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Arizona Diamondbacks 3, Pittsburgh Pirates 0: Dread D-backs sweep Dead Pirates

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Arizona Diamondbacks v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Record: 44-33. Pace: 93-69. Change on 2017: -5.

It’s weird to look at the above, and see that despite playing at a .720+ clip for two of the three full calendar months, the Diamondbacks are still five games below where they were at the same stage last year. At this point, they were 49-28, although Arizona were still 1.5 games back of Los Angeles. They were also about to hit a rough patch, where they lost 11 of 14: that was as close as they would get to the Dodgers, and they’d play only three games above .500 the rest of the way. So I expect this number to start tending towards zero over the next couple of weeks, although it’s interesting to note our current pace is exactly the record achieved last year.

Today, it was an emphatic finish to the four-game sweep off the slumping Pirates, as Clay Buchholz and three relievers combined to shut out Pittsburgh on five hits. It was the third consecutive day in which the Diamondbacks’ starter did not allow a run - from scanning the logs, it appears to be the first time this has happened in franchise history. [It may possibly have happened in consecutive games, with a day off in the middle, but that’s harder to tell] Even more remarkably, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke and Clay Buchholz did not walk a batter: so as well as their 0.00 ERA over 18 innings, they combined for a K:BB ratio of 24:0 over the last three games. No pressure tomorrow, Shelby Miller!

So, that’s the good news about Buchholz, who went five shutout innings on two hits, striking out five. I mentioned in one of the previews how economical he had been, in terms of pitches per innings, and we got a master-class in that this afternoon. He threw a first-pitch strike to 14 of the 17 batters he faced, averaged barely three pitches per PA, and so needed only 53 pitches to get through five innings. The bad news is, there wasn’t a sixth inning. Buchholz was lifted after reporting tightness in his side - which sounds disturbingly like the oblique issue from which Robbie Ray is only just returning, after having missed two months.

The more tin-foil sensitive aspects of my brain have this tagged as #FakeNews. It would be a remarkably “convenient” injury, given the rotational roster crunch looming. It happens just after Buchholz gets the W, and on the same day when the D-backs conveniently called up semi-starter Braden Shipley “in case of a rain delay”. However, Shipley didn’t take the mound, and post-game reports suggest this could just be the team being cautious. After the game, while they said he’d be evaluated, Buchholz thinks he’ll be fine, and said it didn’t feel like an oblique injury, which he has suffered before. Here’s what Clay had to say, following today’s contest.

After he left, Andrew Chafin got the next five outs, four of them by strikeout. He has come in for a lot of flak from some Diamondbacks fans this year, but I’m really not sure why. His ERA of 1.57 is barely indistinguishable from Yoshihisa Hirano’s 1.32, and Chafin has now struck out 32 batters in 28.2 innings. His first month was a bit shaky, but since the end of April, he has given up only two earned runs in 19 innings. Zach Buchanan reported a tweak was made to Andrew’s delivery, addressing a timing issue, and that seems to have paid dividends. While Hirano’s scoreless streak has understandably been getting the headline, Chafin has quietly not been scored on in 24 of his last 26 outings.

Today, Chafin worked the sixth and the first two outs in the seventh, before Hirano got the next four outs, extending that streak. The ball was then turned over to Brad Boxberger: not without some nerves, considering he had blown his last two save chances for Arizona. A one-out single through the shift gave some slight cause for jitters, but Boxberger tidied that up himself with a double-play groundball. While not quite as efficient as T.J. McFarland’s six-pitch save on Friday night, Brad taking ten pitches here, it would seem churlish to complain about any save where your closer faces the minimum number of batters.

There was no Paul Goldschmidt or Jon Jay ion the line-up for Arizona this afternoon, so it felt as if runs might be relatively hard to come by. That indeed proved the case, with the Diamondbacks managing no further scoring after the second inning. The productive offense came and went early, consisting of a pair of home-runs, off the bats of David Peralta in the first (below, likely ending up rolling into the river, after leaving the park on a one-hopper) and John Ryan Murphy in the second. It was Peralta’s 15th home-run of the season, surpassing last season's total even though we’re not even at half-way. He’s on pace for 32 homers this year, which would be... nice. It was Murphy’s ninth in his 47th game. Prior to 2018, he had five in 146 games, so both men have had a power surge this season.

A good win, although the Dodgers also beat the Mets, so there was no ground gained in the West. What is perhaps worthy of note is that the Cubs and Brewers both lost. The D-backs now sit only one game back of the latter for the best record in the National League, with the Braves one-half game ahead of us. With four games against the Marlins coming up, it would be nice for the team to come back to Arizona on Friday, owning that best in the NL mark.

Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Man of steel: Clay Buchholz, +24.9%
Steely gaze: Peralta, +16.9%; Chafin, +10.0%
Caught steel-ing: Ketel Marte, -9.6%

A relatively light GDT today, probably due to the early start. Present were: AzDbackfanInDc, BobDolio, DBacksEurope, DORRITO, DesertWeagle, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, Rockkstarr12, The so-called Beautiful, gamepass, hotclaws, kilnborn, lildbackfan21x, megnetic, onedotfive, shoewizard, smartplays and suroeste. DbacksEurope had the only red comment:

Happy flight for the D-backs, as they head on top Miami, and start another four-game set, this one against the Marlins. So, get ready for some more early starts! Tomorrow, it’s 4:05pm Arizona time, with the return of Shelby Miller on the cards.