Record: 29-30. Pace: 80-82. Change on 2018: -2.
Around nine o’clock tonight, with the D-backs 4-0 down and being dominated by Jacob deGrom, I was thinking, “Well, at least it’ll be a quick game. Probably over around 9:30, I’ll get the recap knocked out by 10, and we’ll have time to watch something.” But the D-backs clawed their way back into this, took it to the Mets bullpen, and forced extras. There, Kevin “I only hit for extra bases” Cron led things off in the 11th inning with a double, was bunted to third, and Tim Locastro knocked one over the five-man infield for the first walk-off hit of his career. But if the next few paragraphs of this recap are rather less happy than the above would imply, you’ll understand why...
“I wanted to make sure that instead of looking for somebody else to come in and pick up the slack for them that they were going to be conditioned for those moments and pitch into the sixth and seventh inning. I’m asking for our starters to go 21 outs... If they’re pitching four or five innings, sometimes six innings at a time, that is going to tax our bullpen.”
— Torey Lovullo, April 2017.
You don’t hear much about that any longer. This season, the D-backs have managed to deliver those 21 outs only 11 times, as we head into the third month. And Zack Greinke is responsible for most of those (6), more than everyone else put together. Perhaps surprisingly, Merrill Kelly is next on the list, with three, and Luke Weaver has two. The other slots - Robbie Ray, and whatever mix of Zack Godley, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke - have none at all. But the actual number of such outings hasn’t declined very much over Lovullo’s tenure. There were 33 in 2017, and the number did drop to 30 last year. But we’re still on pace for the same amount in 2019.
Any chance of this evening counting had largely been extinguished by the end of the second inning, at which point Greinke had thrown 44 pitches. It has been a tough stretch for the D-backs starting pitchers, in terms of going deep into games. The last 10 games including this one - so, two complete turns round the rotation - our starters have thrown a total of only 46.2 frames, or an average of just 42⁄3 innings per game. For the anticipated pitching match-up failed to arrive, at least from the Arizona side. Greinke managed to get through only four inning, his shortest start since the disastrous one on Opening Day, and the first game since then where had hadn’t pitched at least six.
It took only five pitches for the Mets to take the lead, as Greinke allowed a one-out single, immediately followed by an RBI double. He did then settle down, retiring seven in a row. But the wheels fell off the Greinkewagen when he came out for the fourth, as the Mets tattooed him for five straight hits to open the inning. It began with a bunt single, and while I wouldn’t have said Greinke is the kind of guy who’d let that rattle him, it was followed by a long home-run to left-field, and three straight singles, giving the visitors a 4-0 lead. There was a bit of weirdness as he then called for Torey and trainer Ryan Dipanfilo to come out, but then stayed in the game.
Greinke finally escaped with a nicely-turned double-play (above), Christian Walker leaping up to snag a high chopper, throwing on to Nick Ahmed, then back over to where Zack was covering first. But that was the end of his night: four runs allowed over four innings on seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts. I’m hoping he was simply lifted due to high pitch-count and ineffectiveness, and not anything to do with the trainer’s visit. He was replaced by Zack Godley, who did his best, giving up one run on two hits, striking out three. He needed only 46 pitches (with just 12 balls) for his four innings, compared to 80 for Greinke, and looked as good as I’ve seen Godley be on the mound for a while.
Meanwhile, deGrom faced the minimum through five innings, needing only 66 pitches. The sole base-runner for Arizona was a Jarrod Dyson single back up the middle, immediately erased by an Eduardo Escobar double-play. Nick Ahmed ended that run of 15 consecutive Diamondbacks retired with a one-out single in the sixth, but it was still quite a surprise deGrom ended up not able to get through the seventh. Adam Jones doubled with one out there, and came home via an error on a throw to first after an Ildemaro Vargas infield smash (“hit” doesn’t do it justice!). Ahmed was then unlucky not to get an RBI, bouncing a ground-rule double into the pool area, and suddenly Arizona had the tying run at the plate.
That ended deGrom’s night, but Alex Avila was unable to reach base - which would have loaded them for Kevin Cron. Recalled earlier today, he was stranded in the on-deck circle, where he’d have pinch-hit for Godley. The Mets got the run back in the top of the eighth, on a solo home-run off Godley. However, Arizona then responded with four runs, in what seems like a case of “Anyone but deGrom”. Seeing the New York bullpen in action, it made sense why their starter clearly did not want to leave the game. However, it started with Locastro being hit by a pitch for the ninth time this season, in only 53 PA. For contrast, Josh Reddick has seven HBP in his career, covering 4,163 plate-appearances.
Dyson legged out a swinging bunt, Locastro reaching third as the throw to first went wide. Ketel Marte ambushed the first pitch he saw for an RBI single, Dyson also going to third. Escobar made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left, and Adam Jones then tied the game (above), hitting the ball off the facing of the home-run porch. just to the left of center. It was his 12th home-run of the season: not bad going for a player we signed less than three weeks before Opening Day. Greg Holland worked a scoreless ninth, and though Locastro walked, and represented the winning run in scoring position with one out, and on third with two down, it was not to be. But it only delayed things, and two innings later Locastro did the honors.
Credit must go also to Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano, who followed Holland with hitless innings of their own. Indeed, it was likely the best night for the Arizona bullpen in a very long while. Pressed once more into extended duty, the four pitchers used allowed one run over seven innings, on two hits and a walk, with seven strikeouts. Contrast that to the line of the Mets bullpen: five runs in 3.1 innings, on six hits and two walks, albeit with six K’s. On offense, there were two hits apiece for Dyson, Jones and Vargas, while we had what I guess is a modified Locastro cycle: a hit, a walk, a hit by pitch and a stolen base.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Godzilla: Adam Jones, +32.8%
Mothra: Locastro, +32.2%; Cron, 17.3%; Holland/Lopez/Hirano, 13.7%
Ghidorah: Zack Greinke, -19.7%%
MUTO: Escobar, -17.6%; Marte, -14.0%; Walker, -12.5%; Avila, -10.9%
Yeah, guess what film I’m going to see tomorrow. :) Good news after the game, with Greinke’s issue just a bit of cramp. Phew. Present in the Gameday Thread were: AZPerson, AzDbackfanInDc, DeadManG, EphBoston, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Hannibal4467, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Johnneu, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, Sprankton, asteroid, onedotfive and suroeste. As for comment of the night... Well, you know where I’d be heading for my pick. Because it was a delightful, all-you-can-eat buffet of entirely mis-placed pessimism this evening. Take your own selection from any of the following:
Oh, ye of little faith... Hopefully, this is the kind of comeback win which galvanizes the team and sends the D-backs onto a positive run for a week or longer. But I am worried about the bullpen, which has now thrown 19 innings in three days. We’ll see what the rubber game tomorrow will bring, with Merrill Kelly on the mound. Could do with one of his seven inning starts, I think!