“We don’t expect them to roll over,” [Andrew] Miller said of the D-backs. “They’ve been a good team all year. I know they’re not reaching their goal of making the playoffs, but they’re a good team. I know Torey from my time in Boston, and he’s not going to let them do that. You want to play teams that care and are fighting and giving it everything they got. Certainly, that’s what they did.”
Every professional sports team plays with the goal of making it to the postseason and winning a championship. Playing spoiler against other teams well on their way towards that goal isn’t much to brag about. However, the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks fell just short of October baseball, yet continue to play a respectable game through the final regular season contests is still something to be proud of. They could have conceded last night’s contest in the thirteenth inning after Paul Goldschmidt’s go ahead home run, but they fought until victory through the longest game in Chase Field history. That quote above from Andrew Miller around 2:00 AM, close to when game #158 concluded, demonstrates that the D’backs have earned respect from their opponent on the field.
So there they were, just over eleven hours after the conclusion of last night’s marathon ready to go at it again. The grounds crew was tasked with cleaning up the sleeping bags and tents because there wasn’t any point in leaving the ballpark. The Legends Racers were too tired to get up off the ground and run when it was their time. Baxter showed up to the game in his pajamas. The starting lineups for both teams were remarkably different today, especially for St. Louis whose starting position players stayed in the game for all nineteen innings last night. Both teams desperately needed endurance out of their starters today, but injury would force both managers to dip into their reserves earlier than anticipated.
Unfortunately, St. Louis’ starting pitcher, Michael Wacha, would fail to pitch beyond the second inning being pulled from the game with a right shoulder injury. It may very well be the last time he ever pitches in a Cardinals uniform should the injury keep him off their postseason roster because he will become a free agent for the first time this offseason. The Diamondbacks jumped out to an early two run lead against him in the bottom of the first. Tim Locastro hit a leadoff hustle double to right field and was trailed by a walk from Abraham Almonte. In stepped Wilmer Flores who would further demonstrate today that his presence next season may push Jake Lamb off the roster. Wilmer doubled down the left field corner scoring both runners in what would ultimately be a four RBI day for him. Immediately following was a Jake Lamb strikeout, the first of his three on the day, proving my point above.
Merrill Kelly kept the Cardinals off the board for the first two innings, but they would eventually tie the game in the top of the third. Kelly issued a leadoff walk to Edmundo Sosa. After striking out Michael Mayers (awesome name) who came on in relief for Wacha, Kelly gave up a single to Tommy Edman and a two run double to Jose Martinez. Merrill escaped the third without further damage. However, the Cardinals would score an additional run off of him each inning for the next three consecutive innings with a fair amount of loud contact. His pitch count was respectable, and having used every bullpen pitcher in the previous game Torey Lovullo was determined to push Merrill as far as he could.
St. Louis’ third run came in the fourth inning but should have been overturned after replay review. Quite a bit could have been different on this play, so I’ll gladly break it down for you. Randy Arozarena was at third base when Kelly made a pickoff attempt against Yairo Munoz at first base. Arozarena had already stolen second base earlier in the inning, so his speed shouldn’t have gone unnoticed. Kelly had already made a handful of pickoff attempts in the game, one of which was errant in the first, so Arozarena might have expected that he’d be forgotten about at third. I was sitting on the first base side and could easily see Kevin Cron’s defensive “clunkiness” setting the stage for what was to come. Kelly made his throw to first and sure enough Cron forgot about Arozarena at third as he attempted to apply a tag on Munoz. Arozarena broke for home, and Cron had a delayed throw to the plate not expecting him to do so. He was called safe, so the D’backs challenged the call. In fairness, the video replay appeared to show the throw and subsequent tag beating Arozarena’s left hand to the plate, but the replay crew in New York disagreed and the call was upheld. I’d argue that if Cron was paying more attention he could have cut the pickoff throw short and caught Arozarena between third and home. It’s the little nuances which make baseball beautiful.
St. Louis appeared to begin pulling away scoring run number four on a Jose Martinez triple in the fifth and number five on a solo home run from Arozarena in the sixth. But perhaps the fact the Cardinals had to go to their bullpen in the second inning, after pitching nineteen innings last night and earlier in the day, set the stage for Arizona’s offensive eruption in the sixth. Maybe not, but the confirmation bias feels good so let me have it.
It began with Kevin Cron reaching first base on an error by Edman at third base. A wild pitch from Genesis Cabrera allowed Cron to take second. Josh Rojas followed with a walk. Nick Ahmed doubled Cron home bringing the score 5-3. Junior Fernandez came on in relief of Cabrera and immediately issued a four pitch walk to pinch hitter Domingo Leyba loading the bases. A second wild pitch in the inning advanced all runners scoring Rojas still with no outs in the inning. Locastro hit a high chopper to second base and Edmundo Sosa, not wanting to allow Arizona to tie the game, tried to cut down Ahmed at home. Instead of getting the second out of the inning, an error at the plate allowed both Ahmed and Leyba to score giving Arizona the 6-5 lead. Adam Jones, who had entered the game for Abraham Almonte when he left with an apparent leg injury after the Martinez triple, singled home Locastro. Flores hit his second extra base hit of the game, a homer to the left field bleachers, punctuating a seven run sixth inning for the D’backs.
Yoan Lopez and T.J. McFarland pitched a smooth seventh and eighth innings setting up Arizona nicely for the series victory. Jimmie Sherfy got the call in the ninth, and we might be slowly realizing why he hasn’t been around the majors for most of this season. He struck out Harrison Bader on six pitches, but hit Edman after an additional six pitches. Lovullo had seen enough after Sherfy gave up a single to Jose Martinez and turned to Archie Bradley. Bradley walked Rangel Ravelo loading the bases before Matt Wieters singled to bring St. Louis within two runs. In almost poetic fashion, Paul Goldschmidt entered the game as a pinch hitter representing the go ahead run. A match up between the guy who was the face of the franchise and another who so desperately wants to be. Goldy had already homered twice in the series, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect him to do so again, but Bradley buckled down and induced a game ending double play.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, already eliminated from the playoff picture, having played nineteen innings of competitive baseball less than twelve hours prior, facing the division leading St. Louis Cardinals who had just swept the Chicago Cubs, came from behind to win 9-7. More importantly, they took the series, and because the Milwaukee Brewers also won, forced an interesting showdown between the Cardinals and Brew Crew for that division race. Nicely done boys.
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Imma spin my hat around backwards and award CoTD to...
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