NLDS Record: 0-1.
There’ll likely be a lot of questions being asked of Torey Lovullo after tonight. But they won’t be the same ones as were being asked of Torey Lovullo before tonight. Those were mostly to do with the choice of Jeff Mathis over Chris Iannetta to start at catcher, with a side order of whether Jake Lamb should start at third. I didn’t hear very much in the way of complaints prior to the game, about the choice of Taijuan Walker to take the mound. With Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray unavailable due to the wild card wildness, there likely wasn’t a “good” option. Personally, I thought Walker was as decent as any, with decent results against the Dodgers this year.
That was then... For welcome to Stating The Obvious 1.0.1: It’s never a good thing when your starter needs 38 pitches for the first out. That was what happened to Walker, who was unable to repeat that regular season success, leaving way too many offerings hittably up. The serious blow was a three-run homer on a nothing pitch, which flew out of the park, off the bat of Justin Turner. An RBI single by the Puig added insult to injury, in a four-run first inning for Los Angeles, as the first five Dodgers hitters all reached, on four hits and a walk. Walker did rebound to strike out the side (around a no-pitch intentional walk to the #8 hitter), but he was done.
The carnage which has been this post-season for starting pitchers continues. There have been 16 starts made so far, including tonight’s game. HALF of them have lasted less then four innings. In the regular season, only 10.9% of starts were as short. There must be something in the water. The three outs recorded by Taijuan Walker tonight makes it, by quite some way, the shortest start in Diamondbacks’ post-season history. The previous tersest among the 37 games was three innings. That had happened in a trio of outings: Albie Lopez in the 2001 NLDS, then a week later in the NLCS, and most recently, Joe Saunders in the 2011 NLDS. Oddly, all of them were Game 4.
They flashed a stat which showed Clayton Kershaw was 98-1 in his career with four runs of support. That nugget more or less confirmed this would be a very tough climb uphill for the D-backs, against one of the best pitchers in the majors. The first priority was to stabilize the situation, and that responsibility fell to Zack Godley, who certainly did that, putting up zeroes in the second and third. It allowed the D-backs to get on the board, as A.J. Pollock connected with a low pitch and swatted it into the bleachers, making it 4-1 after three. Hope increased slightly further, after J.D. Martinez singled to lead off the fourth, but Brandon Drury hit into a double-play on a full count.
Hope was then basically extinguished, since the bottom of the inning was death by a thousand cuts, the Dodgers scoring three runs on one genuinely solid hit. Godley dialed up the ground balls, they just found gaps. Or for variety, were butchered by Zack himself for an E-1, when he should have left the ball for the Gold Glove winner he might recall we have playing first base. I can’t be too hard on Godley, who was thrust into a basically impossible situation. He had to deliver the longest post-season relief outing in team history, passing Brian Anderson’s 3.1 innings in Game 4 of the 2001 NLCS mentioned above.
The Diamondbacks did get one back in the top of the sixth, as J.D. Martinez did the J.D. Martinez thing. It was his third career post-season home-run, following two with the Tigers in 2014. If only Goldschmidt had not hit into a double-play immediately prior to Martinez’s shot... It was that kind of night. Everything we hit hard found gloves; everything the Dodgers hit softly found grass. Though, in a weird way, it’s kinda comforting: the luck would have sucked a lot more if this has been a close game, like so many of the previous games had been. Tonight, it felt like the stars were aligned in a configuration dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft. Who was clearly a Dodgers fan.
Arizona weren’t done though, adding two more solo home-runs in the seventh to cut the deficit to 7-4. They came from Ketel Marte and - of all people - the maligned Jeff Mathis. The latter ended Kershaw’s night: another underwhelming post-season line, four earned runs over 6.1 innings. Christian Walker came off the bench, and lined a pitch to right, putting the tying run on-deck for the D-backs, with the top of the order up. However, nothing came of Walker’s presence on the bases. That also ended Godley’s night: he went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks, with five K’s. He threw exactly 100 pitches: we couldn’t ask for much more.
David Hernandez did a nice job of stranding a lead-off triple from the Puig in the bottom of the seventh. The Diamondbacks then got the tying run back on deck with one out in the eighth as well, courtesy of a Martinez infield single. But Drury hit into another double-play, his second of the night, to kill that rally. Andrew Chafin and Jimmie Sherfy weren’t able to post a shutdown inning, allowing the Dodgers to score two more in the eighth. Though at least the Dodgers still ended up using Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning, despite a five-run lead.
If it hadn’t been for those insurance runs, things might have got interesting, as Marte’s second hit of the game was followed by a walk to Daniel Descalso, which would have brought the tying run to the plate. Instead, it remained firmly entrenched in the Arizona dugout. While a run did score on a Dodgers error, that was also the second out, and the game ended as it had begun, with a Peralta plate-appearance. He hit a screaming liner - exit velocity per Statcast, of Mach 3 - which, naturally, found its way directly into Jansen’s glove for the final out. As I said, it was that kind of an evening.
I don’t feel too bad, oddly enough. The first inning sucked, sure: thereafter, we played the Dodgers even, and chasing Kershaw from the game is no mean achievement. I can’t say I was ever expecting to win this one. I’m certainly hoping Robbie Ray does a lot better tomorrow than our starting pitchers have so far in this post-season: Greinke and Walker have combined to allow eight earned runs in less than five innings. We’re kinda fortunate to be 1-1 in those games, I think. At least we didn’t blow a five-run lead and get walked off in the 13th inning, unlike some teams I could mention...
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Kon-Tiki: J.D. Martinez, +5.1%
Titanic: Taijuan Walker, -31.6%
S.S. Minnow: Brandon Drury, -13.0%
Hefty GDT: I’m proud of y’all for sticking around, when it would have been easy to bail after the first inning. Present were: AzRattler, Azreous, BigSmarty, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, Dcarbajal, DeadManG, DesertWeagle, Diamondhacks, EdDunkle, Fangdango, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, Juvi Juice, Keegan Thompson, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, Mr Butterworth, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, RAF2018336, RMHSVoice, Rcastillo, SongBird, Sprankton, The so-called Beautiful, TinySarabia, TylerO, Xerostomia, aldma, asteroid, coldblueAZ, edbigghead, hotclaws, onedotfive, rustynails77, samath, shoewizard and smartplays. Comment of the night to edbigghead
You’ll never go wrong with a Predator quote. Tomorrow, it’s the Dodgers once more, but with Robbie Ray starting for the D-backs, I feel more optimistic. First pitch is a little after 6pm, Arizona time.