For the third consecutive game, the team received outstanding starting pitching. This time, it was Mike Leake who turned in the exemplary performance. The veteran righty kept the Pirates off balance for seven innings, allowing only two runs on five hits. Like the two previous starters, he too cleaned up his act with regards to the free pass, as he walked no one while managing to strike out five. Is it possible the previous umpiring crew was indeed giving the Diamondbacks a crap strike zone?
The only damage against Leake was done in the third inning. With one out, Jarrod Dyson did a Jarrod Dyson thing and bunted for a hit. He could not have walked out and placed the ball any better than he laid the bunt down. Carson Kelly was all over the play and fired a strike to first, but it was mostly for show. Dyson was safe by almost 10 feet. Adam Frazier was up next. He was way out in front of one of Leake’s numerous slower offerings. This resulted in some week contact to the pull side. Yet somehow, the ball managed to just get over Christian Walker’s head at first and roll into right field. The speedy Dyson took third on the play while Frazier held up at first. Josh Bell then lifted a fly ball to center field that Starling Marte did not even need to move in order to field. That was plenty to bring home Dyson on a tag from third base. With two out, Gregory Polanco climbed into the box. He lined a 1-0 pitch for a triple into the gap in right center field, scoring Frazier. That brought up the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds, who struck out swinging in what can only be described as an uncomfortable looking at-bat. That brought an end to the top of the third, the frame accounting for three of the five hits and both runs that Leake surrendered in the game.
On the other side of things, Mitch Keller started out strong for the Pirates. Going into the fourth inning, the Diamondbacks had yet to do anything productive, They did have two base runners, but both were the result of Keller wildness. David Peralta walked in the first and Nick Ahmed was hit by a pitch in the third. This trend continued as Keller made quick work of Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar. It was beginning to look like Arizona’s offense might just squander another fine performance by the starting pitcher.
With two away in the fourth inning, Christian Walker stepped to the plate. Walker lined a 2-1 pitch into the left field corner for a stand-up double. He was followed by Kelly. Kelly too, liked what he saw on a 2-1 count, lining it to the gap in right center for a stand-up double of his own. Finally, the Diamondbacks were on the board. Josh Rojas ended the brief bit of excitement by striking out.
A double by Josh Bell in the sixth, followed by a wild pitch, was the last bit of excitement in the game for the Pirates. In general, Leake put on a clinic in innings four through seven. His velocity was ludicrously low throughout the game, but he threw seventeen different kinds of slop that dotted the strike zone wherever he wanted it to. Weak contact was the name of the game, and Leake was the master.
Mitch Keller still looked to be cruising when he was sent back out to pitch the seventh inning. Furthermore, he had reached that point throwing only 73 pitches. So it is no surprise that Virtual Derek Shelton had nothing but confidence in his rookie right-hander. Keller started the inning off by striking out Carson Kelly. But then, things quickly turned around. Keller issued a walk to the speedy Josh Rojas. This was followed by a single by Nick Ahmed and then a walk to Stephen Vogt, who was brought on to pinch-hit for Leake. Suddenly, the bases were loaded with speed at second and third and only one away. The top of the lineup was coming up. Virtual Shelton decided his starter had done enough. Shelton made the call to the bullpen and brought in Michael Feliz.
Pittsburgh’s luck did not improve with the change of pitcher. On a 1-0 count, Starling Marte lined a single into the outfield, allowing Rojas to stroll home without a throw. Next up was David Peralta. Peralta fell behind 0-1 before watching four pitches go wide, none of them particularly close to the zone. The walk forced home Ahmed as the go-ahead run. Ketel Marte then came to the plate. He fouled two pitches straight back to the screen before hitting one the other direction. He laced a double into the left center gap, scoring Vogt and Marte. Eduardo Escobar then popped up to J.T. Riddle at short. That brought up Christian Walker. Feliz’s control issues did not improve. During the course of a lengthy at-bat by Walker, Feliz threw a wild pitch which allowed Peralta to score from third. He did eventually strike Walker out to end the inning, but the damage was done. Five runs scored in the inning, giving the Diamondbacks the lead and a bit of insurance.
With Vogt having hit for Leake in the frame, Virtual Lovullo turned the ball over to Andrew Chafin in relief. Chafin only needed 13 pitches to toss two perfect innings, including two strikeouts.
Final Score: PIT 2 - AZ 6
The player of the game was Mike Leake. The crafty veteran may not be pretty when he is on the mound, but he undeniably eats up innings in large chunks and somehow almost always manages to find a way to keep his team in the game. Today was a great example of that sort of performance. Had Arizona’s offense found a way to break through an inning earlier, Leake might just have pitched the full nine.
Another note from the game, Nick Ahmed was charged with a fielding error off the bat of Josh Bell in the first inning. Apparently, Ahmed booted fielding a routine grounder that wasn’t even hit particularly hard. I am seriously beginning to wonder about OOTP’s fielding algorithm for Ahmed.
Finally, during the post-game presser, Virtual Lovullo informed the press that Andrew Chafin suffered an oblique strain while he was pitching to the last batter of the game. The team will shut him down for a few days and see how he responds. With the team travelling to Mexico City, they have two travel days in the next five, so they are hoping to avoid sending Chafin to the Injured List.
The Diamondbacks are off tomorrow, allowing them time to travel to Mexico City for a quick two-game series against the Padres. Game one of the series will feature Garrett Richards starting for the Padres and Robbie Ray getting the start for the Diamondbacks.