Record: 76-58. Pace: 92-70. Change on 2016: +20.
I mentioned in the preview, solid starting pitching has been key to the D-backs success in this streak, and Taijuan Walker continued that streak tonight in Denver. Pitching at Coors is never a fun job, but he kept the Rockies off the board for five innings. That was certainly much more than the B-bullpen did, but the offense took advantage of some free base-runners and Colorado errors. It extended the team’s streak to the longest they have managed since the end of August 2011.
As has been their tendency of late, the D-backs got on the board in the first inning. It began with walks to David Peralta and Chris Iannetta, then A.J. Pollock jumped on the first pitch he saw for an RBI single. Paul Goldschmidt then gave it a good effort, flying out almost to the warning track in right. I was a bit surprised Iannetta didn’t tag up on the play and get to third with one out. And that ended up costing the Diamondbacks, becauses J.D. Martinez then hit into an inning-ending double-play, Nolan Arenado stepping on third-base and then firing across for the out at first.
Taijuan Walker had a first inning best described as “interesting”. He struck out the side. Yay! But it took him 31 pitches to do it. Boo! He put up a zero. Yay! He left the bases loaded, on a hit and two walks. Boo! Still, we’ll forgive him, since he drove in Arizona’s next run in the second inning. Brandon Drury singled, and Adam Rosales doubled to the right-center gap, locating the ball immaculately between the closing Rockies’ outfielders. With Walker up, scoring was by no means certain. But Mark Reynolds and their pitcher somehow both failed to cover first, and Walker had an RBI on an infield single. But another double-play ball, this one by Peralta, ended the frame.
Walker struck out the side again in the bottom of the second, this time without triggering conflicting feelings: in order, and on 15 pitches. The D-backs scored their (by now) traditional run per inning in the top of the third, A.J. Pollock getting on his horse with a triple to left-center, then coming home on Martinez’s sacrifice fly. Hey, at least this inning wasn’t ended with a double-play. Walker got his count of consecutive outs by the K up to eight, before a ground-out ended the third. But more concerning was Chris Iannetta being hit on the hand by Arenado’s swing, knocking the glove clean off: it was kinda odd, but Walker stranded the runners to escape with another zero.
Disappointingly, the D-backs were kept off the board in the fourth, and the Rockies threatened, courtesy of a lead-off double. However, Walker continued to weave his way through traffic, stranding another two base-runners (making seven through four innings). He did work a 1-2-3 fifth inning, but the high pitch count from the first frame was a significant factor in him taking the five and dive tonight, having thrown 93 pitches. But hard complain, given that Taijuan held the Rockies scoreless on just three hits, walking three and striking out ten, for his third double-digit game of the season.
That turned the game over to the bullpen for a long stretch - albeit with some reinforcements up from the minors. But the offense were able to tack on an extra run in the top of the sixth. A lead-off Martinez double came around to score one out later on an RBI single from Rey Fuentes, making it 4-0 to Arizona. But the shutout pitched by Walker didn’t last long in relief, led by David Hernandez. Two batters, in fact, as an infield single was followed by a line-drive RBI double, and a pair of productive outs added another run for Colorado. Jorge De La Rosa walked one batter and hit the next, but J.J. Hoover got the final out of the sixth, albeit with the Arizona lead halved.
The D-backs’ offense responded with both barrels, putting up a five-spot in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of three walks and some poor defense from the Rockies. In particular, with A.J. and Goldy on the corners and one out, a wild pick-off throw bounced away from Reynolds. Pollock scurried across the plate from third, and Raynolds’ throw home allowed Goldschmidt to advance. Jake Lamb had a nice at-bat off a left-hander, ending in a full-count RBI single and Daniel Descalso delivered a three-run shot off the bench, a towering fly-ball that went about as high as it went long. It was his ninth of the season, and made the score 9-2 to Arizona.
Unfortunately, we then learned why Silvino Bracho has spent most of the year in the minors. I guess he didn’t allow a home-run, but he couldn’t throw strikes either. Bracho didn’t retire any of the three batters he faced, loading the bags with no outs on two walks and a hit. Andrew Chafin came in to that unenviable position, and was within one strike of escaping, having allowed only an RBI groundout. But a double to the wall brought home two more. We ended the seventh with the Arizona lead hardly what you’d consider Coors-proofed, at 9-5.
It had been a real grind to this point, and we had a realistic shot at this being the first four-hour regulation game of the year. However, both sides had quick innings in the eighth: for Arizona, Chafin allowed a lead-off single, but Archie Bradley dialed up a nice 3-6-3 double-play with his first pitch. After working around Arenado with a four-pitch walk, he got Reynolds to fly out, and we had a much needed zero. Fernando Rodney came in for what I’d probably call a Coors Field save - pretty much “any ninth inning with the lead” and closed things out, despite issuing the pitching staff’s eighth walk of the evening.
That hasn’t been what you’d call a recipe for success (we have a 10-62 record when walking 8+ in a regulation game), but only two of those eight walks scored for the Rockies. Still you have to be concerned about any game where you have to use seven relievers, and your bullpen allows five runs over four innings. The offense bailed them out: Pollock had two hits and a walk. Iannetta, Martinez and Lamb each a hit and a walk, and Goldschmidt drew two bases on balls (though remains needing four hits, to become only the second D-back ever with a thousand hits for the franchise)
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Rhythm Is Gonna Get YOu: Taijuan Walker, +30.8%
Turn the Beat ARound: A.J. Pollock, +20.7%
Don't Wanna Lose You: David Hernandez, -10.3%
Thanks to those in the GDT, who were: AzDbackfanInDc, BenSharp, BigSmarty, BobDolio, CardsRepInChile, Cumulus Choir, DeadManG, Diamondhacks, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, JoelPre, Keegan Thompson, LamparT, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, PaulGoldsmith, The so-called Beautiful, TheGoldenSombrero, Ubersnake, asteroid, coldblueAZ, edbigghead, hotclaws, kilnborn, noblevillain, onedotfive, since_98 and smartplays. Comment of the night to Cumulus Choir, who offers this suggestion to our bullpen woes:
The win moves us 41⁄2 games clear of Colorado, who must now be looking anxiously back over their shoulder at Milwaukee, who are just 11⁄2 games further back. But that’s their problem, and not ours. Dare we ask for nine tomorrow? It should be a good pitching match-up with Patrick Corbin facing Jon “You Know Nothing!” Gray. First pitch is at 5:10pm Arizona time.