Record: 64-53. Pace: 89-73. Change on 2017: -1.
Well, at least it was quick, just not in a good way. At 2:30, this was the fastest game by the Diamondbacks since May 26 - coincidentally, also a 3-0 loss on the road started by Clay Buchholz, that one in Oakland. Arizona were shutout for the fifth time this season, and the first occasion since June, being five hit by Anthony DeSclafani and two Reds’ relievers.
As rain started to come down in the early innings, the at-bats were played at a pace more befitting a contest between the Potassium Pirates and the Sodium Yankees. [Hohoho: a little alkali metal humor there. You’re welcome!] Buchholz, befitting his status as the most efficient of Arizona’s starters, took only eight pitches to get through the first frame. A nifty double-play led to another eight-pitch inning in the second, and a generous called strike three factored into a SIX-pitch third. For the Reds, Anthony DeSclafani was hardly much less terse: he required 35 pitches to get through the D-backs order for the first time, despite some apparent issues with his footing. Rob Manfred nods approvingly.
Buchholz got into trouble in the fourth inning, loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. However, these were interspersed with outs, a groundout to second ending the threat. It did take him twenty pitches to get through the inning, almost as many as the 22 he needed for the first three frames combined. Clay returned to normal service in the fifth with another six-pitch frame. At 48 pitches through five, this had me heading to the record books to look up the shortest complete game by a Diamondbacks starter. The answer is 74 pitches by... Shelby Miller. Wait, what? Shurely shome mishtake?
Actually, that name probably gives away the circumstances, as it was his 5-0 win over the Nationals in September 2016, a contest truncated to the minimum five innings by rain in Washington. Rather more legitimately, Randy Johnson took 82 pitches for a complete-game, eight-inning loss to the Pirates in 2004; the shortest nine-inning outing for an Arizona pitcher was 93 pitches. That was another loss, this one by Brandon McCarthy against the Blue Jays in September 2013. At the other end, the longest were a pair at 149 pitches: the Edwin Jackson walkathon no-hitter is well-know, but Johnson also had one of that length.
However, this became rather premature in the sixth. Over his previous starts, Buchholz had been highly effective first time through, but the second and third times, teams had seen him better:
1st PA in G: .179/.222/.345 = .567 OPS
2nd PA in G: .263/.330/.463 = .792 OPS
3rd PA in G: .265/.288/.408 = .697 OPS
The Reds were 1-for-9 the first time through tonight, and 2-for-8 with a walk the second. Third time through, Cincinnati got back to back hits to open the sixth, putting runners on the corners. A deep fly-ball broke the scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly, though Buchholz struck out the next two batters.
Meanwhile, DeSclafani was putting up the zeroes on the home team’s account. Through seven innings, singles by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock were the only base-runners he had allowed. The double-play which followed Goldy’s single, meant the Diamondbacks had sent only one batter over the minimum to the plate to that point. The Reds pitcher also helped himself at the plate in the seventh, singling after a one-out double, a hit that finally got the Arizona bullpen warming up. But the bigger problem proved to be another little-league play: Billy Hamilton laid down a very nice bunt, which Buchholz threw wildly past Goldschmidt at first, allowing both base-runners to score, making it 3-0 to Cincinnati.
A sacrifice fly was followed by an intentional walk to Joey Votto - not necessarily a BAD thing - and Clay’s day finished as it became, with a quick out, Eugenio Suarez grounding out on the first pitch. He went seven innings on 93 pitches, allowing three runs, one unearned, while scattering eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts. A perfectly respectable outing from your #5 starter, with the issue fielding his position the only blot. We’d averaged 5.2 runs per game in his previous outings, and the average would have been nice here. Jake Diekman struck out the side while allowing a single in the ninth, a nice improvement considering his K:BB ratio coming in tonight for us was 1:4.
The D-backs finally managed to dispose of DeSclafani, thanks to Steven Souza’s lead-off single in the eighth. Would it be a case of #AnyoneButDeSclafani? It seemed for a moment like it might, as Nick Ahmed’s single, one out later, brought the tying run the plate. But Alex Avila hit into an inning-ending double-play. In the ninth, Goldschmidt got his second hit, and Arizona’s only extra-base hit of the game, with a one-out double. But it was very much a token effort, and a potentially very important road-trip for the Diamondbacks started off in very disappointing fashion. Here’s Torey Lovullo, speaking after the game.
"We just could never really get anything going." -- Torey Lovullo, whose #Dbacks mustered just 5 hits in a 3-0 loss to the #Reds. pic.twitter.com/DA3UX8wGXX— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 11, 2018
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Jimi Hendrix: Clay Buchholz, +3.4%
Fred Durst: Alex Avila, -16.3%
Never a GOOD sign when your losing pitcher leads all players in Win Probability... Nick Ahmed, at +1.3%, was the only hitter in positive territory for this one. Roll-call tool is playing up again, so raise your hand if you were here. The only thing to get more than one rec was my preview of tomorrow’s preview (as it were), and I’ve no intention of stealing my own thunder with that one. The Dodgers and Rockies are tied up at three, so we’ll see whether or not we are still in first place by the end of the night.
We’ll certainly be looking for better tomorrow, as Robbie Ray faces Matt Harvey. 2015 called, they want their ace pitching match-up back...