Record 17-12. Pace: 95-67. Change on 2016: +5.
If you’d told me before first pitch, that Robbie Ray would hold the Nationals to two runs, while we’d chase Gio Gonzalez after five innings, in which he had allowed seven walks, I’d have taken that in a heartbeat. But thanks to some remarkably sloppy plays on both sides of the ball, the D-backs were not able to take advantage, dropping the second game of the series in Washington, despite a performance from Ray which was among his best ever as a Diamondback.
It felt as if the D-backs’ fielding had been somewhat improved of late, after a rocky start to the season. The official box-score will reflect that, showing a game tonight without errors by Arizona. This is a wicked lie, a calumny of epic proportions every bit as much as the two earned runs it shows as charged to Ray. For both runs were significantly - indeed, I’d venture to say, entirely in the first case - the result of botches by the D-backs defense. Meanwhile, the offense ran themselves out of a potentially decisive inning with the score tied, went hitless with runners in scoring position, and had some ugly at-bats in key spots.
The game had started so very brightly too. One batter in, Chris Owings connected (above), for his fifth home-run of the season, to give the visitors an early lead. Robbie Ray then came out in the bottom half of the inning, and struck out Trea Turner. Then struck out Jayson Werth. And finally, struck out Bryce Harper, all the while throwing 97 mph, with movement. In the second inning, Ray then got Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, before the sixth batter Robbie faced was finally able to put the ball in play, grounding out to a nice play from Nick Ahmed. It looked like the one-run lead Owings had provided us, might be all the Diamondbacks would need.
Then the bottom of the third happened, beginning with what was perhaps the worst play I’ve seen by an Arizona left-fielder since Operation Trumbo Drop, on Opening Day 2014 in Sydney. It was a hard-hit ball toward Yasmany Tomas, and may have been knuckling as it approached. But that doesn’t excuse the feeble... flail he made at the ball, falling over to his right, rather than catching it. And it certainly doesn’t make up for Tomas staying down. If A.J. Pollock had not been backing up the play, it could well have been an inside-the-park home-run. Instead, it was a leadoff triple - with Tomas still taking a knee, as the runner slid safely into third.
Ray, undaunted, almost managed to escape. He struck out the Nationals’ #8 hitter, and carved up Gonzalez to an 0-2 count, coming within one strike of getting the second out, and giving him a real chance of escaping the inning. But he then threw a less than perfect slider, and although it was an easy ground-ball off the pitcher’s bat, it was still enough for Washington to tie the game up. Ray then struck out Turner again, for his seventh K through three innings, but the damage had been done. He got out of a two on, one out jam in the fourth, but a 1-2-3 fifth with two strikeouts saw him back in charge, and with his pitch count still very manageable, at less than 80.
Then the bottom of the sixth happened. Ray got the first two, including Werth for his 10th strikeout - that gave Arizona the major-league record, having fanned 10 or more batters in nine consecutive games. But it was rendered no more than a nice footnote, as Brandon Drury let a ground-ball from Harper get under his glove, and Zimmerman brought him home with an RBI double (that could perhaps have been played better too). Ray’s night was done after six innings, as the team then needed offense: his final line was two runs on four hits and a walk, with 10 strikeouts. It was a great outing, and deserved a better fate than an L.
The Arizona batters played their part too, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, on a day when Gonzalez’s wildness should have allowed the D-backs to put the game away. Nothing demonstrates that more than the fifth inning, where Gonzalez allowed a hit and three walks... and still didn’t allow a run, because with two on and one out, Owings was caught stealing third-base. Drury ended that frame, striking out with the bases loaded, and had a wretched day: 0-for-3 with 3 K’s in only 13 pitches, and six men left on base. You know it has been a bad day, when Daniel Descalso comes in as your defensive replacement...
Tom Wilhelmsen and T.J. McFarland worked scoreless innings of relief, but the D-backs were unable to score against the Nationals bullpen - who, today, consisted of one guy, working four innings. A.J. Pollock got a two-out double in the ninth, but Owings (who did have two of the team’s six hits) grounded out to third, ending the game. Jake Lamb and Tomas each drew a pair of walks, while Nick Ahmed and Pollock reached base twice, with a hit and a walk apiece. I suppose it’s comforting that the team, overall, played so badly, and still lost only by a single run. However, this feels a lot more like an opportunity wasted.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
It's A Man's Man's Man's World: Robbie Ray, +4.9%
Super Bad: Brandon Drury, -15.7%
Get Up Offa That Thing: Owings. -14.9%; Mathis, -10.0%
Thanks to the GDT participants, who were: ARizona dbacks, AzDbackfanInDc, BIGredmc, BenSharp, BigSmarty, FormerlyChelsea75, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Hazzard21, I suppose I'm a Pessimist, Imstillhungry95, Jackwriter, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, JoeyLewis, Keegan Thompson, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, Rcastillo, Sean Testerman, SedonaRed24, SenSurround, SongBird, Sprankton, aldma, blue_bulldog, coldblueAZ, ford.williams.10, hotclaws, kilnborn, megnetic, noblevillain, onedotfive, piratedan7, preston.salisbury and smartplays.
Comment of the thread to piratedan7. Sean was at the game in Washington and posted a photo of the view from his seats, just after the Yasmanypocalypse, which prompted this reaction:
Series finale tomorrow, and it’s a VERY early game, with Braden Shipley making his 2017 debut, and only having to go up against Max Scherzer. Piece of cake, Braden. First pitch there will be at 10:05 am, Arizona time, so I’ll be setting my alarm to do the preview!