Record: 69-66. Pace: 83-79. Change on 2018: -5.
The D-backs finally ended their long nightmare, escaping a 60-game streak of being within two of .500. They won their fifth consecutive game, and for the second night in a row, they beat the Dodgers after falling 3-0 behind in the early stages. Tonight was... not quite as lightly entertaining as last night’s blow-out. The team won - and, indeed, delivered tacos - despite getting just one hit with a runner in scoring position. And that hit didn’t even score a run. Josh Rojas went from goat to hero in the seventh inning. Tim Locastro scored the eventual winning run on a balk, and the bottom of the ninth saw the Dodgers almost load the bases before Archie Bradley finally nailed it down.
At three hours and forty-one minutes long, it wasn’t exactly an advert for crisp baseball. Indeed, the only longer regulation games at Chase this year involved the scoring of seventeen and twenty-five runs, rather than the nine we got here. But you’d hardly complain about the length, when this contest had more twists and turns than a M. Night Shyamalan box-set. I’m probably going to be sitting up for a while after doing the recap, simply because the adrenaline is still coursing through my system. Or maybe it’s just the beer. Hey, it’s Friday. I do have Turambar’s reputation in these things to maintain, y’know.
Zac Gallen was the starter, and... Well, he’s looking steadily more and more like a right-handed version of Robbie Ray. Dominant as hell - that’s now 31 strikeouts in 25 innings - but a major issue with efficiency. Tonight, he went five innings, exactly his average through five starts with the D-backs. Gallen allowed three runs on five hits and a walk. though was a bit unlucky to do so. The two runs in the second began courtesy of a shift-beater that turned into a hustle double, as Rojas lolly-gagged it a bit in left. A hard-hit double made it 1-0 to LA, but then the Dodgers got a hit that pinged off Gallen all the way to third base, and a squibber through the infield by the opposing pitcher for an RBI single.
In the third, the Dodgers went 3-0 up. With one out, Justin Turner walked a fourteen-pitch walk, tied for the second-longest plate appearance in the majors this year. The D-backs hadn’t thrown more than a dozen pitches to any batter in 2019. The last 14-pitch PA was on June 4, 2017 when Archie Bradley eventually allowed a single to A.J. Ellis of the Marlins. Fun fact: all told tonight, Turner faced 23 of Gallen’s 92 pitches. Can’t be many times where a single batter is responsible for a quarter of all pitches thrown by a starter, in a game where they qualify for a decision. That walk was followed by an RBI triple, though Gallen did well to strand that runner, and indeed, retired the final eight batters he faced.
The offense hadn’t been doing much against Tony Gonsolin, who seem to be doing a lot with very little. He walked Jarrod Dyson to open the game, then went to a full count on Rojas. But he rebounded to strike him out, and no-hit Arizona through three innings. Eduardo Escobar ended that with one out in the fourth, hitting a double, but the D-backs were still blanked into the bottom of the sixth. There, Rojas drew a walk, and Escobar deposited his 31st home-run of the year to right center, making it 3-2. It’ll be interesting to see how close he ends up getting to a forty home-run season. It might end up being closer than you’d think: Escobar does have nine HR in his last 24 games.
The Dodgers immediately got that run back. Rojas badly misjudged a line-drive in left, and it flew over his head to the wall for a double, after he came in for it. That man came around, despite Kevin Ginkel’s best efforts in relief of T.J. McFarland, scoring on a shift-beater with two outs [This was the kind of night that would drive haters of the defensive shift into a frothing fury], and padding the LA lead back to two runs. But baseball offers redemption, and with two outs in the bottom of the very same inning, Dyson legged out a bunt single. Rojas then chose the perfect moment for the Arizona native to record his first major-league home-run (above), a wall-scraper which just slid over the fence in right. The two-run shot tied the game at four. I hope Rojas was able to recover the ball.
Andrew Chafin and Archie Bradley combined for a scoreless top of the eighth. Tim Locastro led off the bottom half and certainly had an interesting trip around the base-paths. He struck out on three pitches, but Russell Martin whiffed on the last of them, and Locastro reached base because Locastro. He stole second on the first pitch, and advanced to third on an Adam Jones single - Arizona’s first hit with a runner in scoring position having gone 0-for-8 previously in that situation. Then, the Dodgers’ pitcher inexplicably forgot quite what to do with regard to pickoffs, failed to step off the back of the rubber (below). Go-ahead balk? Don’t mind if we do!
The drama wasn’t quite over. Bradley came out for the bottom of the ninth to try and preserve the one-run lead, and promptly hit Martin with a pitch. You’d be forgiven for having flashbacks of that game in Colorado, when Archie blew a previous chance at Mr. ThreeGamesOver.500, Because that also began with him hitting the first batter faced in the ninth inning. Using a lot more curveballs than I’d seen, he got the next two on strikeouts, but then another shift-beater put the tying run in scoring position, with the Ginger Troll at the plate. Disaster loomed, as a hard smash down to Escobar, now playing third, was bobbled. But he recovered to throw Turner out by a shoelace, ending the game. Phew.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Mount Everest: Josh Rojas, +33.8%
Mount Fuji: Bradley, +27.1%; Locastro, +26.4%; Escobar, +21.7%;
Dead Sea: Christian Walker, -15.1%
Death Valley: Ahmed, -13.3%; Avila, -11.9%; Gallen, -11.4%; McFarland, -10.9%/i>
Thanks to all those who showed up, in a brisk Gameday Thread, whose enthusiasm largely matched the Win Probability graph above! Present were: AzRattler, BenSharp, DeadManG, Gilbertsportsfan, Gore4HOF, GuruB, Justin27, Michael McDermott, MikeDavisAZ, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, SongBird, Sprankton, William Kubas, gzimmerm, kilnborn, and ponus, with Comment of the Thread going to Rockkstarr12 [even if I had to ask Mrs. SnakePit what it meant. :)]
With that victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, we are... still 41⁄2 games back of the Cubs for the second wild-card. But we are now ahead of both the Brewers and Mets, with only the Phillies between us and the Cubs. Tomorrow, the D-backs will try and move further above .500, in what should be a good pitching match-up, with Robbie Ray taking on Clayton Kershaw. First pitch is at 5:10 pm.