Record: 80-75. Pace: 84-78. Change on 2018: +1.
Last night, I tweeted out that this was the first time all season the 2019 D-backs had caught up with the 2018 team’s record. Looks like that wasn’t quite the case, though it had been a while.Almost a hundred games, to be precise: after games 52 + 53, this year’s model was one game up on its predecessor, and was level after #54 + 55. But since then? It has been a long, long series of playing from behind. However, the team finally reeled them in, and tonight’s victory in Petco put Arizona one game ahead of where the 2018 version stood. It also returned the Diamondbacks to a winning record in September at 10-9, so maybe that whole “slump” talk was a little premature.
Anyway, if you’re curious, below you can find the chart showing the games above and below .500, for both last year and this year to date. Quite impressive to realize that we have gone from eight games behind the 2018 Diamondbacks, to one ahead of them, in the space of just 25 games. Though it probably says more about the horrendous slump in the final month last year than anything, which is pretty clear in the graph. I’m also quite impressed this team has not been more than three games below .500 in the entire Mike Hazen era, now covering a trio of seasons. Considering he inherited a team which had just gone 69-93, that’s an accomplishment,
Anyway, to this evening’s game, which started off with Abraham Almonte tripling into the right-field corner, for his first three-bagger as a Diamondback. He was then able to scurry home on a Domingo Leyba sacrifice fly and give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. I have to say, I’ve been favorably impressed with Almonte, considering he’s a 30-year-old journeyman, with a career OPS+ of 79 before this year. He later added a single and a double, finishing the game a home-run short of the cycle. Unfortunately, he was left in the on-deck circle at the middle of the ninth, so never got a chance to complete it. But he’s now batting .348 with a 1.096 OPS. Sustainable? Hell, no. Still, he has done everything you could have wanted.
This game was probably most memorable, however, for the return from the IL of Luke Weaver, who started the game. This, too, was probably everything you could have wanted, though his appearance was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety. Part of that was by intent: he was only ever expected to throw 30-35 pitches anyway. The Padres were having none of that, being retired in order on eight pitches in the first inning, and eleven in the second. He was looking good, reaching 95.7 mph with his fastball, and getting Hunter Renfroe for a called strike three on a four-seamer. Not sure if he’ll pitch again or not; if we don’t see him again, it’ll be a nice note on which he can head into the winter.
Arizona had tattooed San Diego starter Cal Quantrill when they faced him at the start of the month in Phoenix. But they weren’t able to do much against him tonight. After Almonte’s triple, the only other base-runner they managed during Quantrill’s five innings was an Eduardo Escobar double with one out in the fourth. And the Padres had rallied to tie things up, Renfroe homering off Taylor Clarke, who had come in after Weaver’s opening act. But Clarke was solid in his outing, that being the only run allowed over three innings, on two hits and a walk with a pair of strikeout. He got out of the fifth, following the home-run with a walk, regrouping to strike out Manuel Margot before an inning-ending double-play.
The D-backs responded immediately, to retake the lead. One out singles from Almonte and Leyba put runners on the corners, and Escobar hit a slowish chopper to Manny Machado at third. He might have come home. He might have gone to second for the double-play. Instead, he just went to first for the out there, and Arizona had the lead. Torey Lovullo, meanwhile, appeared to have been possessed by the spirit of Bruce Bochy. By which I mean, he was taking full advantage of the expanded September roster, using six relievers to navigate his way through the final twelve outs. Stefan Crichton and T.J, McFarland worked the sixth and Yoshihisa Hirano the seventh, combining for a pair of zeroes.
The latter was extended by an error from Nick Ahmed, which was made even more notable by another Ahmed error in the eighth inning. What’s weird is that the last two games in which Ahmed had multiple errors, were both against the Padres: April 20, 2018 and June 8, 2017. Both of those were at Chase, however, so we can’t blame the Petco turf or something. In between them, the Diamondbacks were able to add on a pair of insurance runs, both coming with two outs. Almonte and Leyba combined on back-to-back doubles for the first - one driven to the left-center gap, the other blooped down the left-field line. An Escobar single then brought Leyba home.
Those proved crucial, as two outs after the Ahmed error to lead off the bottom of the eighth, a walk to Machado off Kevin Ginkel brought the tying run to the plate. Lovullo went to Andrew Chafin, but his outing lasted two pitches, Eric Hosmer banging a pitch into center, making it 4-2, and putting the tying run on base. With Renfroe up, Lovullo turned to Archie Bradley for a four-out save. Only for Archie to plunk Renfroe and load the bases, moving the tying run into scoring position. But you won’t see a prettier sequence than the next three pitches: 79.6 mph curve for a called strike; 80.9 mph curve for a swinging strike; 94.8 mph fastball for a called strike three (above) to end the inning.
Bradley allowed a lead-off single in the ninth, for dramatic purposes, bringing the tying run to the plate once more. He then retired the next three in order, picking up his 16th save. The top third of the order really got it done, the law firm of Almonte, Leyba and Escobar combining to go 7-for-11, both scoring and driving in all four D-backs’ runs, and getting all but one of the visitor’s hits. The win took Arizona back to five games over .500, for the first time since the series in Cincinnati. They would need to go 1-6 over their remaining seven games, to avoid at least matching last year’s record.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Pineapple chunks: Domingo Leyba, +19.5%
Cling peaches in syrup: Bradley, +15.9%; Almonte, +14.5%; Escobar, 14.3%, Hirano, +10.3%; Weaver, +10.1%;
Prune puree: Josh Rojas, -9.2%
239 comments, not bad for a meaningless late season Saturday night. First game I’ve been able to spend in a Gameday Thread for a very long time, and I’d forgotten how much fun it could be. Thanks to all those who made it so, who would be: Andrew Chrun, AzDbackfanInDc, DBacksEurope, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Justin27, Makakilo, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Schilling2001, Snake_Bitten, edbigghead and kilnborn. Comment of the night to Justin27:
The game did definitely slow down after that brisk start. The last six innings took almost two and a half hours, in fact. Thanks, Lovullo! Still, the win’s the thing, and Arizona gets to go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon, behind Robbie Ray. First pitch will be just after 1 pm, so see you for the final road game of 2019. Unless we make the wild-card game, of course.... :)