This was supposed to be the “soft spot” of the schedule for the Diamondbacks. A 9 game road trip against 3 teams well under .500 was supposed to kick start a Diamondbacks stretch run in their quest to make the post season. Instead, they’ve dropped the first 2 games of 3 to the last place Cincinnati Reds and will try to salvage the series finally tomorrow.
The frustration started right in the first inning. On the 2nd at bat of the game Paul Goldschmidt launched a deep fly to the wall in Right Center Field. At the last second, Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton appeared on the screen, leaping to rob at least a double and possibly a homerun . AJ Pollock followed with a base hit and Eduardo Escobar walked to put 2 on with 2 out, but Reds Starter Matt Harvey struck out Steven Souza Jr. looking to end the threat.
Robbie Ray began the game struggling mightily to command his fastball and slider. He continually missed high with the four seamer, and low and in the dirt with the slider. Despite walking two, and throwing 28 pitches, just 14 for strikes, he got out of the inning “unscathed” as the Reds failed to score.
Matt Harvey settled in to retired the DBacks 3 up 3 down in the top of the 2nd. Ray would allow a base hit in the bottom of the 2nd, but retire the Reds without a run. There was a strange play at the end of the inning however. Billy Hamilton hit a line drive into Right Center Field that AJ Pollock came in on to make a running catch. Completely unaware of where his teammate was, Souza actually dove behind AJ attempting a diving catch on a ball that was already in AJ’s glove. Video Captioned perfectly below
A.J. has so many questions right now. pic.twitter.com/2SfAiGxTeu— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 12, 2018
Harvey and Ray exchanged scoreless 3 up 3 down innings in the 3rd. However in the top of the 4th the DBacks broke a 13 inning scoreless streak with 2 runs off an AJ Pollock single followed by Eduardo Escobar’s first homerun as a DBack, his 16th of the year.
Two balls, two strikes ... two runs for the @Dbacks. pic.twitter.com/MEC7cH8YQG— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 12, 2018
Fans hoping for a shutdown inning from Robbie Ray in the bottom of the 4th would be sorely disappointed, as Robbie promptly hit the leadoff hitter Eugenio Suarez with an errant slider. Phillip Ervin knocked a double deep into the left field corner on the 7th pitch of the at bat to score Suarez all the way from first as Peralta had difficulty getting a handle on the ball.
Another strange play would follow. Brandon Dixon hit a medium fly ball, high into the LCF gap. With AJ camped under it and all set to make the right handed throw to 3rd base, Peralta stepped in front of AJ and caught the ball, then had to turn and throw across his body. This allowed Ervin to tag on the play and make it safely into 3rd. This would immediately come back to haunt. One out later, pitcher Matt Harvey dumped a sinking liner into right field in front of Souza who could not come up with the diving catch. It was shallow enough that had Ervin still been at 2nd, Souza could have fielded it on a hop and prevented Ervin from scoring. Instead it was a game tying RBI base hit for the Reds pitcher, the 2nd in as many nights for the Reds.
It’s notable that the Dbacks have been getting hit by opposing pitchers lately, and in fact, they have allowed the 2nd highest B.A., and 3rd highest OPS to opposing pitchers in the NL.
The 5th inning would be uneventful, but it would also be Robbies last. Having thrown 106 pitches, just 67 for strikes, his night was done and he would leave 12 outs for his bullpen to pick up for him. Ray’s struggles this year throwing strikes and getting deep into games has become a major issue for the team.
The “Quality Start”, i.e. 6 IP, 3 ER or less allowed, has been a much maligned stat in the past. But in this era where the average start in the NL is 5.5 IP, the QS actually has some relevance again. And it is in this area of QS and avg IP per GS we can see that Ray has been the Weakest Link in the current rotation. He’s giving the team a QS in barely 1⁄4 of his starts and averaging a team low 5.1 IP per start. (Miller, Medlen, and Scribner not included)
Meanwhile, the much maligned Matt Harvey threw two more efficient scoreless innings in the 6th and the 7th. His final line would be 7 IP, 99 pitches, 2 runs, on 5 hits, 1 homer, 1 walk, and 7k’s. He was in command of the game all the way, with the lone exception of the Escobar homer, and the catch by Hamilton in the 1st on Goldy’s smash. This outing , coupled with his RBI base hit really made it Matt Harvey’s night.
The D Back bullpen held in the 6th and 7th, as Brad Ziegler, Andrew Chafin, and Archie Bradley would combine to put up the 2 scoreless frames.
In the top of the 8th, David Peralta launched a 415 foot HR into the right field bleachers off former Dback David Hernandez, giving the good guys a 3-2 lead.
The #FreightTrain goes boom. The @Dbacks lead late.— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 12, 2018
(and how about that sound, though?) pic.twitter.com/Sh9zRrk4Er
It seemed like despite another lackluster game by the offense, and a short outing by Ray, the team would pull this one out. However Archie would come back out for the 8th inning where things completely fell apart for the Diamondbacks.
First up Suarez got hit, actually grazing his jersey, by an inside fastball. As Brenly said at the time, “It hurts when you get hit on the button”. Archie retired Ervin on a groundball to 3rd that allowed Suarez to advance to 2nd and struck out Brandon Dixon. However he then walked Curt Casali, putting runners on first and 2nd. With Bradley already at 26 pitches, up came Tucker Barnhart. While Archie had thrown 4 curveballs in the inning previously, in this at bat he didn’t throw a single one. Finally on the 7th fastball, Barnhart got one up he could handle and drilled a 2 run double into the LCF gap, giving the Reds the lead 4-3, and ending Archie’s night, with 33 pitches thrown.
Tj McFarland relieved Bradley, giving up 2 singles and an Intentional walk, as the Reds went on to plate 2 more in the inning, but they had all they needed as Raisel Iglesias worked a scoreless 9th for the save.
The Rockies beat the Dodgers tonight 3-2, so the D Backs remain tied for first place. But the inconsistency of the offense, of Robbie Ray, and now Archie Bradley are very troubling signs for a team that really needs to be winning games against the bottom teams they are facing on this road trip. The schedule become extremely difficult later on.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Wannabe Hero: David Peralta +.178
Wannabe Hollywood: Archie Bradley -.451
It’s a shame they can’t apportion WPA on defensive plays or to the manager. Peralta had 2 defensive miscues in the 5th that contributed at least 1 run to the Reds total, and using Archie in the way he’s being used clearly does not suit him. He should not be called on to complete an inning and then come back out the next inning except in situations where guys aren’t available. He runs too hot coming into the game to be used that way. I’ve commented on this before.
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