Record: 75-73. Pace: 82-80. Change on 2018: -3.
A return to Chase Field and opponents not named the Mets didn’t prove to be the cure for what ails the Diamondbacks. On Faith and Family night, Arizona didn’t repay anyone’s faith, and a pair of unearned runs, courtesy of a Wilmer Flores error, proved the difference as the D-backs dropped their sixth in a row. I managed to miss most of the early innings, thanks to unholy traffic on the I-10: I don’t know if it was caused by everyone going to the Dave Matthews concert at the Ak-Chin Pavilion tonight, but the highway was at a grinding halt from downtown through to 83rd Avenue. I can’t say I feel any great sense of loss, between a Mike Leake start and nine of the first 10 Diamondbacks’ hitters going down in order.
By the time I got home, Leake had already done what Leake does and give up the first of his two home-runs on the night. They again put him into a tie for most home-runs allowed in the majors this year, on 38: a dozen of those have come as a Diamondback, in only 47.2 innings. The only pitcher to allow more home-runs in his first eight starts for Arizona was Armando Galarraga, who gave up thirteen in 2011. Not exactly auspicious. The problems here, however, were less the long-balls, than what immediately preceded them. With two outs in the third, for example, Leake walked the Reds’ leadoff hitter, then fell behind 3-0 on Joey Votto, who then clubbed an 89 mph sinker just over the fence in left for a 2-0 lead.
Their other home-run came in the fifth, and was also with two outs in the inning, and another two-run shot. This one hurt in particular, as Leake should have been out of the inning, but with one out, Wilmer Flores’s bad throw pulled Christian Walker off the bag, allowing the runner to reach, One out later, Josh VanMeter hit the homer, which would prove to be all the offense the Reds would need. Leake ended up going his more or less usual six innings, and did strike out a D-backs high five batters (ah, the soft bigotry of low expectations...). He was charged with four runs, albeit two of them being unearned, on five hits and a walk,
The offense scuffled again, though Arizona actually managed to out-hit Cincinnati by a margin of 7-5. The problem this evening was largely one of timing. All but one of the Diamondbacks’ hits came when there were already two outs in the frame, which severely limits the ability to put together innings. Their lead-off men in the innings wen 1-for-7 with a walk, and it is equally hard to score much when you are almost always starting off with one out and the bases empty. Arizona’s first run came in the bottom of the third, and required some sustained two-out magic, with Walker, Flores and Adam Jones all getting hits, reducing the margin to 2-1.
The other two runs both came after the lead-off man get on base for the home team, as after the visitors had restored the margin to 4-1, Arizona kept chipping away. There wasn’t much luck on Arizona’s side in the fifth. Alex Avila drew a leadoff walk, and Leake’s fake bunt-turned-slash almost flew over the head of the shallow right-fielder. Avila did come around to score eventually, after another walk and an Eduardo Escobar RBI single, making it 4-2. And the D-backs turned it into a one-run game in the sixth, as Flores’s double came around on a Nick Ahmed sacrifice fly. But the D-backs could come no closer than Ketel Marte’s two-out double off the CF wall, with two outs in the ninth.
On the plus side, the bullpen did everything which could be asked of them. Yoshihisa Hirano, Andrew Chafin and Stefan Crichton combined to retire all nine batters faced. Hirano struck out two of the three faced, which is nice to see. Remarkably, the Reds won despite having no hits and only one at-bat with a runner in scoring position all night. A solid crowd in attendance, of 35,158, taking attendance for the year over 1.825 million. With 11 home games left, the team should have no trouble getting past the franchise low of 2.036 million, set in 2016. Game like this and the all-time record crowd. set against the Dodgers on August 31 have probably guaranteed that.
Escobar, Flores and Marte combined for five of the seven hits, which is pretty much what it has been over the past week or so. Carson Kelly flew out after replacing Avila behind the plate, and his recent struggles continue. Over the past month, he is batting a mere .154, going 8-for-52 in that time. I wonder if the jump from 19 major-league games last year, to 103 (and counting) this season, has worn him down? I know he played in the minors most of last season, but I think the grind of daily life in the majors has got to be considerably more taxing, despite the greater comforts and better per diem.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Jason Vorhees: Ketel Marte, +5.9%
Troll: Josh Rojas, -23.7%
The Beast of Yucca Flats: Leake, -17.5%; Walker, -12.6%
Not many present for this one. It’s almost as if a five-game losing streak has sucked out most enthusiasm. The two most rec’d comments were both to do with the Mike Hazen extension, and no-one had anything witty or memorable to say about this one, so no comment of the night. The 16 sad individuals with no lives, who clearly couldn’t find anything better to do on a Friday night were: DeadManG, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, jimbopatterson, kilnborn and onedotfive,
We’ll be back tomorrow for more of the same, at least in terms of location and opponents. I’m not making any promises about the result. Merrill Kelly stars for the Diamondbacks, with a first pitch at 5:10 pm, Arizona time.