Zack Greinke came into tonight looking for his sixth win, and sporting a 3.42 ERA despite an opening day beating by the Dodgers. In fact, in the seven starts since that game, Zack had posted a 2.33 ERA , a 47-6 K/BB Ratio, and a .200 Batting Avg against. One would be forgiven to think perhaps he was due for a bad game.
He quickly put that fear to rest however. Getting first pitch strikes to eight of the first nine hitters, had cruised through first three innings facing the minimum, the only blemish being a base hit by Dansby Swanson, who was eliminated on a caught stealing. However in the 4th inning the Braves got to him for one run. Swanson tripled to the opposite field gap on a pretty good slider low and away. Adam Jones almost managed a diving catch, and the ball hit off his glove, but he wasn’t quite able to make the play. With Freddie Freeman at the plate, Zack hung a curve ball that was belted into right for a base hit, and the Braves had a 1-0 lead.
At the same time Julio Teheran was cruising. While his velocity was clearly down a few MPH from the start of the season, he too was throwing strikes and mixing speeds, and through 5 innings was even more effective than Greinke, allowing only a double to Nick Ahmed in the 3rd and a leadoff walk to Christian Walker in the 5th.
The DBacks were able to get to hin in the 6th inning. Ketel Marte banged a double off the wall in left just above the 368 sign, barely missing a homerun. David Peralta followed with a ground ball down the line at first that somehow stayed fair and worked it’s way all the way into the corner for a run scoring triples. After Adam Jones walked, a slumping Christian Walker grounded out 4-3 to end the thread however, and that was pretty much all the offense the Diamondbacks would muster for the night.
Greinke had an adventurous 7th inning . Freeman doubled, and Josh Donaldson singled so sharply to Adam Jones that Freeman was able to just advance to 3rd. With a drawn in infield, Markakis then hit a tapper to Christian Walker who fired home well ahead of Freeman, who tried to run back to 3rd. John Ryan Murphy ran him back and tagged him though. Zack then got Ozzie Albies to flyout to left, and won a long battle with Tyler Flowers, eventually striking him out to end the threat.
Zack’s final line was 7 IP, 5 Hits, 1 ER, 0 Walks, and 7 K’s. He lowered his ERA to 3.16.
Unfortunately Yoan Lopez gave up a two out missile by Ronald Acuna Jr. in the 8th that almost knocked down the CF wall to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. The ball was 113 MPH off the bat, and was listed as a 466 foot homer. But that must be the projected distance had the wall not got in the way. With a 21 degree launch angle it was just a line drive homer to centerfield that was smoked. It came on a 2-0 fastball that was not well located. Quite unfortunate, as Lopez had looked good getting the first two outs of the inning. Lopez has now allowed runs in four games in his career, three of them against the Braves. For this, he would be tagged with the loss.
Over their last five games, the Diamondbacks have scored just 11 runs, (2.2/G) while batting just .188 and striking out 54 times. While many are slumping now, the most notable perhaps is Christian Walker, who over his last 12 games is just 9 for 47, .191 BA. with 1 RBI. He continues to struggle at home for some inexplicable reason, batting just .167 with 1 HR and 1 RBI in 54 at bats. He does have 10 walks at home , but that’s coupled with 20 strikeouts. It’s unfair perhaps to single him out, but in a very short period of time, the team has grown to depend on him quite a bit. So his slump while batting in the middle of the order has made things more difficult. In lieu of Torey Lovullo’s comments today about Jake Lamb, it would behoove Walker to get his bat going again.
After the game Torey did allow that many of the hitters are getting a little too aggressive swinging at pitches outside the strike zone and that was something they would be focused on in the coming days.
There was a roster move after the game. Ildemaro Vargas was optioned to Reno. The corresponding move will be announced tomorrow. However Torey said it would NOT be a pitcher, which almost certainly means Alex Avila will be activated from the IL.
I would be remiss here not to mention John Ryan Murphy. He is 0 for his last 21, with 13 strikeouts. He is now batting .160 on the year with a 56 wRC+. He repeatedly seems to be getting shook off by Zack Greinke too. It seemed to an issue at several points tonight, and especially in the 7th inning, although that may have been related to having a man on second base. No matter....Murphy’s performance is making it harder and harder for the team to justify the three catcher roster construction they insist on sticking with. With Avila returning, these complications arise once again, all in the midst of some difficult pitching roster decisions for the team. Stay tuned .
Churchill: Zack Greinke. + 27.3 %
Montgomery: David Peralta + 20.2%
Chamberlain: Yoan Lopez. -19.2%
I can’t get the Roll Call to load tonight. Perhaps will try again when I get home.
Tomorrow is game three of the series, and is also Star Wars night. Merrill Kelly will start against Kevin Gausman. Game time is 5:10 PM