Record: 82-60. Pace: 94-68. Change on 2016: +24.
I was at the dentist on Wednesday: first time in a while, and I ended up having to get three fillings. It was both quicker, and considerably less painful, than the 45 minutes of root-canal work which was the ninth inning at Chase Field tonight. The Diamondbacks entered the frame with a five-run lead, but Andrew Chafin and Fernando Rodney somehow managed to fritter that all away, and then some. Arizona got the tying run to third with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but a shallow fly-ball and a strikeout ended the game. If there’s such a thing as schedule momentum, the D-backs have lost whatever they had from the 13-game winning streak.
Instead, they managed to blow a six-run lead going into the seventh - and, worse still, was that ninth-inning meltdown. Albeit with the benefit of hindsight, I do have to question Torey Lovullo’s bullpen usage last night and tonight. Wasting Jimmie Sherfy, who has been literally unhittable since his promotion, in the ninth inning on Friday with the team trailing by four runs? Then here, using Archie Bradley to throw three pitches in the top of the eighth, and pinch-hitting for him in the bottom half - this hardly seems like optimal usage of the team’s best reliever. He was apparently saving him for tomorrow or something. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Up until that point, this game had actually gone really well. Zack Godley allowed a lead-off single in the first. He then retired the next 16 batters in a row, and that streak only ended on a dropped third strike. He seemed to be falling behind a few hitters in the early going, and had a number of full counts. But considering he walked six in his last start at Coors Field, this was a great improvement: Godley didn’t walk anyone tonight, and had a shutout through 6.2 innings. Unfortunately, before he could get the third out, a Wil Myers two-run homer appeared, but Godley still worked seven innings, striking out nine. He allowed four hits, three of them with two outs in the seventh.
Initially, the Diamondbacks’ offense had trouble figuring out crafty veteran (and former Arizona pitcher) Jhoulys Chacin. They finally found the key in the fifth, with Daniel Descalso and Ketel Marte singling. Godley put down a perfect bunt, and David Peralta singled to center, scoring both runners. Chris Iannetta was hit by a pitch, then Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez each managed to drop bloop singles between the infield and outfield. [Martinez had four hits tonight, none for extra-bases. It’s only his second such career game] Descalso got his 10th home-run, to lead off the sixth, and Ianetta added an RBI single later that inning, making it 6-0 to Arizona at that point.
It was 6-2 when the Arizona bullpen came into the game, and Lovullo used three pitchers to get through the eighth inning. David Hernandez allowed a lead-off single, then got the next two batters. With a left-hander up, Jorge De La Rosa came in, and gave up a single to the only batter he faced. With the tying run on-deck, Lovullo sent in Archie Bradley, who stranded the runners, retiring the one batter faced. Descalso and Marte got on base to start the ninth, but another questionable decision saw recently-called up Ildemaro Vargas, of all people, sent up to pinch-hit. He hit into a double-play, though Peralta did make it 7-2 with a single.
Then cometh the ninth. Andrew Chafin appears simply to be running out of bullets. He had a 1.80 ERA at the All-Star break, but in the second half, here’s his line now:
Chafin: 17.0 IP, 26 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 11 BB, 16 SO, 4 HR, 7.41 ERA
Opponents are hitting .356 against him over the past two months. Tonight, he didn’t retire anyone, and was lifted after another two-run homer to Myers, making it 7-4 and a save situation. Rodney struck out his first batter, then allowed a walk and four straight hits, four runs scoring. Matters were compounded by a two-base error from Peralta, and Rodney was ignominiously relieved by J.J. Hoover for the final two outs.
The D-backs weren’t quite done. Jake Lamb worked a walk against the Padres left-handed closer, and one out later, Martinez got his fourth hit, to put runners on the corners with one out. However, A.J. Pollock’s fly-ball was too shallow for pinch-runner Gregor Blanco to score from third, and Marte struck out, ending a brutal loss. As well as J.D, Marte and Descalso each got two hits and two walks, Peralta and Iannetta getting two hits each. I hope I’m wrong, but this feels like the kind of loss which could kick-start a Dodgers-like slump, just as the extra-inning win over the Mets in New York helped turn the team around in a positive direction, after the pounding in Minnesota.
Going back to my first paragraph, at one point this was looking like a nice, quick game. Instead, it ended up taking three hours and 33 minutes. Used to be, three hours was plenty for a regulation baseball game. In 2010, barely two in five (41%) of 9-inning D-backs games took that long. This season, it’s two in three, at 66% (86 of 130). This was already the 15th regulation game to run over 3-1/2 hours. In all 2010, that happened six times. Despite 15 runs, 25 hits and 84 PA, the game required only 340 pitches, 18.9 per half-inning. If you do the math, that’s about 38 seconds per pitch. If there’s a pace of play problem in baseball, tonight would be a good example.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Chicken Cordon Bleu: Zack Godley, +31.4%
Chicken Parmigiana: J.D. Martinez, +31.0%
Chicken McNuggets: Fernando Rodney, -83.5%
Chicken Little: A.J. Pollock, -31.1%; Marte, -17.9%; Goldschmidt, -11.1%
There was a Gameday Thread. It was happy, and then it wasn’t. Present in it were Anachronistic1, AzDbackfanInDc, AzRattler, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, DeadManG, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, JoelPre, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, SongBird, asteroid, coldblueAZ, edbigghead, hotclaws, onedotfive, smartplays and soco. Nothing turned Sedona Red. It’s probably for the best.
And, elsewhere... Cubs lost to the Brewers, the Cardinals won, and the Rockies held on to inflict yet another defeat on the Dodgers. Don’t look but Colorado are only five back of Arizona. Sure would be nice to avoid the sweep tomorrow, and stop the bleeding before the Rockies arrive on Monday. With Robbie Ray on the mound, I should feel confident... But I felt fairly confident five runs up at the beginning of the ninth tonight. How’d that work out? Put it this way: I trust I need not explain my position on Fernando Rodney, for the rest of the season...