Record: 29-19. Pace: 98-64. Change on 2016: +8.
It has been fairly well-recorded that victory today, means the D-backs are 10 above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. But it’s worth noting that reaching that plateau took them an awful lot longer than 48 games. At the same point in the 2011 campaign, the D-backs’ record was 24-24, and they didn’t get 10 games above .500 until game #104, on July 27, more than two calendar months later than this year’s model. Arizona hasn’t been this far up at the same point in the schedule since 2008, when they were also 29-19, as they were in 2006. To find a better mark, you’ve to go back to 2002’s record, one game better at 30-18.
Today’s victory, and subsequent sweep of the White Sox, was certainly unexpected, both because the Diamondbacks had decided that starting pitchers were clearly over-rated, and because they were facing a tough left-hander in the form of Jose Quintana. Early on, both parts of that were playing into expectations. De facto starter, Randall Delgado, hadn’t pitched badly. But a solo home-run and a Brandon Drury error had dug the D-backs a 2-0 hole at the middle of the fourth. Meanwhile, Quintana had tossed three perfect innings. I could hardly hear the game, over the volume of GDT complaints about our level of production against lefties.
But scoring eight runs over a spell of two innings certainly has the tendency to turn those frowns upside-down. Nick Ahmed became our first base-runner with one out in the fourth, and immediately came home on a Paul Goldschmidt double to center. Chris Owings then tied the game up with an RBI single; he was out trying to reach second on the throw, but that might partly have been CO bravely sacrificing himself, in order to guarantee Goldy got to cross home-plate with the tying run. That got Delgado off the hook, his day done after four decent innings, in his first start since 2015. He allowed two runs (one unearned) on three hits and a walk, with a trio of strikeouts.
But the D-backs offense was only getting started. As we’ve seen so often before, they do an awful lot better seeing a starter for the second or third occasion. Here, they went 0-for-9 the first time through the order; 5-for-8 with a hit batter the second time; and 3-for-3 the third, before Quintana’s day was done. The fifth inning rout started with Drury being hit by a pitch, then Jake Lamb hit his second home-run off a left-hander this season, giving the D-backs their first lead. After a Chris Iannetta K, four straight Arizona hits followed from PH David Peralta, Gregor Blanco, Ahmed and Goldschmidt. An Owings sac fly and Drury single completed the six-run frame.
That made it 8-2 Arizona, but the bullpen had clearly bet on the “over”. Andrew Chafin tossed a scoreless fifth, then Tom Wilhelmsen + Jorge De La Rosa each allowed two runs, to let Chicago back into it. Wilhelmsen’s ERA is now up at 4.87, and he seems the obvious candidate to go when the team needs to make room for, say, Rubby De La Rosa [though RDLR has allowed two home-runs in his 4.1 rehab innings with Reno]. The other De La Rosa fared little better, unable to get through the seventh. He had to be bailed out for the second consecutive night by J.J. Hoover, who struck out the tying run at the plate to end the seventh, then restored order with a scoreless eighth.
This set the stage for the latest episode of the Fernando Rodney Experience, which was as... er, “interesting” as it always is. In this case, a two-out walk brought the feared Jose Abreu to the plate as the tying run. However, Rodney got a simple groundout, and the D-backs closed out the game and the sweep. Their record in interleague play this year is now 7-1: no other National League side has more than four wins. They’ve got a good shot at the best season in franchise history, currently owned by the 2003 team, which went 11-4 against the American League. Only once since has Arizona been more than two above .500 there: 2012, when they were 9-6.
All told, a game won by the offense more than the pitching staff, and remarkable in its efficiency: Arizona scored eight runs, while leaving only two men on base all day, and with a K:BB ratio of 11:1. We also faced 58 fewer pitches than the White Sox, with Owings and Lamb each seeing only 10 apiece for their four plate-appearances. Ahmed and Goldschmidt had two-hit games. There doesn’t appear to be any bullpen moves for fresh arms before we hit the road, so we’ll see what happens in Milwaukee: Wilhelmsen (29 pitches) and Hoover (37) will likely need a spell off.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Blowin' in the Wind: Jake Lamb, +15.4%
Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Paul Goldschmidt, +10.9%
Subterranean Homesick Blues: Daniel Descalso, -3.5%
A brisk GDT, ending just shy of 500 comments, not bad at all for a weekday afternoon. Present were: BIGredmc, BenSharp, BigSmarty, DbacKid, Diamondhacks, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, I suppose I'm a Pessimist, Imstillhungry95, Jackwriter, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Justin27, Michael McDermott, Sean Testerman, SenSurround, Sprankton, asteroid, cheese1213, ford.williams.10, hotclaws, makattack71, onedotfive, piratedan7, ryeandi, shanmanhall, shoewizard and smartplays. Comment of the game to ryeandi, for this, which proved undeniably accurate, if perhaps lacking a little in specificness...
It’s off to Milwaukee for four there, as the Diamondbacks begin an 11-game roadtrip. Robbie Ray starts the opener for Arizona, with a first pitch tomorrow at 5:10pm Arizona time.