Record 76-66. Pace 87-75. Change on 2017: -6.
I did not see a single pitch of this one, instead attending a show put on by a local pro wrestling federation. I think I can say what I watched there was likely more competent and fundamentally sound than the spectacle which unfolded at Chase Field tonight. While the loss was charged to the bullpen, there was a lot of blame available to go around. The D-backs’ defense, one of the best in the majors, melted down by committing four errors. Indeed, for most of the game, Arizona had more errors than hits, and when they finally got a knock with a runner in scoring position - on the 11th AB - it was the game-ending play. Yep, my mental health again thinks not watching was a really good idea.
If there’s someone who deserves to be absolved of responsibility for this one though, it’s Clay Buchholz, who has proven to be a remarkably good pick-up. He came into the game tonight having been worth 2.9 bWAR to the team, a figure that will only have gone up after his performance this evening. For comparison, J.D. Martinez last season was worth only 2.6 bWAR as a Diamondback. It’s also worth remembering that when Buchholz came into the rotation, he took the spot previously occupied by Kris Medlen and Troy Scribner and their 10.57 combined ERA. I’d have settled for replacement value as an improvement. What Clay has given Arizona has been far, far more.
Tonight, he allowed one earned run over 6.1 innings, on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts. It was Buchholz’s FIFTH consecutive start allowing zero or one earned runs. There has been just one longer streak in franchise history, by
Randy Johnson Curt Schilling Brandon Webb Andy Benes. Wait, what? Yep, back in the team’s debut year of 1998, Benes went six straight with one ER or fewer, allowing three earned runs over 46.1 innings. Johnson and Webb both went five straight, in 2002 and 2007 respectively. So did Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin last season. But if you’d told me on Opening Day Buchholz would become the sixth D-back starter with such a streak...
It looked a bit flaky in the first inning, as the Braves scored before recording an out, and the first error of the night, by David Peralta, gave them an extra 90 feet. That proved crucial as a ground-out and sacrifice fly brought the runner across, putting Atlanta 2-0 up early. Like good guests, the Braves repaid the hospitality, allowing the D-backs to score without needing to get a hit. Two walks and a wild pitch were followed by Paul Goldschmidt popping out: A.J. Pollock came home, and fortunately, the Braves catcher dropped the ball after it was fired home, getting Arizona on the board.
There were two more errors by the Diamondbacks in the second inning. A Daniel Descalso E put a man aboard with one out, and then Buchholz made one of his own on a pick-off throw, allowing the runner to motor to third. Fortunately, the next batter grounded back to the mound, and the Brave was thrown out at the plate. Buchholz redeemed himself in the bottom half, getting his first career extra-base hit (above), in his 12th season and 313th plate-appearance. The double to the gap in left-center was Arizona’s first hit of the game, scoring Steven Souza, who had walked to lead off the inning, all the way from first-base, and leveled the scores at two after two.
Both starters settled in for the next three innings, before Atlanta had a chance to break open the game in the top of the sixth. They loaded the bases on two singles and a walk with one out off Buchholz, but Torey Lovullo chose to keep faith with his starter. And Clay proved that faith justified, getting a pop-out to the infield and a strikeout to escape. He left after allowing a one-out single in the seventh, and T.J. McFarland tied things up there. Jake Diekman was not able to do so in the eighth, allowing a solo home-run that put Atlanta back in front, 3-2. However, Descalso followed Buchholz in atoning with the bat for his glove, doubling home Peralta with two outs in the bottom half, to tie things again.
Arizona almost were able to take the lead there, coming one ball away from doing so. Souza walked and Ketel Marte was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for pinch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas. He then took three straight pitches, but ended up lining out to second on a full count. Both sides then squandered chances in the ninth. First Atlanta stranded a one-out triple, Yoshihisa Hirano working out of that jam. Then Arizona had men on the corners with one out, but A.J. Pollock was thrown out at home trying to deliver a walk-off score on a groundball off the bat of Peralta. Just reading the play-by-play, it feels like two fat men arguing about who should go through a revolving door first...
The Braves finally took the lead in the tenth. Of course, this game being what it was, they did so without the ball intentionally leaving the infield, scoring the go-ahead run on a walk (Andrew Chafin gonna Chafin, naturally), stolen base, infield single and Goldschmidt error, the fourth of the night for the D-backs. A RBI triple made if 5-3 before the inning was over. Arizona weren’t quite done, and got two men in scoring position with two outs in the bottom half. Pollock hit the ball back up the middle, and one run scored, but Dansby Swanson was able to stop it from going into the outfield; Nick Ahmed was thrown out at home, trying to score the tying run from second.
If you were a neutral, and not someone particularly fussy about fundamentally sound baseball, this game was probably a lot of fun to watch, with a bit of everything. But for the D-backs, it was another example of their recent weaknesses. As noted in the preview, the bullpen has been losing too many games of late: in the second-half, Arizona’s starters are 18-8, and the relievers are now 5-14. It was also yet another one-run loss. The D-backs are 18-27 in those games this year, and have lost the last seven such in a row. The Rockies beat the Dodgers, so we are back to being 21⁄2 games behind Colorado.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Michelangelo: Eduardo Escobar, +22.4%
Da Vinci: Souza, +22.3%; Hirano, +15.2%
Jackson Pollock: Andrew Chafin, -43.8%
Andy Warhol: Peralta, -17.3%; Diekman, -16.9%; Marte, -16.3%; Owings, -15.2%;
Goldschmidt, -13.9%; Vargas, -13.7%; Pollock, -10.0%
A busy Gameday Thread, with three people reaching double digits. Present were: AzDbackfanInDc, DORRITO, Dbacks Nation, DeadManG, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jackwriter, Johnneu, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, PaulGoldsmith, Rockkstarr12, ShirtOffYourBack, SongBird, Sprankton, The so-called Beautiful, asteroid, coldblueAZ, errordataguy, hotclaws, kilnborn, onedotfive, red_leader and smartplays. Comment of the night to Jack:
Fairly sure that may not have been the only thing burned tonight. :( Tomorrow, it’s the series finale, with Robbie Ray starting for Arizona... and our former first-round pick, Touki Toussaint, starting for Atlanta. He’ll probably throw a no-hitter against us. Dave Stewart truly is the gift that keeps on giving...