Record: 62-50. Pace: 90-72. Change on 2017: -2.
It was a celebration at Chase Field today. Things started with the alumni game, which turned into a bit of a pitching duel. Curt Schilling’s Team Red edged Randy Johnson’s Team Purple 1-0, in the three inning game, with Chris Snyder driving in Augie Ojeda with the game’s sole score in the first inning. The D-backs’ 20th Anniversary Team was then honored, and the good vibes clearly carried over into the meaningful contest. Because, for the second day in a row, the Diamondbacks scored early and scored often, putting up another five-spot on the Giants and delivering free* tacos to the fans before they had recorded three outs. [* Between 4-6 pm, etc.]
Ketel Marte got all of this one, and then some. pic.twitter.com/xL1anC1eB2— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 5, 2018
David Peralta continued his incandescent streak with a single, and one out later Paul Goldschmidt was pitched extremely carefully, walking on four pitches. After Pollock popped out, Stephen Souza Jr. then banged the ball down into the right-field corner, where it was kicked around lone enough for Souza to end up on third. He was then able to trot home on a Nick Ahmed single, and the trotting continued, as Ketel Marte became the fifth D-back to reach double digits in homers, punching the ball 465 feet deep (above) to the walkway in left-center, for a 5-0 lead. [Last year’s team set the franchise record, with no fewer than ten different players hitting ten or more home-runs]
Clay Buchholz had seen considerable success since coming up, and one of the factors in that was his efficiency. He came in at 3.62 pitches per plate appearance, the lowest of any man with 25 or more batters faced for the Diamondbacks, and well below the team average of 3.93. But he was made to work relatively hard by the Giants’ batters. Through three innings, Buchholz had thrown 65 pitches, and had had to work through traffic; it took a nice bare-handed play from Nick Ahmed to avoid a bases-loaded jam in the third. The only damage allowed by Clay to that point was Andrew McCutchen’s solo home-run, leading off that inning.
Another solo homer in the fourth made the score 5-2 to Arizona, and Buchholz once again had to pitch out of trouble. He got Evan Longoria, representing the tying run at the plate, to take a change-up right down the pipe for strike three, though Clay’s pitch-count continued to escalate, reaching 87 by the end of the fourth. [Though trailing by three runs, Giants’ starter Andrew Suarez had thrown 62 pitches to the same point] Fortunately, he was then able to get a quick sixth, retiring San Francisco in order, and needing only six pitches to do it - including a lovely three-pitch K of Austin Slater for Buchholz’s seventh strikeout of the night.
As last night, the early offense from the Diamondbacks had not stuck around, with the team unable to add in innings two through four. But after Buchholz reclaimed momentum, the bats showed up again, with some more two-out magic. Souza should have walked in the third, and was instead rung up on a dubious call by home-plate umpire Bill Welke. Next AB, he took matters into his own hands, driving the ball a couple of feel short of a home-run to right center for an RBI double. Nick Ahmed then cleaned up, with his fifteenth home-run of the season (above), down the left-field line and into the Arizona bullpen (where Brad Ziegler made a nice play). That two-run shot made it 8-2 to the home side.
Buchholz went out for the sixth, probably on a relatively short leash, though the insurance runs just scored may have made it an easier decision for Torey Lovullo. Clay repaid that confidence with another 1-2-3 inning, and that was the end of his night, at 104 pitches. He went six innings - longer than it looked likely after the fourth - and it was another solid outing. Two runs allowed this evening, as he scattered seven hits and two walks with eight strikeouts, lowering his season ERA to 2.68. The seventh was given to new guys Brad Ziegler and Jake Diekman; it went rather better than their debut on Thursday. Brad got his first double-play since returning to Arizona, and Jake a one-pitch flyout to put up a zero.
Matt Andriese continued the parade of new Diamondbacks with a scoreless eighth, and Nick Ahmed completed a fine night with his second homer. He had more HR tonight than his entire 25-game rookie campaign in 2014, and his more this year, in 356 AB, than over his first three seasons from 2014-16, covering 775 AB. [#MannyWho?] It was a great night for the bottom of the D-backs order, as #5-7, Souza, Ahmed and Marte, combined to go 7-for-11 with six runs scored, three homers and drove in all nine runs. Ahmed had three hits and a walk; Marte and Souza two hits apiece; while Goldy chipped in from higher up the order, reaching base three times on two hits and a walk.
Andrew Chafin did allow a run in the top of the ninth, as Andrew McCutchen notched an entirely irrelevant five-hit night, but the D-backs reclaimed first place in the NL West once more. With the Rockies and Braves both losing, and the Dodgers also well behind the Astros in the their game, it was a very good result, in front of an appreciative crowd of over 38,000 at Chase Field.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Dom Perignon: Steven Souza, +21.6%
Moet & Chandon: Buchholz, +12.8%; Ahmed, +11.8%
Asti Spumante: A.J. Pollock, -6.4%
Roll-call tool is still not working, so count amongst yourselves. Just the one Sedona Red comment, so an easy decision to give Comment of the Night to aldma, for apparently calling Ahmed’s first home-run.
Though a quick pro-tip for future reference: avoid qualifiers like “maybe.” If you’re wrong, no-one will remember. If you’re right, it looks that much more definitive! :)
And, so, we await the outcome in Los Angeles, but that appears to be looking good at this point for sole possession of first. Fingers crossed. We will also move on to the series finale tomorrow, when Robbie Ray takes the mound for the D-backs. At least a split is assured, now go for the victory.