Record: 53-37. Pace: 95-67. Change on 2016: +15.
The team’s struggles with regard to clutch hitting did not appear to have been quelled by the All-Star break or the trip to Atlanta. The first four innings tonight were more or less a constant procession of D-backs getting into scoring position against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, then being stranded there.
- First inning: Lead-off walk, one out single
- Second inning: Lead-off HBP, one-out single
- Third inning: One out single, two-out walk
- Fourth inning: One out double
Four innings with runners in scoring position: 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, including some hard-hit balls for the Diamondbacks that unerringly found the gloves of Braves’ fielders. By the end of the night, that figure would have increased to 2-for-11, and it’s that which continues to give me confidence this is just a glitch in the matrix. Yes, the D-backs have lost nine of twelve games. But six of those losses, including tonight, were by one run. Anything like reasonable RISP production in those, and we’d likely be 6-6 at worst. Unless you believe in “clutch” as a Real Thing, that’ll come round eventually.
Tonight, the main positive was a very solid outing by Taijuan Walker, who bounced back after looking shaky in his last appearance before the break. He allowed a lead-off double to Ender Inciarte, on a pitch up in the zone, and the former D-back then came around to score on a two-out single. But Walker then buckled down, and kept it a one-run game through five innings, while the offense struggled to solve the enigma known as Dickey. Taijuan ended up with another quality start, holding Atlanta to two runs over six innings, on five hits and no walks, striking out four.
Arizona finally managed to get something going in the sixth. One-out singles by Chriw Owings and Brandon Drury put runners on the corners for Daniel Descalso. We could hardly have drawn it up any better, as Descalso had perhaps had the best at-bats against Dickey going 2-for-2 with a double. And here, he legged out an infield RBI single, his third knock of the night, to level the scores at one. Jeff Mathis got in on the fun, with a single that loaded the bases. However, it was Walker who was at the plate: there was some discussion whether he should have been pinch-hit for, and also about how the D-backs’ threat was eventually snuffed out.
As the D-backs loomed, it didn’t help there was a mysterious glitch for the bullpen phone, which apparently stopped working. Mike Butcher was reduced to hand-signals to communicate with our relievers. The frame then ended on another non-challenge from Torey Lovullo. Taijuan Walker hit into a double-play, but there would be a credible case that he actually beat the throw to first across the bag for an RBI groundout. The booth thought so; above is a screenshot. I’m not sure if, again, Lovullo wanted to save his appeal for a clearer opportunity, or if, as Nick Piecoro suggested, the team just ran out of time. But that play instead marked the end of the sixth inning.
As in the Reds game, the failure by Lovullo to pinch-hit for Walker or challenge the out felt like it might have marked a turning point in the game. For patented D-backs’ killer Freddie Freeman - who leads all active players in OPS against us (min 50 PA) - went deep with one out in the bottom of the sixth, giving Atlanta another lead. However, Paul Goldschmidt tied things back up with two outs in the top of the seventh. He took advantage of the Braves leaving in a left-hander to face him (perhaps relying on his relative struggles there this year), getting just enough to send the ball over the fence in left-field. It was his 21st home-run of the season, and made it 2-2.
Jake Barrett tossed a scoreless bottom of the seventh to make it a brand-new game. Chris Owings then floated a ball over the left-hand side of the infield for a lead-off hit. He took second-base during Brandon Drury’s at-bat, and was able to advance to third, as the throw from the catcher tailed off to the right, and into center field. Drury wasn’t able to get it done, flying out to the shallow outfield and neither could Descalso, who grounded out to the drawn-in infield. Torey Lovullo opted to pinch-hit for Jeff Mathis with Ketel Marte. He didn’t end up needing to do much; a wild-pitch was uncorked and Owings scurried home with the go-ahead run.
Unfortunately, this was followed by the rarest of rare things: an Archie Bradley stinker. He allowed three consecutive hits to open the inning, though they included an infield single and a bloop double down the right-field line. He didn’t get any help from the defense too: on the third hit, the go-ahead runner fell down going around third-base, and was left sprawling in the dirt. But the throw from the outfield went into second-base, and he was able to pick himself up and still get home to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. Bradley ended up allowing a season-high four hits in the eighth, before getting out of it with runners on the corners. He struck out the side around the hits.
The D-backs then went down lamely in the ninth, after a long, loud first out to Inciarte in center, off the bat of A.J. Pollock. The defeat dropped the D-backs even further back of the Dodgers, who came back in the ninth to win against the Marlins. But the Rockies were absolutely murdered by the Mets in New York, losing 14-2. So, no matter how bad things may get: at least we’re not Colorado...
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Repo Man: Chris Owings, +47.2%
Alien: Paul Goldschmidt, +15.5%
The Care Bears Movie: Archie Bradley, -53.6%
Never Talk To Strangers: Pollock, -14.0%; Lamb, -11.9%; Peralta, -11.0%
Present in the GDT for this one were: Anachronistic1, AzDbackfanInDc, BenSharp, BigSmarty, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, DeadManG, DesertWeagle, FONZY541, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Joey Lewis, Justin27, Keegan Thompson, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, Renin, Xerostomia, aldma, asteroid, coldblueAZ, grimmy01, hotclaws, jacques_souvenier, noblevillain, onedotfive, smartplays, winger49. Not the happiest of threads, given we led this for precisely one out. No Comment of the Night awarded here.
We’ll try to get back on the winning track tomorrow in Atlanta, when Patrick Corbin starts for Arizona. It’s a 4:10pm first pitch there.