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Diamondbacks 7, Cardinals 9: Elimination Day

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Goldy made his return to Chase and finally got his 100th Chase Field home run as St. Louis officially eliminated us from the Wild Card hunt. Still, we sure made them work for it...

St Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Snake Pit designated survivor sits in a cold, clammy concrete-walled room six hundred meters below the public areas of the Titan Missile Museum. It’s Snake Pit Fest day, all the senior staff (aside from James, who is in Philadelphia of all places) are whooping it up and running amok at Chase Field and places like the Cornish Pasty Factory or whatever it’s called in downtown Phoenix. He wonders where he went wrong, how he drew the short straw. Maybe it was fixed; maybe they just want to be done with him; maybe all that “who’s going to be released during the offseason” talk in the last couple of Round Tables was a sign. Or maybe it’s just that he signed up to recap this game back in June, when September 23 as a date for the gathering at Chase was just a glimmer in edbigghead’s eye. Yeah, that’s probably it. Sitting down here, though, alone, underneath the flickering 1960’s era fluorescent tubes, it’s easy to get paranoid.

Anyway. There’s work to be done. The designated survivor powers up the antiquated PC in front of him, types “wp42.exe” at the DOS prompt, and begins to type:

So, yeah, it’s my last recap of the season, and probably the day the Diamondbacks are officially eliminated from the Wild Card hunt (which, frankly, will be something of a relief). It’s also Paul Goldschmidt’s return to Chase Field, which is certainly bittersweet. Before first pitch there’s a video tribute to Goldy on the big board, and I actually tuned in early enough to watch it. It was lovely. I felt a little bit bad for Paul, who had to stand around in the middle of the infield with press and cameras but otherwise pretty much all alone, and watch it. He smiled, though, and grinned, and raised his cap to the fans when it was done. Class act, and he deserved the tribute. So. On to the game.

It turns out that our starter tonight would be Alex Young, who I believe was still in the nether realms of our farm system when Goldy was here, so I expect he’d never had any experience with him before. That’s a pity...I was hoping that someone who’d been on the team with Goldy would get the start, because I suspect it would have been interesting to watch pitchers who knew him go up against him. Because, let’s face it, Goldy was the primary interest tonight. But alas, it was not to be.

Young was, to put it plainly, not good. He struck out Cardinals right fielder Dexter Fowler on four pitches to start the game, but then the wheels started to come off. Tommy Edman launched Young’s sixth pitch of the night into the left field bleachers, to give St. Louis a lead before Goldy even came up to bat. Goldy then proceeded to run the count full before drawing a walk (a very Goldy thing to do). Marcell Ozuna then hit a sharp shot just fair down the left field line for a double that advanced Goldy to third. Yadier Molina smacked a pitch deep into the hole at short, which Nick Ahmed made a good play on, forcing Molina at first with a spot-on throw, but it was deep enough that Goldschmidt was able to score from third. Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong then teed off on another Young pitch that Jake Lamb, playing third tonight, dove for and actually caught for the third out. But a crooked number was up, and aside from Fowler, it was all hard contact against Young. We were lucky that that was the only damage done. 2-0 Cardinals

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks were facing Adam Wainwright, the 38-year-old Cardinals starter who hasn’t been all that great this year, but had been lights out thus far this September (4-0 in four starts, 27 IP, one ER, yikes). He sat down Jarrod Dyson on a three-pitch strikeout, Josh Rojas on a four-pitch strikeout, before Eduardo Escobar (playing second base tonight) broke things up by hitting the third pitch he saw to Goldy for the unassisted force out (another thing Goldy does). It was a 10 pitch inning, though...“Oh, dear,” I thought.

Happily, though, Young performed better against the bottom of the Cardinals order, retiring the first two before a weird play happened with a Wainwright grounder to Young, wherein the Diamondbacks asserted some sort of interference (Wainwright running the entire way to first on the infield grass), but didn’t get the call. Christian Walker dropped Young’s errant toss as he was coming off the bag, and Wainwright wound up reaching on an E3. No worries, though, because Dexter Fowler promptly grounded out to Lamb to end the frame.

Then the Diamondbacks struck back, via what is probably my favorite of all things, the small ball attack. Walker led off with a line-drive single to shallow right. Jake Lamb (who, again, got trashed in the comments, though to be fair he actually hit pretty well tonight) followed with a sharper, deeper line drive to left that allowed Walker to advance to third with some gutsy, aggressive base running. Adam Jones then singled to left, advancing Lamb to second and scoring Walker. This was all with no outs, but, sadly, not for long. Nick Ahmed came to the plate, and slapped the second pitch he saw to short for the easy 6-4-3 double play. Boo Nick. Carson Kelly then struck out looking on three pitches. We could have gotten more, we should have gotten more, but we all know this tune at this point. At least we got one. 2-1 Cardinals

Alex Young, meanwhile, was still not right. Facing Tommy Edman, he threw him a couple of balls before hitting him with a pitch to bring up Goldy again. And then this happened:

I know, he’s no longer a Diamondback, but it was a landmark dinger, and it was probably the one highlight everyone wants to see anyway, so I posted the clip. It’s from OUR Fox Sports affiliate’s Twitter stream, too, so they also knew that everyone wants to see it. He hurts us, but we still love him. After that, though, Young managed to get through the rest of the third with no further damage done, though he did have to pitch around a bit of trouble and traffic to get there. 4-1 Cardinals

In between innings, the designated survivor putters around the bunker, powering up old wall-mounted CRTs displaying static-snowed surveillance feeds from various points along the Chase Field concourse. Apparently our fearless leader got his drink on as part of the Goldy Fest pregame, and also ordered the Lamb and Mint pasty, which he should never do, because mint makes him very, very angry. Clad in a teal Goldschmidt throwback jersey and a Sedona Red do-rag, he stalks the concourse, tapping an axe handle that he somehow got through security against his thigh. Edbigghead accompanies him, trying to keep him in check, along with NikT77, the demon barber of the Snake Pit and his wife, NinaT14 (who is, weirdly, the spitting image of Helena Bonham Carter in a certain role). Nik isn’t starting any fights, but occasionally he withdraws a straight razor from his sleeve and brandishes it suggestively. Rockkstarr12 is periodically visible in the back of the frame, holding a taser in one hand and a black cloth bag in the other, clearly poised to spring into action, pop the bag over someone’s head, and whisk them off to an undisclosed location should things suddenly get out of hand. Oh, dear. Back to the game.

The Diamondbacks sat down quietly in the bottom of the third, despite a two-out Rojas walk. Happily, however, so did St, Louis in the top of the fourth, despite a two-out Edman infield single. Then, in the bottom of the fourth, Christian Walker, not to be outdone by his predecessor, launched one to pretty much the deepest part of the park, and got it just far enough to come to rest on the left-center home run porch:

We sat down in order after that, but still, we’re keeping the game close. 4-2 Cardinals

Sadly, however, Alex Young’s streak of giving up dingers in odd-numbered innings continued, as he surrendered a leadoff double to Ozuna, and then a long ball to left center to Yadier Molina, who is perhaps the worst Cardinal, to begin the fifth. He closed out the inning, but the game was sliding further and further away. 6-2 Cardinals

Happily, though, in the bottom of the fifth, more small ball happened. Carson Kelly racked up his third (!) strikeout of the game to lead off the frame, but was followed by a brilliant 9-pitch walk by pinch-hitter Dominic Leyba (batting for Young, whose night was done after five). Dyson then popped a single to left that Ozuna (somewhat bizarrely) just kinda watched drop, and then kicked around for a bit before getting it back into the infield. Dyson wound up at second and Leyba at third, and Ozuna was rightly charged with an error. Rojas then singled back up the box into shallow center, scoring Leyba from third and allowing Dyson to advance to third. There was a challenge on Dyson being safe at third after starting to try to score, but the safe call was upheld, so it was all good. Escobar singled to left, scoring Dyson and keeping the chain moving with only one out. A little hilarity then ensued during Walker’s at-bat, as Wainwright bounced a pitch to the plate, Walker basically lowered his bat, giving up on his swing, and accidentally hit the pitch on one bounce, golfing it in the air to third for an infield single, as he’d already busted it to first base by the time Matt Carpenter had realized what was happening and fielded the ball. Nobody scored, but the runners did move up. Jake Lamb then hit a sharp line drive out to Dexter Fowler in right that, despite being hit hard was enough for Rojas to tag and score from third, just beating the throw to the plate. Adam Jones then AJed it up, striking out on three pitches, but we were making sure it stayed close. 6-5 Cardinals

Meanwhile, our bullpen was now involved, and for the sixth and seventh innings, did a bang-up job. Jimmie Sherfy pitched the sixth, retiring the Cards in order for the first time tonight, while Kevin Ginkel dealt the seventh. He surrendered a one-out walk to Ozuna, but around that he struck out Goldy on six pitches, and then Molina and DeJong on three pitches each. Sherfy was good. Ginkel was mighty.

Sadly, however, the Cardinals’ bullpen essentially did the same to us in the sixth and the seventh. Ahmed led off the sixth with a single against Ryan Helsley, but was erased one out later when pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte grounded to Goldy, who proceeded with no effort whatsoever to start an inning-ended 3-6-3 double play (yet another thing Goldy does that we remember when we see him do it again). In the seventh, we went down in order.

Yoshi Hirano came out to pitch the eighth and, well, you all probably know my feelings about Hirano at this point. He sucks. He struck out the first batter he faced, then went 2-0 on Cardinals center fielder and eight-spot batter Harrison Bader, before serving him up a meatball that wound up in the left field seats. 7-5 Cardinals

True fact: This bunker is in fact the inception area of the AZ Snake Pit. It has existed, and has existed in this role, since 1964, according to classified documents that I discovered while exploring during the seventh-inning stretch. It may seem strange that the Pit predates the Diamondbacks themselves, but there is evidence here that, before the founding of the team in advance of the 1998 season, it was in fact a deep pit, full of snakes. Perhaps the DoD was hoping that proximity to the radiation leakage from the Titan missiles would result in weaponizable wildlife mutations. If that was the case, however, thankfully, none of the snakes survived...there are a bunch of desiccated snake skins and such littering the floors, but no mutant snakes that I’ve found so far. Also, however, there as pallets of canned goods, all well past their expiration date, most of them strange and terrible and distinctly British: spam, mushy peas, Heinz baked beans, and a terrifying substance called Lyle’s Black Treacle. And I begin to suspect that our fearless leader has been playing a long game, and that there are things down here that a lowly Monday recapper like myself was never intended to witness.

Specifically, I found a handwritten note, in oddly familiar handwriting, affixed with masking tape to the Treacle pallet: “DC: HANDS OFF. This is your last warning. —Jim”

Our boys, sadly, went quietly in the bottom of the eighth, with the middle of the order sitting down, well, in order. The top of the ninth was a mild bloodbath, as Jon Duplantier came in and faced four batters to record one out, loading the bases and allowing a run to score on a Molina sac fly. Robby Scott finished the frame, but not before allowing a four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced, and then another sac fly that scored Goldy for his third run of the game. 9-5 Cardinals

We weren’t quite done yet, though. John Brebbia, who had pitched the eighth for the Cardinals came out the start the ninth, and Nick Ahmed greeted him with a leadoff dinger into the pool:

Carson Kelly then did something useful, and walked, chasing Brebbia. Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez came in to finish up, recording two quick outs before giving up a Josh Rojas double that scored Jarrod Dyson, who’d reached on a fielder’s choice earlier that had forced Kelly. But, alas, EE struck out to end the game, and our mathematical possibility of contending for a postseason spot. 9-7 Cardinals

Ah, well. This game, like this season, doesn’t end in the way that we would have hoped, but you have to admit, it’s been a helluva ride!

Win Probability, courtesy of Fangraphs:

Goldy: Christian Walker (+18.1% WPA)
Silvery: Josh Rojas (+6.1 WPA)
Irony: Alex Young (-36.8 WPA)

The Game Day Thread was slow to start, and kind of slow in the middle (for awhile it was just me and Smurf bouncing back comments and responses in increasingly desultory fashion), but it definitely picked up at the end, as the game got close-ish and tense, and folks who were at Chase but left early started chiming in. We clocked in at 235 comments! All present and accounted for were: BuSeaAir, DORRITO, Dano_in_Tucson, DeadManG, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Johnneu, Justin27, Makakilo, MesaDBacksFan, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, NinaT14, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, Theolser4, Totally Not Blind Squirrel, but still I apologize, asteroid, edbigghead, kilnborn, onedotfive, soco, suroeste

There was a lot of good Snake Pit fellow feeling in the air tonight, too, thanks I expect to the GoldyFest. So there wasn’t just one Sedona Red comment tonight...there were actually five! By popular acclaim, though, we will award CotG to new Snake Pit member NinaT14, spouse of NikT27, our beloved demon barber, for her inaugural hello post:

Join us tomorrow for the second game of our penultimate 2019, as Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty squares off against Diamondbacks more-or-less-serviceable starter Mike Leake. First pitch is 6:40pm AZ time, just like tonight’s was. As always, thanks for reading, and GO D-BACKS!

Also, as this is my last recap of the year, I just want to say thanks to all of you for a good year in the Pit. It’s been a rough year for me in a lot of ways, and writing for/with you all and getting more active in the GDTs and becoming more a part of the Snake Pit community has been an honor and a privilege and a comfort and a joy. Much love, everyone. Cheers.

The designated survivor, his work done, quits the ancient version of WordPerfect, shuts down the terminal, stands up from the desk. He shuffles over to the doors of the elevator that brought him down here and presses the up button. It doesn’t light up, but that’s probably fine. Nothing to worry about at all. The game’s been over for an hour or more, the surveillance monitors switched off, and then the ventilation did too. The overhead fluorescents finally flickered out, but thankfully a backup generator kicked in somewhere below this room. Orange bulbs in cages mounted on the walls light the scene now. The season’s over, we’ve been eliminated, the senior staff was all at Chase, but Chase has now gone dark. “Oh, dear,” he thinks. “I hope someone will come and let me out.”