Record: 66-54. Pace: 89-73. Change on 2016: +16.
Apparently, a lot of people have forgotten that this a very, very good Astros team. As in, the best record in the American League. And it’s not even close, since they entered play five games better than any other AL side. Even splitting the four games between here and Houston - and we actually still can do that, if we win tomorrow - would actually be pretty damn impressive. There are reasons they are currently on pace to become the first AL side since the 2009 Yankees, to win 100 games. Yet I literally saw someone on Twitter proclaim the death of the Diamondbacks season during the game tonight. Really?
Indeed, at one point in the eighth inning, this looked like it was going to be one of the more impressive comebacks. For back-to-back home-runs by designated hitter Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez, had suddenly pulled the D-backs to within one run, and the Astros were suddenly scrambling to see if there were any better relievers around there. However, turns out they needn’t have bothered. For Torey Lovullo’s somewhat-odd attempt to squeeze a third frame out of T.J. McFarland failed miserably, as he failed to retire any of the three batters faced; David Hernandez and Andrew Chafin allowed them all to score, plus one of their own.
It does appear McFarland has become our designated long reliever. Going back to the game where he came in after the untimely departure of Robbie Ray, he has made seven appearances. All but one have involved at least five outs. However, the results have been... not brilliant. Including tonight’s outing, his line over that time is:
McFarland: 14 IP, 21 H, 15 R, 13 ER, 5 BB, 5 SO, ERA = 8.36
This is mop-up relief. There’s a place for that, as when he pitched 2.1 innings while the Cubs feasted at Wrigley. But after the offense has given you a gift and got you back to within one run? I’d rather have seen someone higher up the bullpen totem. Plenty of misfortune to go around tonight though.
Taijuan Walker will wear the L, allowing nine hits and two walks over five innings, with three strikeouts. It’s the second outing in a row with an underwhelming K:BB, though Houston’s bats did seem to find holes, and Arizona’s pitchers weren’t helped by the defense. The Astros’ scored two unearned with two outs in the fourth, after Brandon Drury’s error allowed the lead-off man to reach base, and Chris Iannetta also allowed a pair of wild pitches. That gives us 59 on the season: three behind the Padres for the NL lead, and only ten down on the tally for all of last year. Iannetta and Jeff Mathis may be framing gods, but blocking is not apparently in their skill-set.
Walker: “I really don’t think it was a struggle to find anything....just one of those games where anything they hit, they found the hole.” pic.twitter.com/u8ZlsNOiSQ— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 17, 2017
The D-backs were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, continuing a streak whose length now appears to be closing in on a Westeros winter. That hit came in the second inning, when Brandon Drury doubled home Iannetta, after the latter had worked one of the three walks he drew tonight. Iannetta may be only batting .228, but between the walks and the dongs - that was #11 here - his OPS is north of .800, which is likely among the top 10 for catchers. But there were also 13 more strikeouts for Arizona, to add onto the 17 last night. It was the 20th time this year we’ve K’d more than a dozen times - though our record in those is probably better than you’d think, at 8-12.
There was a brief surge of optimism in the top of the eighth inning. Jake Lamb singled with one out, and that was followed by Goldschmidt’s 29th home-run of the year, a no-doubter somewhere around the train tracks in left-field. Martinez went the other way to get his 8th homer in 24 games for us. But Descalso flied out, and the brief glimmer of hope was ruthlessly stomped out, by the McFarland, Hernandez and Chafin trilogy of suck. Martinez had two hits, but with the Rockies’ win, the D-backs drop back into the second wild-card spot. The Brewers won; the Cardinals got walked off in Boston. I forget, which of those two are we supposed to be worried about today?
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
A League of Their OWn: Chris Iannetta, +12.7%
Swept Away: Taijuan Walker, -30.4%
Present in the Gameday Thread were: AzDbackfanInDc, BigSmarty, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, DeadManG, Diamondhacks, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Makakilo, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, Oscar Goldman, PaulGoldsmith, SenSurround, Xerostomia, coldblueAZ, hotclaws, kilnborn, onedotfive and smartplays. Nothing got more than one rec, so it’s appropriate that there is no comment of the game for this one. 3/10, would not watch again.
Tomorrow, we see the Astros for the last time until the World Series - hey, we can all dream, can’t we? It’s another weird day game time, starting at 11:10 am Arizona time. Set those alarms, people. Patrick Corbin will start, as the D-backs try to get that previously-mentioned impressive split.