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Diamondbacks 18, Nationals 7: Arizona turns Strasburg into a haboob

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#YouCantPredictBaseball

Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Record: 55-56. Pace: 80-82. Change on 2018: -6.

Last night’s the D-backs faced Joe Ross. He was making his second start of the year, and over his previous three outings, covering 11 innings, he had allowed 22 hits and 13 earned runs, for a 10.64 ERA. Of course, he and the Nationals bullpen combined on a one-hit shutout of Arizona. This evening, the team faced Stephen Strasburg. Over his last seven starts, he had gone 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA. Of course, he was tattooed for nine earned runs, tying a career-worst, in only 4.2 innings. I want people to remember tonight the next time the D-backs’ hitters are unable to hit an apparent “scrub”. Because it just goes to show, on any given night, any given pitcher can achieve just about any given result.

Of course, it’s not the first time the D-backs have blasted Strasburg this year. The last start in which he didn’t get the W, in fact, was the June 15 outing against Arizona in our nation’s capital. There, he allowed six earned runs on nine hits over five innings. But tonight took that to a whole other level, to the point that you wonder if the D-backs know something about Strasburg. Is he tipping his pitches? It’s about the only way to explain something like this:
Strasburg vs. Arizona: 9.2 IP, 18 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 7 HR, 0-2, 13.97 ERA
Strasburg vs. the rest: 135.2 IP, 103 H, 47 R, 45 ER, 9 HR, 14-3, 2.99 ERA

It was all the more surprising, given how this started. For it was a bit of a rocky start from Robbie Ray in the first, as speed killed for the visiting Nationals. Trea Turner - as Jack pointed out, one of the fastest men in the league (non-Locastro division) - legged out an infield hit just far enough off to the side of Eduardo Escobar. Former D-back Adam Eaton followed with a ball down into the right-field corner. Turner scored all the way from first, and Eaton ended up on third. He came home on a sacrifice fly to David Peralta, and it took a nice play by the Arizona outfielder to avoid a third consecutive hit for the Nationals. Ray escaped without further damage, but the offense found themselves in an early 2-0 hole.

It didn’t take long to dig themselves out. Ketel Marte drew a walk, and then Eduardo Escobar matched the entire Arizona hit total from last night’s game. He delivered his 23rd home-run of the season (above), blasting an 0-1 fastball from Stephen Strasburg over the fence in right, a two-run shot that tied things back up. That continued a trend mentioned in the preview, with the D-backs having been the only team to homer in the first inning off Strasburg all season. They then added another long-ball in the second, with Nick Ahmed hitting his 11th homer, just above the line on the batter’s eye in center field. That gave Arizona a 3-2 lead.

But, wait! There’s more! In the third, David Peralta doubled to the wall in left-center, scoring Marte, and he then came home on a single by Christian Walker, making it 5-2 to Arizona. Ray had been cruising after his early issues, retiring 10 of 11 batters to the first out in the fourth. However, three consecutive hits, capped by a two-run triple by former Diamondback Gerardo Parra slashed the lead to one run, with the tying run in the form of Parra, standing on third, still with only one out. Ray regrouped, stranding Parra there, and would eventually leave after five innings. It was only the second time in 12 outings, he hadn’t gone six. Ray was charged with four runs, on six hits and no walks with five strikeouts.

He had only thrown 84 pitches to that point, but the D-backs had blown the doors off the game, by scoring five times in the bottom of the fifth. All but one of those were charged to Strasburg, who was lifted with two outs. He’d already allowed an RBI single to Escobar, and a two-run homer to Jake Lamb, his fourth. After a wild pitch for strike three allowed Ahmed to reach, that was the end of the Strasburg. But the runner of his inherited by the Washington bullpen came around to score, as Alex Avila blasted his seventh homer. That left Strasburg as having allowed nine earned runs tonight. It tied a career high, set back in August 2016 - and that was at Coors Field, so is subject to a 15% discount...

The bottom of the seventh inning was interesting in a number of ways. Out of the Nats’ bullpen, we got Tanner Rainey, who faced six batters, NONE of whom put the ball in play. He walked four, including Eduardo Escobar with the bases loaded and struck out the other two. He was lifted, with the pond still full of D-backs, and was replaced by old friend Daniel Hudson. Huddy was making his debut for Washington, having been dealt there from Toronto at the deadline. They’re his fourth team since leaving Arizona, having also played for the Dodgers and Pirates. Tonight, he showed his former team no love, striking out Peralta to end the seventh.

In the eighth, Parra pitched. Yes, you read that correctly. His first pitch was clocked at an impressive 92 mph. Unfortunately, it was outside the strike-zone. As were most of his pitches. Of the 25 thrown, only eight were strikes, as he allowed four walks and an RBI single to Avila before eventually being lifted. He is currently the first pitcher since Doc Hamann in 1922 to have a career where he allowed 5+ runs without retiring a batter [Zack Weiss did come close for the Reds last year, giving up four runs without an out, in his only appearance. And he’s an actual pitcher] Brian Dozier replaced Parra: Jarrod Dyson hit a two-RBI ground-rule double, and Escobar his 24th HR - despite batting righty vs. a righty.

After a scoreless sixth from Yoshihisa Hirano, Zack Godley came on. He actually got to bat. Twice. Including once with the bases loaded, when he drew one of those walks thrown by Parra in the eighth. Godley was the first Arizona reliever to take a base on balls since Matt Koch on Sep 13, 2016. However, he fell just short of notching what would have been the fifth three-inning save for the Diamondbacks this year, which has kinda been their specialty. Since 2000, only the 2017 Dodgers have reached five 3+ inning saves. But tonight, a three-run homer with two down in the ninth helped lead to T.J. McFarland being called upon to record the final out in a game which was certainly not short of things to recap about.

Every starting D-backs position player had a hit before the first out in the bottom of the sixth. Escobar had three hits and seven RBI. Dyson, Marte, Peralta, Ahmed and Avila each enjoyed two-hit nights. And the Diamondbacks drew 11 walks, including EIGHT over the final two innings, which took 38 and 41 pitches by Washington respectively. It’s the most bases on balls by Arizona in a regulation game since September 24, 2011. I don’t think I’ve witnessed such a more unexpectedly comprehensive victory by the D-backs since that night where they demolished Clayton Kershaw, back on May 17, 2014. Consider that run differential, well and truly padded...

Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Haboob: Eduardo Escobar, +18.6%
Roaring forties: Ahmed, +14.8%; Marte, +13.9%
Fart: Robbie Ray, -10.6%

Present in the Gameday Thread were: AzDbackfanInDc, DORRITO, GuruB, Jack Sommers, James Patrick Kim, Johnneu, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, Sprankton, TheGoldenSombrero, Xerostomia, asteroid, kilnborn, onedotfive and pyroman168. That was unexpectedly pleasant, wasn’t it? Comment of the thread, obviously, goes to AzDbackfanInDc

Oops. That will likely be in the running for Comment of the Year - just as this will likely be in the running for Game of the Year. I can’t say that splitting the first two contests in this series came as a surprise: I just wouldn’t have expected them quite to happen in this fashion. It gives the team a chance to disprove AzDbackfanInDc further, by winning the rubber game tomorrow. However, they’ll have to get past former D-back Patrick Corbin to do it, with Taylor Clarke on the mound for Arizona. First pitch at 1:10 pm, and as this game proves - you never know what might happen!