Record: 81-76. Pace: 84-78. Change on 2018: +2.
A little more than six years ago, I had the “honor” to recap the longest game by time in Diamondbacks’ history, lasting slightly over seven hours. But at least that took place on the East coast, so was over not long after 11 pm in Phoenix. There was no such respite tonight, as I get to recap the longest game by innings in Diamondbacks history, taking 19 innings to complete, and finishing at 1:33 am. I’m just glad Arizona won. Otherwise, I would be VERY grumpy. But the team managed to snatch victory at the last possible moment. Ildemaro Vargas delivered a walk-off single when the D-backs were apparently one out away from using a position player to pitch, all available pitchers having been burned.
How long ago it seems, but it took precisely four pitches for Mike Leake to add to his tally of home-runs allowed. The first batter of the night, Dexter Fowler, went deep to give the Cardinals a very early 1-0 lead. In Leake’s final start of the season, he ends with 15 home-runs allowed in 60 innings for the Diamondbacks. Only one starter has allowed as many homers in fewer innings for a season with Arizona. In 2004, Edgar Gonzalez coughed up fifteen in 46.1 innings. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s never a good thing when you are being compared to anyone on that pitching staff. Though Leake’s HR rate isn’t actually the highest on the team. Welcome to the 2019 baseballs.
It has to be said, despite that home-run, this was a solid start for Leake, that being the only run he’d allow through six innings. As usual, he didn’t get many K’s (3), allowing five hits and two walks, but it was enough to keep the team in the game. For the offense was having terrible issues with Jack Flaherty. He retired the first ten faced, then walked Domingo Leyba and Eduardo Escobar, before Jake Lamb and Josh Rojas struck out. Lamb just looked lost, going 0-for-3 tonight, to drop his second half average to just .182. Arizona was no hit into the seventh, when a really bizarre hop on an Escobar knock down the line, flummoxed the Cardinals first-baseman (whose name I forget...), allowing Eduardo to reach.
The Diamondbacks went to the bottom of the ninth still with just one hit, but Yoan Lopez, Stefan Crichton, T.J. McFarland and Jimmie Sherfy combined for three shutout innings to keep them in it. Christian Walker was rung up looking by home-plate umpire Larry Vanover on a full-count, one of a number of truly god-awful calls on the night. This matters, because if he had been on base, Ildemaro Vargas’s pinch-hit homer (above) would have been a two-run walk-off shot (giving the D-backs a two-hit win to go with their one-hit win a little while ago!). We’d all have got to go home about four hours earlier, too. Instead, it merely tied the game... and we weren’t even at the halfway point in this.
The D-backs ran themselves out of an early chance to win it, in the 11th. With two outs and Tim Locastro on first, Vargas hit a high chopper on the infield. When the pitcher fumbled the ball, Locastro tried to go first to third - he actually made it, but then overslid the bag, committing the cardinal sin of making the last out of the inning at third. It looked costly, as in the top of the 13th, who else but Goldschmidt homered, to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. I mentioned HR rates up above. That came off Taylor Clarke, who has allowed 23 home-runs in 81.2 innings. At 2.54, it’s currently the second highest rate for a season in NL history among pitchers with 75+ IP, behind Ezequiel Astacio, who reached 2.56 for the 2005 Astros.
It looked like it might be the end. However, Nick Ahmed tripled (albeit with the help of the St. Louis outfield) to lead off the bottom half, and scored on a Caleb Joseph single. It was just Joseph’s fifth plate appearance of the month, and his first RBI since April. However, Arizona managed to squander the first and second, no outs opportunity subsequently presented. Christian Walker hit into a double play, and Vargas grounded out. That set the tone for the next five innings, as the at-bats on both sides got uglier and uglier. The two sides combined to tie the major-league record with 48 strikeouts, previously done in May 2017 by the Cubs and Yankees. The D-backs had 23 K’s, the Cardinals 25.
Arizona ended up setting a new record for players used in a game, with 30, and with the changes in September rosters coming, that mark may well never be broken. It included 13 pitchers, with a special tip of the cap to Jon Duplantier, who worked three scoreless innings and tossed 52 pitches, the night after throwing 22. That took us through the seventeenth inning, and he was followed by Yoshihisa Hirano for the eighteenth, and the last available pitcher, Kevin Ginkel, who tossed a scoreless nineteenth (helped by a great catch in the outfield from Rojas). Carson Kelly and Ahmed singled to lead things off, but Jarrod Dyson and pinch-hitter Robbie Ray (yeah...) struck out swinging.
The Cardinals then opted to walk the bases loaded by putting Walker on base, and pitch to Vargas. He followed up his ninth inning heroics, with some nineteenth inning heroics. According to Lovullo, Vargas would have been the team’s pitcher in the 20th inning, with Ray playing left-field. Fortunately, we were spared that, and the team clinched at least a .500 record, as well as also guaranteeing the Cardinals cannot win the division in tomorrow’s finale. Er, make that today’s finale, since that will be getting under way at Chase Field a mere 11 hours after this one finished.
The Fangraph stopped updating in the 15th inning, so that will have to show up at some later point. But I imagine Vargas will probably be top of the heroes, along with Duplantier and Leake. Ildemaro became the second D-back ever with a four-hit game which they didn’t start. Quinton McCracken did it on July 18, 2005 against the Marlins. Both men also had a walk-off knock in extra innings as their fourth hit. Villains? Walker’s 0-for-4 with three K’s and a big double-play may well negate the two intentional walks. Adam Jones was 0-for-5 and had some horrible AB’s, and Dyson went 0-for-7 with three K’s. Arizona was 2-for-13 with RISP, but that’s rather better than the Cardinals 0-for-9.
Edit by James: Somehow being up at dawn, I am happy to provide the now functioning bells and whistles, courtesy of Fangraphs. It is the least I can do to help out Jim, who did an amazing job with the late-night marathon recap.
As expected, Ildemaro Vargas was the star of last night’s game. Vargas came in at a whopping 68.1% WPA. He was followed by Jon Duplantier (+41.1%) and his outstanding three innings of work, coming only one night after he had been shelled. What the team decides to do with him in spring and how he responds is going to be one of the bigger stories of April. Coming in at third was Nick Ahmed (+38.2%), whose triple in the 13th and single in the 19th were both instrumental in the eventual score.
Josh Rojas (-43.1%) and Christian Walker (-40.7%) were the big detractors from the position player side, though in fairness, Jarrod Dyson (-31.9%) and Adam Jones (-30.8%) both had the sort of ratings that would, in many games, lead the way. In all, 14 of the 19 batters used by the Diamondbacks recorded a negative WPA - not terribly surprising as the team was one-hit through eight and only managed three total runs in 19 innings.
On the pitching side of things, only Taylor Clarke (-18.1%) recorded a negative WPA, explaining how the Diamondbacks managed to stay in the game, despite the lack of offense and the two errors committed by the defense.
Double the length of a normal game, and about double the number of comments: 463 is quite impressive, and I was amazed how long many people stuck it out. Mrs. SnakePit went off to bed when there was still more than two hours left to go... Present were: Augdogs, DBacksEurope, DORRITO, Dano_in_Tucson, DesertWeagle, GuruB, Jim McLennan, Justin27, MesaDBacksFan, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, NinaT14, Renin, Rockkstarr12, Snake_Bitten, The-Icon, Theolser4, William Kubas, asteroid, gamepass, gzimmerm and ponus. Churlish to pick anyone out: anybody who was there to the bitter end, deserves to be Comment of the Night!
God knows what we’ll have left for pitching in the matinee game today. which starts at 12:40 pm. Merrill Kelly starts for Arizona. After him... McFarland, Sherfy and Robbie Scott all threw single digits of pitches, so would seem the most likely to be re-cycled in a few hours. This recap is likely similarly stressed, and there are probably a shit-ton of typos and errors above. But it’s 2:45 am, and I’ve got to be up in about five and half hours to write the preview! I’m sure you will cope...