the middle for hit #201 on the year. Chris Owings followed with another single, and one out later, the Diamondbacks took the lead, as Jake Lamb singled Segura home for the first run of the game. The Arizona bats were then all but packed up and shipped to the airport, even though Ross was gone after just four innings. From Lamb’s RBI through the end of the eighth inning, the only D-backs hit was a Paul Goldschmidt single to lead off the sixth. Lamb then walked, but the next three hitters all made outs, without even advancing the runners.

Ray’s day also fell apart in a welter of poor control. The Nationals quickly tied things back up with a one-out home-run in the bottom of the third, that the strong wind just failed to push foul. But it was a three-run fourth where Ray’s struggles with location proved most destructive. After getting the first out, Robbie loaded the bases on two walks sandwiching a single, and both those free passes came across home-plate, on a ground-out and two-RBI single. It looked like things might be worse, Ray apparently giving up an RBI hit to the pitcher, but that was reversed on appeal.

Despite now being three runs down, Ray was allowed to hit for himself, leading off the fifth inning, but wouldn’t make it through the bottom of the frame. Another one-out home-run made the score 5-1 to Washington, and after an out, a walk and a single, Ray’s 2016 season was over. He ended charged with five runs on five hits and four walks over 4.2 innings, with three strikeouts. Ray simply seemed to run out of gas in September, posting an ERA in the final month of 7.98, despite striking out 37 in 29.1 innings of work. Six home-runs and 17 walks indicate there’s still work to be done before Ray can be classed a front-of-the-rotation starter. Hopefully, he’ll improve that control for 2017, and become all he can be.

The D-backs bullpen was solid, with Zack Godley cleaning up Ray’s inherited runners, then pitching a scoreless sixth. He was followed by zeroes from Silvino Bracho and Daniel Hudson. Arizona then made things somewhat more interesting in the ninth, as Brandon Drury singled to lead things off, and Socrates Brito then delivered his fourth home-run of the year, an estimated 393-foot shot to center which brought the visitors within two runs. The only significant impact was that this forced Dusty Baker and the Nationals to go to their closer, who got the final two outs, and the series ended in a split. Which is okay, I guess. Segura and Lamb each had a single and a hit, and the D-backs finish with a road record of 36-45, four games worse than last year.

The defeat also means that the Diamondbacks’ magic number to clinch at least a share of last-place in the NL West is now one. To climb above the Padres, we would need San Diego to lose tonight’s contest against Los Angeles tonight, and then sweep them over the weekend series in Phoenix. The team also sits in fourth place for Tankapalooza 2016, in a virtual tie with the Braves (who have played two games less at time of writing) and one-half game behind the suddenly-slumping Rays, who have lost six straight and nine of their last ten.

[Click for details, at fangraphs.com]
Sunny spells: Jake Lamb, +13.6%
Heavy rain: Robbie Ray, -30.7%
Scattered showers: Brandon Drury, -10.0%

Thanks to those who got up for some moist, morning mediocrity. That would be: AzDbackfanInDc, AzRattler, GuruB, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Makakilo, Oldenschoole, Xerostomia, gamepass and piratedan7. There was one rec in the entire game, so since you couldn’t be bothered, I don’t see why I should, and there is no comment of the game.

And there ends the road portion of the 2016 campaign. The Diamondbacks now return to Arizona for the final series of the season, a three-game set against the Padres at Chase Field. The big question is whether the team can draw over two million in attendance - they need 70,631 over the weekend to do so. The SnakePit will be doing their part, since SnakePitFest 2016 (presented by the asteroids) will be taking place there tomorrow night.