Record: 19-7. Pace: 118-44. Change on 2017: +4.
I was surprised to learn David Peralta had never had a two-homer game before. It feels like he has hit enough (45) that a couple of them should have clustered together by chance. But he certainly chose a good time to hit them, helping key another D-backs comeback, as they took their ninth series in a row to start the season, at the first opportunity presented to them. It also means Peralta has hit more homers in Nationals Park than any other field bar Chase. But this win was also due to the bullpen, who added 3.1 more scoreless innings, dropping their ERA for the season to 1.62. And perhaps to Torey Lovullo, who appeared to out-manage Dave Martinez into the go-ahead run in the 10th.
If you blinked a little after 1pm this afternoon, you probably missed an inning or two of this game, because the early frames went by at a ferocious pace. The Diamondbacks had an aggressive game-plan against Washington starter Jeremy Hellickson, swinging early, but the pitcher came out on top. The D-backs went down on six pitches in the first, eight in the second - a Daniel Descalso hit being immediately erased by a double-play off the bat of Christian Walker - but did tax Hellickson in the third, making him throw... uh, ten pitches. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s a total of 24 pitches needed for the former D-backs to get through his old team’s order for the first time.
Patrick Corbin was being just as efficient to begin with, though in his usual way, which means more K’s. He needed ten pitches in each of the first two innings, and had three K’s by that point. But the third proved to be kinda sloppily played. A slider got away from him to the Nationals’ #8 hitter and clipped the batter’s foot to lead-off the frame. One out later, Corbin uncorked a wild pitch which skipped past Alex Avila; fortunately, it ricocheted off the backstop right to Avila, and he was able to throw down to Ketel Marte as the runner advanced.
Corbin walked the next batter, and should have been out of the frame as the D-backs had the runner picked off and couldn’t convert it into an out. Christian Walker was playing first in the absence of Paul Goldschmidt, but it’s hard to blame him - looked more like Marte whiffed on the throw. That failure to end the inning came back to hurt the Diamondbacks immediately, as Ryan Zimmerman got into one, and launched one over the fences for a two-run homer and a 2-0 Nationals’ lead. Arizona bounced back immediately, however, with David Peralta also going over the fence to start the fourth. It didn’t look like a home-run off the bat, but slid over the fence the other way, making the score 2-1 to WSN.
There was no such doubt about the tying run, which arrived the next time Peralta came to the plate in the sixth. This one, David’s fifth of the year, traveled 412 feet into the upper-deck in right field, and one batter later, it was the end of Hellickson’s day. It had been remarkably efficient: you don’t often see a pitcher being removed after recording an out in the sixth inning, having thrown as few as 57 pitches. It’s only happened a handful of other times since 2008, when Greg Maddux - who else? - went six innings on only 47 pitches. But the D-backs averaged less than three per PA (2.85), though there is something to be said for getting to a Nats’ bullpen known to be shaky.
Initially, however, it didn’t seem to be the issue, as Corbin allowed another home-run in the bottom of the sixth, giving Washington back the lead, at 3-2. That would be it against him, and his own economy worked in Patrick’s favor. He was able to pitch into the seventh, eventually being lifted with two outs there, having thrown only 85 pitches. He was charged with three runs on seven hits and a walk, and struck out seven though did also hit a pair of batters. Fernando Salas tided up that frame, and Archie Bradley continued the efficient pitching, mowing down the Nationals in the eighth on six pitches.
By that point, Arizona had tied the game up. Nick Ahmed led off the game with a single, and Paul Goldschmidt’s off day proved to be not quite so off after all, though he struck out as a pinch-hitter. Peralta, inevitably, came through with another single to put runners on the corners with one out. Though Jarrod Dyson could only fly out to shallow left, A.J. Pollock came through with a clutch two out lined single to left, and Arizona had tied the game up once more. Neither team could get a man aboard in the ninth, with Yoshihisa Hirano working a perfect inning for the D-backs, bringing us into bonus baseball.
Ahmed then doubled to lead off the tenth, and one out later, Peralta walked. Jarrod Dyson was next up, but with a left-hander on the mound for Washington Chris Owings was in the on-deck circle as a pinch-hitter. Martinez went and replaced the pitcher with a righty... but Owings had never been announced. That allowed Lovullo to go with Dyston instead, keeping the platoon advantage. The new pitcher seemed rattled: he walked Dyson to load the bases, and then Pollock to drive in the go-ahead run. While Arizona weren’t able to take further advantage (some dodgy strike calls didn’t help), they had their first lead of the game, and turned the ball over to closer Brad Boxberger.
This was probably the first time a Boxberger save generated any kind of nervousness. He got the first two outs easily enough, but then allowed a double to Zimmerman. Walking Bryce Harper intentionally was a no-brainer, but Brad then issued his first non-intentional walk since April 4, loading the bases. Fortunately, the next batter swung at the first pitch, Ahmed ranged to his left and smoothly shoveled the ball to second-base for the game-ending force-out. Arizona became the first team since the 2001 Mariners to win their first nine series of the year, and will have a chance to go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon in Washington.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Abraham Lincoln: David Peralta, +41.3%
George Washington: Pollock, +35.1%; Boxberger, +20.9%; Hirano, +14.3%; Ahmed, +13.2%; Bradley, +11.0%
Warren Harding: Christian Walker, -21.1%
Franklin Pierce: Marte, -14.4%; Marrero, -11.4%; Descalso, -10.9%; Dyson, -10.3%
A tense game leading to an impressive 763 comments, from: AZDovs11, BenSharp, BigSmarty, BobDolio, DeadManG, GoldyHitAnotherOne, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, JTyson, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, PaulGoldsmith, SongBird, SonomaComa1999, Sprankton, The so-called Beautiful, aldma, asteroid, coldblueAZ, hotclaws, megnetic, onedotfive, rustynails77, shoewizard and smartplays. Triple tie for CotD on eight recs, so by executive privilege, I’m awarding it to GuruB:
The D-backs have a chance to go for the sweep tomorrow - something they have managed only once this year previously. Robbie Ray starts for Arizona, and it’s an early start, at 10:35 am local time.