Record: 52-31. Pace: 101-61. Change on 2016: +15.
This was a hard-fought win, where the D-backs had to overcome a trio of errors, only three at-bats all game with a runner in scoring position, and Fernando Rodney not just allowing his first hit since May, but his first, second and third to consecutive batters in the ninth inning. Somehow, the odds of victory in this one seemed long, but Arizona prevailed over their Independence Day weekend celebration, with Ketel Marte driving in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Lost in all that might be a strong return to form from Taijuan Walker, whose last start had featured a K:BB ratio of 0:5. There was going to be no repeat of that this afternoon at Chase Field, as Charlie Blackmon, the first batter he faced, striking out on five pitches. Indeed, the first five outs Walker recorded, were all by way of the strikeout, including this one, where he made Trevor Story look spectacularly bad:
However, the more dubious end of the D-backs defense was also on view. Chris Owings, playing in right, gave up an extra base in the third inning when he over-ran the ball and whiffed on it completely. Walker was able to work around that, but was not able to do so successfully following Brandon Drury booting what should have been an inning-ending double-play ball in the fourth. Story got a measure of revenge on Walker, by knocking an RBI single into center, and the visitors were first to get on the board, leading 1-0 in the middle of the frame.
However, Arizona wasted no time in responding, scoring twice in the bottom of the same inning. Paul Goldschmidt extended his lead at the top of the NL on-base percentage board, with his second walk of the game, and one out later, Chris Owings dispatched the first pitch he saw from Colorado’s German Marquez, a couple of rows deep into the Chase Field bleachers. The two-run shot was his 12th of the season, and third of this series. He has now doubled his previous career high in home-runs, and has also already tied him career high for runs batted in, this being #48 and #49.
But the Rockies were not to be denied either. Seeing Walker for the third time seemed to result in some better looks. With one out in the fourth, Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado hit consecutive singles, and the game was tied up again at 2-2. Fortunately, our old friend, Special K, hit into an inning ending double play to prevent any further damage. Walker settled down, and didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way. He ended up going seven innings, allowing two runs (one unearned) on six hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts. His season ERA is now down to 3.30, which is not much worse than that of our two All-Stars, Zack Greinke (3.05) and Robbie Ray (3.06).
He left the game here in line for the win, Arizona having retaken the lead in the bottom of the sixth, in part due to some Colorado defensive indifference. With two down, Jake Lamb led off with an infield single, Arenado being charged with an error on his throw, that moved Lamb to second. Chris Owings walked, and the struggling Brandon Drury came to the plate, having only three hits in his last 30 at-bats. He was clearly due, banging an RBI double to left-center, and giving the Diamondbacks their lead back, by a 3-2 margin.
After Walker left the game, the eighth inning was successfully handled by some twin-barrelled De La Rosa action. Rubby retired the two batters he faced - including making Mark Reynolds look almost as stupid as Story on three pitches, finishing him off with a 99 mph fastball. He was then followed by Jorge, who allowed a two-out single before ending the inning. I’ve not checked, but doubt we have ever in team history had two pitchers with the same surname relieve each other. Shame we didn’t still have Eury De La Rosa on our books, just for completeness.
That brought us to the ninth, and the Fernando Rodney Experience, which finally hit the speed-bump most fans knew would happen eventually. The streak of outings without an earned run - without a hit even - had to end eventually, but I was hoping it might consist of allowing a run when the D-backs had a two-run advantage. No such luck: he seemed shaky today from the get-go, falling 3-0 behind the first batter he faced. While Rodney recovered to retire that man, the next three all got hits, the first allowed by F-Rod since May. That included an RBI single to tie the game, though Rodney got LeMahieu and Arenado to pop-up, and keep the game tied.
Time for the offense to pick him up, clearly. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Drury singled. Chris Iannetta, who seems to have a fondness for late-inning heroics, then flipped the ball down the left-field line for a double. That brought up Ketel Marte, with the Rockies playing a five-man infield to try and cut the runner down at the plate. He took a couple of ugly swings, missing badly at pitches out of the zone, and fell behind 1-2, but then got a pitch he could handle and drove it over the head of one of the two outfielders, for the Diamondbacks’ 29th comeback win, and sixth walk-off. He got drenched in the post-game interview. So, for once, did Jody Jackson!
The win, coupled with the Dodgers’ loss, sets up the series in Los Angeles with the D-backs 2.5 games back. So, if we sweep Los Angeles, we’ll get to leave in sole position of first place. Of course, that would likely mean beating Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill, a tough trio of left-handers. The team is heading off, with another dress-up session - just like the last time we walked off the Rockies at Chase Field, if my memory serves me right. Here’s Torey Lovullo’s post-game interview, via @FoxSportsAZ.
Lovullo: "I know this team will be ready" for the Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/sNG5w7v3wR— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) July 2, 2017
Fangraphs appears broken, so there’s not Win Probability Chart available for this one. However, if I’d to guess, it would probably involve Marte, Walker and Iannetta. Though Marte gets some demerits for having been caught stealing after singling to lead off the fifth, with the pitcher at the plate and the score tied. Still, I think all told, we’ll let him and those who committed the fielding errors off with a tap on the wrist, as long as they promise not to do the same thing in Los Angeles...
WPA Calculations and Graph by Michael McDermott:
Life of the Party: Ketel Marte +22.6%
Party Guests: Brandon Drury +19.8%, Taijuan Walker +17.4%, Chris Owings +17.8%
Not Invited: Fernando Rodney -20.1%
SongBird led the GDT just ahead of GuruB and CumulusChoir. The full list of attendees is as follows: BigSmarty, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, EphBoston, GuruB, Jackwriter, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, Keegan Thompson, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, PaulGoldsmith, SongBird, TucsonPete, asteroid, catbat, coldblueAZ, hotclaws, kilnborn, megnetic, noblevillain, onedotfive, piratedan7, since_98, smartplays and winger49. Comment of the thread to SongBird:
Works for me. And on to Los Angeles, with normal service restored, and the Rockies dispatched, now sitting 4.5 games back of us, and the Dodgers 2.5 games in front. It’ll be an interesting series I think, and a real test of the D-backs mettle: are we genuine contenders for the division title, or should we be limiting our aspirations purely to the wild-card? The three upcoming games will likely go some distance toward answering that question.