Record: 82-79. Pace: 83-79. Change on 2017: -10.
Is there anything sadder in baseball than game #161, between two teams who have nothing to play for? If it was the last contest of the season, then there would be some sense of finality and closure, an opportunity to draw a line under things, no matter how disappointing things may eventually have become. Put it this way: I remember the final episode ever of Dexter. I could not tell you anything at all about the penultimate episode. And even though this game secured a winning record for Arizona, for the first time in a decade, it was not exactly one which will merit mention when the history of the 2018 season is written.
However, there are a couple of people on the team who probably will remember it. Firstly, there’s infield prospect Ildemaro Vargas. In his 12 previous appearances this season, he had managed only two hits and one RBI, though in his defense, had made only one start in his entire MLB career, dating back to June 2017. Tonight was #2, and he picked up two hits, three RBI and his first home-run, a two-run shot in the fourth inning (below). Ildemaro is one of the potentially interesting pieces for 2019, though that may depend on what direction the team takes. If they enter rebuild mode, and trade Nick Ahmed, Vargas could end up as a cheap alternative.
The other who might remember this game is Shelby Miller. He made an unexpected return to the roster this afternoon, with room made by Christian Walker going to the 60-day disabled list. And Miller came in for the seventh inning, putting up a zero after a lead-off walk, helped by the double-play that followed. His velocity seemed fine, touching 95 mph, yet he’s another who faces an uncertain future. Are the team willing to commit to his salary in 2019? The D-backs could well be in need of starting pitchers, but Miller’s return from Tommy John surgery has been considerably bumpier than, say, Patrick Corbin’s and a non-tender is entirely possible. This could have been Miller’s final outing as a D-back.
Tonight’s win, however, went to Zack Godley, who reached the 15-victory plateau. He finishes the season with a 15-11 record, a considerable improvement over last year’s record of 8-9. Just goes to show how W-L record can be deceiving, since his ERA and most of Zack’s peripherals all went in the wrong direction, mostly down to mechanical issues which helped cause control problems. When his curve was on, it was nasty as any pitch in an Arizona arsenal. However, too often, it was one opponents could lay off, and when that was the case, trouble usually followed. Consistent, reproducible mechanics will be Godley’s goal for 2019.
Tonight was almost a poster-child for his season’s issues, which have seen Godley go from great to terrible, or vice versa, in the blink of an eye. It has usually been the middle frames which been problematic for Godley. Here’s his final 2019 ERA by inning:
- 1st: 2.25
- 2nd: 1.69
- 3rd: 5.62
- 4th: 7.42
- 5th: 7.96
- 6th+: 3.81
Put another way, he holds opponents to a .590 OPS first time through the order. That then jumps to .787 when they get a second look, and .881 third time through. Those are numbers which suggest a possible move to the bullpen, but I think we’ll see if Mike Butcher can work with Godley between now and Opening Day 2019, see what can be done. This evening, Zack was 1-for-8 with a walk the first time through, but 3-for-8 with a walk the second time, and San Diego scored three times against him in the fourth inning.
Fortunately, the D-backs had a four-run lead by that point. Half of that was due to the Vargas home-run, with the other two coming in the second inning. Daniel Descalso doubled with one out, Socrates Brito walked, and Vargas opened the scoring with an RBI single. That moved Brito to third and a wild pitch brought him home. After San Diego had brought it back to a one-run game, Arizona added an insurance run in the sixth. Godley helped out his own cause by grinding a walk with two outs, which loaded the bases and chased the Padres’ pitcher from the game. The new reliever then threw four straight wide ones to Jon Jay, making the score 5-3.
Godley left the game after six, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks - both to Hunter Renfroe - with five strikeouts. Miller pitched the seventh, then Brad Ziegler cashed in that insurance run in the eighth, allowing a solo home-run to Eric Hosmer. To protect the one-run lead in the ninth, Torey Lovullo turned to Yoshihisa Hirano, and it went better than last night. Hirano notched his third save with a perfect inning, needing only eight pitches to retire the Padres in order, and give Lovullo his second winning season as a manager. Arizona managed only seven hits, with two apiece for Eduardo Escobar, Descalso and Vargas, while Alex Avila had a hit and a walk.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Tram: Ildemaro Vargas, +29.2%
Hovercraft: Hirano, +19.0%; Descalso, +11.4%
Horse-drawn cart: Ketel Marte, -12.1%
Another quiet GDT, with only a dozen participants. It’s almost as if people have better things to do. Present were: AzDbackfanInDc, DeadManG, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, SongBird, coldblueAZ, edbigghead, and onedotfive. Nothing got more than a single rec, so no Comment of the Night. We’ll reconvene one last time tomorrow, for the final D-backs game of the 2018 season. Robbie Ray takes the mound for Arizona, and please remember, it’s an oddly early West coast start, at 12:10 pm.
That’s because, as has become traditional, all games on the final day start more or less simultaneously. With the Dodgers and Brewers winning, while the Rockies and Cubs lost, it means the NL West and Central go into the last game with a tie at the top. All four teams are guaranteed to make the post-season, but in what order and how is entirely up in the air. It’s possible nothing at all could end up being decided, and we need to have a pair of Game #163 on Monday. It’ll certainly be a very interesting day!