Record: 46-45. Pace: 82-80. Change on 2018: -4.
It has been a very up and down first half of the 2019 campaign for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Some weeks, they have looked completely wretched. But at other times, they have seemed almost unstoppable. The reality, of course, is almost certainly somewhere in the middle. But the team did at least go into the break on a high not. Alex Young, making only his third major-league appearance, pitched a no-hitter, albeit being removed after six innings for pitch count reasons. And a four-run sixth inning allowed Arizona to complete a much-needed sweep of Colorado and finish that first half with a winning record - albeit, only just.
But after a couple of recaps for me, of games which were forgettable to put it mildly, it was nice to have to write about - and therefore watch - a good team performance. It was the first chance I had really to watch Young, and he looked very impressive. His stuff isn’t particularly overpowering, but he seems to locate it well, and the Rockies found it almost impossible to square up. He had a bunch of one-pitch outs, and that allowed Young to get through six innings without particular difficulty, needing just 71 pitches, and with the sole base-runner allowed, a one-out walk to Tony Wolters in the third inning. Over his first 13.1 MLB innings, Young has allowed three hits, two walks and one run.
There was some complaint on social media about Torey Lovullo taking Young out. But I was fine with it. The pitcher didn’t make his first start this year until May 12, having worked out of the Reno Aces bullpen to that point. His pitch count had been increased slowly since then, but only a couple of starts had reached even eighty pitches, the last of those coming on June 16. There’s no way he’d have been throwing a complete game today, regardless of the number of hits, so it became a case of when, rather than if, Lovullo wanted to go to the bullpen. With a young pitcher and a stellar outing like this, I definitely would prefer to err on the side of too soon, rather than too late.
He still became only the second D-back rookie to throw six hitless innings, the first being Edgar Gonzalez in 2004. [This is the kind of “thing you don’t see everyday” I prefer to witness, rather than the “end a game by walking five consecutive batters” that I got for my previous recap!] He is also just the seventh pitcher since Arizona came into the leagues in 1998, to have a hitless start for any team in his first three major-league appearances. Below, you’ll find how he stacks up against the previous six. Interesting to note the name of former Diamondback Clay Buchholz on that list; he no-hit the Orioles in his second major-league start, for the Red Sox in 2007.
No-hit starts in first three MLB games
|3||Alex Young||7/7/19||ARI||COL||W 5-3||6.0||0||0||0||1||3|
|1||Daniel Ponce de Leon||7/23/18||STL||CIN||L 1-2||7.0||0||0||0||3||3|
|1||Ross Stripling||4/8/16||LAD||SFG||L 2-3||7.1||0||1||1||4||4|
|3||Mark Rogers||9/24/10||MIL||FLA||W 6-2||3.0||0||0||0||2||4|
|2||Clay Buchholz||9/1/07||BOS||BAL||W 10-0||9.0||0||0||0||3||9|
|2||Phil Hughes||5/1/07||NYY||TEX||W 10-1||6.1||0||0||0||3||6|
|2||Devern Hansack||10/1/06||BOS||BAL||W 9-0||5.0||0||0||0||1||6|
As if that weren’t enough, he scored the Diamondbacks’ first run, getting Arizona on the scoreboard in the third inning. And that came despite striking out! For the ball got past Wolters, allowing Young to reach first-base. He advanced to second on a passed ball, and was then able to take advantage after a Ketel Marte smash down the first-base line clanked off the glove of Daniel Murphy at first, for a generously-scored RBI double. That was the sole run of support he would get while on the mound, but the D-backs added four in the sixth, courtesy of a two-run RBI single from Christian Walker, followed by Nick Ahmed’s ninth home-run of the season, scoring him and Walker.
I do want to mention one thing which probably will get overlooked. The D-backs superlative base-running there. Ketel Marte led things off with a walk. Then Eduardo Escobar dropped a bloop single to right field. Not only did Marte take the extra bases, but Escobar was able to advance to second, as Charlie Blackmon’s throw towards third overshot the cut-off man. That gave us an extra man in scoring position, and Walker an extra RBI. And on that hit, Christian also advanced ninety feet on the throw, getting into scoring position. Of course, Ahmed’s blast (below) perhaps rendered all this base-running irrelevant; it’s still good to see the team doing the little things right. All hail Dave McKay!
The no-hitter didn’t exactly last long once the D-backs bullpen get into the game. In fact, you may have blinked and missed it, as Yoshihisa Hirano’s first pitch ended it, resulting in an infield single to Jake Lamb at third. He could perhaps have been quicker in his handling of it, but subsequent events rendered that debate kind moot. While Hirano retired the next three batters he faced, Andrew Chafin gave up a single in the eighth, then a two-run homer to ex-Diamondback Chris Iannetta. We’re the only team against whom he has more than one HR this year. That made it a save situation, and Greg Holland immediately allowed a lead-off bomb, prompting... “concern.” But he settled down, got the next trio to secure the sweep.
This was a series won for Arizona by their starting rotation. The issue with the Rockies on the road are well-documented, but they still have a bunch of All-Stars in their offense. Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Young, however, held them to one run over 19 innings of work in this series, paving the way for a very satisfactory sweep to end the first half of the season. Some results elsewhere also went Arizona’s way, with Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago all losing. As a result, the D-backs go into the break one and a half games back of the Phillies for the second wild-card: the Rockies, meanwhile, are now fourth in the NL West, having lost six in a row to fall behind San Diego, who swept the Dodgers in LA.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
George Michael: Alex Young, +36.5%
Wham: Eduardo Escobar, +23.4%
Andrew Ridgeley: Jarrod Dyson, -8.1%
A happy Gameday Thread: been a while since I’ve seen one of those for my recap! Present were: AZPerson, Augdogs, AzDbackfanInDc, BobDolio, DBacksEurope, DORRITO, DeadManG, Diamondhacks, Gore4HOF, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, SenSurround, Snake_Bitten, Sprankton, Theolser4, ex-distancerunner and rustynails77. Two Sedona Red comments; Hacks’s got most recs, but probably requires a bit too much set-up! So I’ll go with the other one from Michael, which is self-contained.
No more D-backs games until Friday, due to the All-Star break. We start off in St. Louis, for a series with significant wild-card implications and which will, of course, also re-unite us with their first baseman. No word yet who’ll be pitching there, but I imagine Zack Greinke could quite probably start the opener. Stick around, as we’ll be covering the Home-Run Derby and All-Star Game in the next couple of days.