Record: 59-48. Pace: 89-73. Change on 2017: -2.
The Diamondbacks close out the road trip with a 5-2 record. While that should have been 6-1, and possibly even 7-0, we can’t complain too much about the end result. Arizona comes home to Chase Field one-half game back of Los Angeles, and play six games this week against teams below .500, in Texas and San Francisco. The Dodgers, meanwhile, face teams currently occupying playoff spots in the Brewers and Astros. So it’s quite easy to see scenarios where the D-backs have climbed their way back on top of the division at this time next week.
It was also good to see the D-backs come out on the right end of a one-run game for once. They had only posted a single one-run win over the last month, the 2-1 victory in Atlanta on July 13, and had a 1-5 record in that time. Today’s victory improved Arizona’s season mark to 15-18, but that’s still three games worse than what you would expect based off our overall record. This one probably swung on a successful challenge in the eighth inning, when a call of safe at second became a force out. The next batter hit an RBI double which would very likely have tied the game with two aboard. We’ll get to that in a bit, but it was Arizona’s 20th successful appeal: no team in the majors has more.
After a pair of games where the D-backs were kept entirely within the ballpark, all their runs this afternoon came courtesy of the long-ball. The broadcast suggested that the absence of the marine layer at Petco was making the ball fly further. Wondering if that was the case, I checked the pitching splits: across all of baseball, day ERA is fractionally lower than night ERA (4.13 vs. 4.17). But for the Padres pitchers, their day ERA is considerably lower (4.01 vs. 4.61), and the HR rate is lower too: 0.96 compared to 1.09 per nine innings. While these numbers would include day games in all parks, not just Petco, it doesn’t seem to suggest the marine layer makes much of a difference.
This afternoon, it was three home-runs by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Nick Ahmed which were key. Goldschmidt’s (above) came three batters into the game: after Ketel Marte had been walked, Paul donged one off the face of the Western Metal Supply Building in left field, his 23rd of the year, for a quick 2-0 lead. The next scoring came in the bottom of the third, when San Diego tied things up. A.J. Ellis led off with a double, but the Padres failed on two attempts to put down a bunt, and it looked like Clay Buchholz might escape. But a single was followed by a two-run double from Diamondback killer (TM) Wil Myers, and the score was leveled at two.
Eight pitches later, the Diamondbacks had not just restored their advantage, they had extended it. Pollock led off with a home-run to center, Steven Souza followed with a single to left, and Ahmed chipped a 2-0 pitch just into the front row of left-field for a two-run shot, making the score 5-2. For both he and A.J, it was the 14th home-run of the season. Ahmed had two other hits this afternoon, getting his line for the season up to .239/.290/.446, a .736 OPS. Considering he came into this season with a career figure of .618, it has been quite the improvement. He was worth 2.0 bWAR coming into thsi game, and should beat his previous career high (2.3). Not bad, given he’ll earn less than $1.3 million.
Clay Buchholz may not have been quite as sharp as he was in his start at Wrigley, but he was good enough. Torey Lovullo tried to give him a chance to get through the sixth inning, but after an RBI single to Ellis made the score 5-3, with two men on base, Buchholz was done. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks, striking out seven. Yoshihisa Hirano threw one pitch to clear up that mess, and threw a perfect seventh, setting the stage for Archie Bradley in the eighth. He has occasionally been a bit wobbly of late, and this became the third time in his last eight outings where he has conceded a run or more. And it could have been worse.
Baseball is a game of inches. pic.twitter.com/Gl6JpeLpIF— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) July 30, 2018
The Padres started with a single, and Christian Villanueva hit the first pitch he saw to right. The ball dropped in front of Souza: the runner on first had to hold, and Souza fired to second where Ahmed made a sprawling snag. The initial call was safe, but Torey Lovullo appealed the play, and on review, it became a force-out at second. Two pitches later, Freddy Galvis drove the ball to left, off the despairing glove of Jon Jay, then back off the top of the fence. Pollock backed Jay up, and the relay home could have got the runner, but John Ryan Murphy (whose wretched July continued with a 0-4) dropped the ball. That play was also reviewed to see if it was a game-tying homer, but stood as a double. Phew.
Bradley was able to strand the tying run there, and Arizona went to the ninth with a one-run lead, and Brad Boxberger making his first appearance since blowing the finale in Chicago. Nervous? I know I was. But Boxberger could hardly have been any better, retiring the Padres in order for his 25th save, and completing the D-backs first three-game sweep in San Diego since Apr 24-26, 2006. With the Dodgers losing, the NL West tightened up. We are half a game back of the Dodgers, with the Rockies a further half game back of the D-backs. In the wild-card race, we’re 1.5 back of Milwaukee, and 0.5 up on Colorado, with Atlanta one game further down.
There was one bit of bad news, with David Peralta being lifted from the game. This led to some feverish speculation that he might have been traded (above), but it turns out to have been an issue with his shoulder instead. We’re still waiting for more information - there was no post-game show on Fox Sports Arizona today - but hopefully the issue is not too serious, and this was more precautionary.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Eiffel Tower: Brad Boxberger, +19.0%
Arc de Triomphe: Goldschmidt, +18.4%; Ahmed, +16.9%; Hirano, +14.2%
The Paris Catacombs: Clay Buchholz, -7.9%
Happy Gameday Thread was happy, with 524 comments from AzDbackfanInDc, AzRattler, BobDolio, DBacksEurope, DORRITO, DeadManG, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, Rockkstarr12, Smurf1000, TSWINDERS, VegBerger, asteroid, coldblueAZ, gamepass, hotclaws, kilnborn, makattack71, pyroman168, smartplays and that_tall_fella. Comment of the day to Rockkstarr12, for this, during the eighth inning.
I think we ALL needed one after that inning... But it’s a happy flight back to Arizona for the D-backs, where they will face the Texas Rangers in a quick two-game set. beginning tomorrow night. Robbie Ray starts for the Diamondbacks.