Record: 93-69. Pace: 93-69. Change on 2016: +24.
I went in to today’s game looking for some larger themes to play out – one franchise’s window closing, as the Royals and their fans said goodbye to five of the franchise’s major stars (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas). Another franchise’s window opening, with everything finally coming together for the Diamondbacks and high hopes for our first postseason. Weightiness, symbolism, irony – all were potentially present for this final game of the regular season and I eagerly expected them. What I got was a Michael Bay movie. No depth, no plot, no A-list actors – but lots and lots of action.
The game started with the lead-off batter, Gregor Blanco, reaching for the first of five times he would be on base during the game. And, just like the first inning of the other two games of this series, he was stranded there as Pollock flew to right and Goldy and JD both struck out. Visions of terrible RISP numbers began to dance in my head while my worry meter for Goldy spiked. Honestly, he looked terrible at the plate the entire series, going 0-9 with 4 strikeouts and a walk, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about (A) his performance in the postseason, and (B) his chances to win the MVP. Still, it’s Goldy, and I know he’ll figure it out. Which is kind of what the offense ended up doing today.
On the mound, Robbie Ray started for Arizona and looked completely dialed in, even on the pitch that Eric Hosmer blasted down the line in his first at-bat for his career-high 25th home-run. Cue the heavy sentimentality, but it was a nice moment for the KC crowd and pretty much the highlight of the game for the Royals. I knew that Robbie was going to be on a pitch count limit today, but I definitely did not expect it to be in the 20’s. After going 1 2/3, he was lifted for David Hernandez, and the
spring fall training game began in earnest. [Editor: That left Ray at exactly 162 innings for the series, which qualified him for the ERA leaderboard]
Arizona ended up using 24 players from the 25-man roster – 16 position players and eight pitchers – with only Archie Bradley sitting it out. KC got in on the roster roulette action as well, using 15 position players and six pitchers. My scorecard looked like an Escher sketch by the time it was all over. Of course, a big reason for that was all the crooked numbers Arizona put up throughout the game. The only two innings the team failed to score in, the 1st and 3rd, were innings in which the starters were still in the lineup. Chris Iannetta hit a solo shot in the second to tie up the game (he went 2 for 4 on the day), while Jake Lamb had a sac fly RBI in the 4th. After that, though, the game belonged to the bench.
The bench players had 10 of the team’s 13 RBI’s today, while the string of pitchers out of the bullpen (with the exception of Anthony Banda) executed just about flawlessly. As might be expected, the three and four spots in the lineup generated eight runs today, but what was definitely not expected was the names of the guys in those spots doing all the damage – Ildemaro Vargas and Jeremy Hazelbaker. Hazelbaker’s three run shot in the 5th put the game out of reach, while Vargas went 3 for 4 on the day and had RBI’s in the 6th and 7th and scored on Hazelbaker’s single in the 9th.
I can remember Mark Grace describing a win by Micah Owings one time as a turkey being made to look like an eagle, and that description certainly applies to the performance Anthony Banda turned in today. In just 1 1/3 innings, Banda managed to cough up three hits (OK, technically just one because errors were involved on the others, but still), two walks and somehow only one earned run, while getting one strikeout. He was charged with a blown save, but still got the win. While the rest of the Diamondback pitchers looked good today, the best performance out of the pen today definitely belonged to Silvino Bracho, who struck out four of the five batters he faced and looked dominant for his turn on the mound. On the day, the pen went 7 2/3 innings, allowed only one run on five hits and combined for nine strikeouts.
Along with the popcorn and lemonade, Arizona put on a pretty satisfying matinee show today, and the team has to feel pretty confident heading into Wednesday’s game with that kind of performance from their bench and bullpen. I definitely have some lingering concerns about Goldy’s hitting in general, Lamb’s hitting against lefties and whether or not Ketel Marte, who left the game in the 6th with an apparent injury, will be ready to go on Wednesday. All in all, a good ending to the regular season and a solid springboard to launch into our first postseason game since 2011. Go Diamondbacks!
Bells and whistles, by Jim
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
The Sound of Music: Gregor Blanco, +22.5%
Mary Poppins: Hazelbaker, +15.8%; Iannetta, +13.6%
The Princess Diaries 2: Anthony Banda, -10.6%
Present in the last regular season Gameday Thread of the year were: AzSnakepitGreeter, BenSharp, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, DeadManG, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, PaulGoldsmith, Skii, SongBird, asteroid, coldblueAZ, hotclaws, megnetic, onedotfive and rustynails77. Two comments of the game for this one. One to hotclaws for her remarkable achievement of being an ever present:
The other is a throwback comment to April 1, when everyone was asked to predict the win tally the Diamondbacks would get this season. One person, and one person only, nailed it. Step forward, bensharp!
Thanls to red_leader for recapping this from on site in Kansas City - and to all the guest recappers this season, for their unique perspectives over the course of the year. Next game for the Diamondbacks will be on Wednesday as they take on the Rockies in the wild-card game. Things won’t exactly be quiet around here though over the next couple of days, as excitement will continue to build to a fever-pitch...