The Arizona Diamondbacks 2017 began without much anticipation for a postseason run. Torey Lovullo’s squad started the year with a walkoff of the San Francisco Giants at home on Opening Day that set the tone. Shelby Miller was lost to injury along the way, but J.D. Martinez joined the ride to assist with a 13 game winning streak, the longest in franchise history, and the Diamondbacks reached the Postseason for the first time in 6 years. That season came to an end tonight against the best team in Major League Baseball, by win loss record, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Arizona’s million dollar per start man, Zack Greinke, took the mound against Los Angeles’ midseason acquisition, Yu Darvish. Valley resident and former Olympian Michael Phelps was on hand to throw out the first pitch at Chase Field with the roof open in front of a sellout crowd of 48,641.
Zack Greinke was pitching with runners on right from the start when Chris Taylor doubled on the 6th pitch of his at bat to begin the game. There would not be an inning in the game where Greinke did not allow a Dodgers batter to reach base be it via a hit or walk. Corey Seager then walked after 7 pitches giving the Dodgers 2 baserunners with Greinke’s pitch count at 13 before recording a single out. Justin “Red Hot” Turner mercifully flew out allowing Taylor to advance to 3rd with 1 out. Valley native Cody Bellinger grounded out to Paul Goldschmidt with his only play being at first base allowing Taylor to score and give the Dodgers an early lead. Yasiel Puig was met with loud boo’s from an active Diamondbacks fan base and flew out on the 10th pitch of his at bat to A.J. Pollock to end the Dodgers half of the frame. Greinke needed 29 pitches to retire the Dodgers in the first.
That was in stark contrast to the performance turned in by Japanese sensation Yu Darvish who needed the minimum 3 pitches to strikeout Diamondbacks leadoff man David Peralta. Ketel Marte provided the Diamondbacks first and only hit until the 5th inning with a silky smooth bunt to first base for an infield hit, his 7th hit of the Postseason in 4 games. That gave Arizona an opportunity to at least even the score with Paul Goldschmidt up to bat who already had 2 first inning home runs and 5 RBI this Postseason, but he was retired after flying out to center. Darvish only needed 1 pitch to handle the slugging J.D. Martinez who grounded to shortstop Corey Seager and took the force on Marte at second base. 1-0 Dodgers after the 1st inning.
By the 2nd inning it was obvious even from the stands that the Dodgers had an effective game plan against Greinke. They were simply going to refuse to swing at anything outside of the strike zone. Austin Barnes led off the top of the 2nd and flew out to A.J. Pollock after seeing 7 pitches. Curtis Granderson faced a similar fate after 4 pitches, and it appeared as if Greinke might have been able to escape the 2nd inning with less than 20 pitches in the frame. In stepped 38 year old Chase “Silver Fox” Utley, who should have been retired fairly easily, but managed to draw a walk after seeing 8 pitches allowing Yu Darvish to step to the plate. If you are noticing a trend with the mention of pitch counts at this point, it is because it was obvious. Greinke was able to strike out Darvish to end the Dodger 2nd, but that at bat required another 6 pitches. 54 pitches through 2 innings of work for those of you not counting at this point, but the damage limited to 1 run on 1 hit through 2 innings.
Yu Darvish continued his effective pitching against the good guys. Jake Lamb struck out on 4 pitches to begin the bottom of the 2nd, and it took a measly 2 offerings for Pollock to fly out to Seager. Daniel Descalso took the start at 2nd base tonight, but he ended the inning with a strike out himself. 3 outs on 11 pitches for Darvish who was at 23 total after 2 frames. The difference was startling and it aided in quieting a raucous Chase Field crowd. Score remains 1-0 Dodgers after 2.
Alas! Greinke retired Taylor on a pop out to Goldy after 1 pitch! Surely this would be the inning he would find his footing and turn this into a true pitcher’s duel, right? Seager followed his 7 pitch walk in the 1st inning with... sigh... a 6 pitch walk in the 3rd inning. Now we are right back where we started. Justin Turner, who basically refuses to draw an out this Postseason, followed with a single advancing Seager to 3rd. Greinke was able to secure a very important out number 2 when Bellinger flew out to a charging Peralta which kept Seager at 3rd. Puig was walked on 4 pitches loading the bases for the Dodgers with 2 outs and an opportunity to do some real damage. However, Greinke was able to weasel his way out of any such damage and the inning ended as it began with a 1 pitch out off the bat of Barnes. Normally, one would be fairly excited in an inning where 3 pitches resulted in 3 outs which is exactly what Greinke needed in the 3rd. The only problem was that there was 14 other pitches sandwiched between those outs. Was Zack Greinke even going to make it past the 5th inning?
The Diamondbacks went down without much of a fight in their half of the 3rd. Jeff Mathis, Greinke, and Peralta all grounded out allowing the Dodgers to return to the dugout rather quickly. Perhaps the most exciting moment during that inning came at the end in the hapless Diamondbacks Match Game on the Jumbotron. For those who are unfamiliar, it is where one lucky fan is given 30 seconds and 12 numbered cards, or 6 pairs, where they have to call numbers to draw a match. And they fail. Miserably. Every single time. Not much to it in the 4th for the Diamondbacks who were struck out in order by Yu Darvish. Marte, Goldschmidt, and Martinez, the heavy lifters of the Postseason if you will. Score remains 1-0 Dodgers after 4 innings of play.
Jim was able to successfully thwart an attempt to start the wave, so he tweeted, earlier in the game but proved no match for the barrage of cell phone lights in the Dodger 5th. As fate would have it, Cody Bellinger took Greinke deep to left center extending the Dodger lead, and suddenly everyone put their phones away. Funny how that works. Seriously, am I the only person that thinks that ritual is a predecessor to disaster for the Diamondbacks? Greinke ended the 5th on his 103rd pitch of the night, and reasonable minds would have assumed his night would end there, but they would be wrong. After a strikeout from Lamb and ground out from Pollock, Daniel Descalso hit his 2nd home run of the Postseason to finally get the Diamondbacks on the board. It was their first hit since Marte’s bunt single in the 1st. This is where the string of questionable managerial decisions began for me. Greinke should have been pulled at this point, and Jeff Mathis with him. With momentum feeling as if it was shifting to the Diamondbacks, it was Mathis, not Chris Iannetta, who stepped to the plate for the next at bat. There is no certainty that Iannetta would have continued the rally, but what we do know now is that Mathis flew out to Bellinger who made a catch over the railing of the Dodger dugout to end the inning. 2-1 Dodgers after 5 innings of play.
With the pitcher’s spot due up next half inning, Greinke was back on the mound for the 6th. That proved to be a costly mistake when Austin Barnes homered on the 2nd pitch of his at bat, and just like that the momentum created evaporated into the desert air. Greinke’s night was finished after 105 pitches, failing to record an out past the 6th inning. Greinke allowed 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 5 walks. Jorge De La Rosa entered in relief. After allowing a ground rule double to Enrique Hernandez, Utley was able to advance him to 3rd with a ground out. David Hernandez, one of 2 remaining Diamondbacks players from the 2011 Postseason team, followed coming into the game to the tune of Gangsta’s Paradise. I know Dodger fans felt at home in that moment. Hernandez was able to retire both batters he faced to end the inning and prevent further runs from the Dodgers.
Chrsitian Walker made his pinch hit appearance 1 inning too late if you ask me, and took a true beating at the plate. It took him being hit by a pitch not once but two times before he was given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to advance to first. Darvish first hit him in the hand and was visibly in pain, but after replay review the umpiring crew ruled that the ball hit the knob of his bat resulting in a foul ball. Of course, they could have just taken his word for it because a few pitches later a 94 mph fastball from Darvish would make contact with Walker’s helmet. The umpires finally showed him mercy, and allowed him to advance to first. Yu Darvish would have his night end there after 74 pitches through 5 innings allowing only 1 earned run on 2 hits and 7 strikeouts. Tony Cingrani entered and got David Peralta to quickly ground into a double play made possible as he struggled to get out of the batters box. 3-1 Dodgers after 6 innings.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks season hanging in the balance, Archie Bradley was called upon in the 7th facing a 2 run deficit. He retired the first 2 batters he faced on groundouts rather quickly, but then followed that up with walks to both Bellinger and Puig. After a steady diet of fastballs, Bradley struck out Barnes with his curveball on the 7th pitch of the at bat. Once again the heart of the order was due up for the Diamondbacks with a chance to tie or even take the lead, and once again they came up short. Tony Cingrani needed only 7 pitches to carve through Goldschmidt, Martinez, and Lamb.
Archie Bradley would pitch a spotless 8th, but the Diamondbacks were put down in order leaving 1 inning of play between either elimination or living to fight another day. Bradley was back out on the mound for the 9th with the game on the line. He was able to record the first 2 outs quickly again, but that pesky Justin Turner was able to knock his 6th hit of the Division Series with a single to right field. Andrew Chafin entered to relieve Bradley who threw 48 pitches to face the lefty Bellinger. He hit a shallow fly ball that Peralta was able to dive and make a snow cone catch, but the ball came loose when his glove hit the ground. Rather than argue the call made by the left field umpire, Peralta got up and fired to Iannetta at home to peg Turner who had been running from first on contact to end the inning.
Would the Diamondbacks find that same 9th inning magic as they had the very first day of the season? After Gregor Blanco struck out hitting for the pitcher to begin the inning, David Peralta was able to reach first on a single. He advanced to second on a ground out from Marte, and with 2 outs the fate of the Diamondbacks season was held by none other than Paul Goldschmidt. He fouled off 3 pitches from Dodger closer Kenley Jansen and was eventually able to draw a full count. On what would have been ball 4 bringing J.D. Martinez to the plate as the potential winning run, Goldy flailed at the pitch ending the 2017 season for the Diamondbacks.
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Thank you to everyone who participated in the final GDT of the 2017 season. Tonight, I am going to forgo a CoTN and instead hand out thank you’s.
First and most importantly, I would like to echo Blake and thank Jim McLennan for allowing us to run wild in your castle. Having an avenue to write about this team and express my fandom this season has been an absolute dream come true for me made possible by your generosity. You are a talented writer and deserve more credit for everything you do around here. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I am forever grateful.
Thank you to the membership of the AZ Snake Pit for reading and commenting on my articles and allowing me to express my biased and extremely flawed opinions. I am not nearly as talented as some of the other writers here or as articulate as some of the members, but you have helped shape the lens my young mind sees the game through. I look forward to our discussions in the offseason.
Thank you to the Arizona Diamondbacks for giving me purpose in life and freeing my mind from the mundane day to day. This has been one of my most memorable seasons of my Diamondbacks fandom. I am already looking forward to the first day of Spring Training 2018!
Be sure to stick around for all the offseason content from the amazingly talented writing staff here at the AZ Snake Pit. Offseason strategy discussion is where this place really takes off for me and what led me here. Cheers to a memorable 2017 season!