The jokes were plentiful after today’s starting lineup was announced. Absent was Paul Goldschmidt. Nowhere to be found was A.J. Pollock. David Peralta was missing. Eduardo Escobar had gone fishing. In their place were men you’d more likely find playing at Greater Nevada Field for the Reno Aces were it not for September roster expansions. That’s not entirely fair to Chris Owings who found himself starting in center for Pollock, but those who joined him, Christian Walker, Ildemaro Vargas, and Patrick Kivlehan, had a grand total of 4 MLB starts this season, all Walker’s, before tonight’s game. Would it be a repeat of last night?
In context, the Reno Aces roster is a bit long in the tooth when it comes to experience. Their staff is chalk full of guys who could be considered “AAAA”. Christian Walker is blocked at the Major League level by one of the best position players this decade in Goldy. Chris Owings has over 400 starts in 6 seasons at the MLB tier. AAA or MLB these guys are still among some of the best players in the world, and tonight’s starters came ready to pounce on their opportunity.
It began with a fast start in the first inning, as it has numerous times this season. Jon Jay led off the inning with a line shot up the middle for a single. He was erased at second when Ildemaro Vargas reached on a fielder’s choice in the next at bat. That brought up Christian Walker, who by all means should be starting at first base for an MLB team. The 2017 Pacific Coast League MVP absolutely crushed a first pitch fastball to deep left center giving Arizona an early 3-0 lead. It was downhill baseball for the D’backs from that point forward, something they haven’t been able to do for the entire month of September. Patrick Kivlehan followed with a triple to left center, and was brought in himself on a bloop single from Chris Owings. Arizona ended the inning having put up a 4-0 lead. Not to shabby for a “B” lineup.
The quick start was more than sufficient for Robbie Ray. “Big Game Bob” continued to make late season strides tonight, and those 4 runs alone would have been sufficient for this start. Robbie held the Cubbies hitless until the 3rd inning, a lead off single from Addison Russell, but was otherwise stingy throughout the matchup. Following the base hit from Russell to begin the 3rd, he struck out 5 of the next 6 batters he faced. When the dust settled, he struck out a total of 8 Cubs over 6 innings, surrendering only the single to Russell as well as 4 walks. It’s truly tragic because given tonight’s team performance, the Diamondbacks could have been staring down their first division title since 2011 had it not been for a horrendous September and May.
Robbie Ray is the first pitcher in the last 110 years with four consecutive starts of 5+ innings pitched and no more than 2 hits allowed.— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) September 20, 2018
9/4: 6.1 IP, 2 H
9/9: 6.0 IP, 2 H
9/14: 5.1 IP, 2 H
9/19: 6.0 IP, 1 H
Every Diamondbacks starter had a hit tonight, excluding Robbie Ray. Jon Jay, Chris Owings, and Patrick Kivlehan all reached base multiple times. Remarkably, Arizona hitters had no walks or stolen bases tonight, but they also only struck out a total of 6 times. Kivlehan had 2 triples and was driven in twice. Both Owings and Jeff Mathis each had two run home runs in the 6th and 8th innings respectively, which drove the score to its final tally of 9-0. #YCPB friends. The “B” lineup came hungry for opportunity tonight and did not disappoint.
Defensive prowess returned to normalcy tonight with a handful of strong plays from Nick Ahmed and Ildemaro Vargas. The only blemish (error) was of the throwing variety when Vargas rushed his toss across the diamond to first, but it was an otherwise smooth performance in the field. It’s important to note that Vargas had not made a single appearance at third base in the minors this season, so he performed rather admirably tonight.
Aces: Robbie Ray, 24.6% Christian Walker +18.2%,
DFA’d: Nobody! Yay!
Tonight’s CoTN comes via Twitter. A complaint from me, followed by a premonition from a co-writer here at the Pit. #YCPB.
They’re going to score ten runs aren’t they?— ISH95 (@imstillhungry95) September 20, 2018
While not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it would take nothing short of a miracle for Arizona to make the postseason. Tonight was probably the most fun I’ve had watching this team all month. If for some crazy reason the D’backs win every game from here on out, we have this game to remember. Either way it was a refreshing experience.
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