Arizona’s offense continues to sputter. It is becoming more and more obvious that offense is Arizona’s Achilles Heel. The lack of production from third base and center field is becoming untenable. The term black holes comes to mind. Christian Walker is not helping much as he pops up and down across the line of being a perfectly league average bat. On the positive side, Carson Kelly is one of the best all-around catchers in baseball. David Peralta is a top-tier left fielder. Nick Ahmed is actually improving on his 2019 offensive numbers. Ketel Marte is coming around in a big way as well. After a slow six weeks to start the season, he is showing to be every bit the star player the Diamondbacks hoped for when they gave him his extension. Josh Rojas has supplanted all others in taking over starting duties in right field. He does not have a typical right field bat, but it is a bat that is producing substantially above league average (~120 OPS+). The problem is quickly coming down to a matter of budget space and player options. On one hand, I have less than $700,000 to allocate towards any acquisitions made. On the other hand, I have veterans who are blocking some talent that is ready to play, but there is no easy way to clear the path for them. The lack of funds has made it so I am unable to even make a move for a third tier player without shedding some sort of salary.
As part of a flurry of moves to address those problems, the Diamondbacks made a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. Arizona sent Héctor Rondón and his scary peripherals to the Phillies in exchange for starting pitcher, Zac Eflin. Eflin was assigned to Reno (options!) and Rondón sat in the Philadelphia bullpen waiting for the opportunity to possibly strike at his former team. (He wouldn’t have to wait long.)
To make a great deal more budget room, center fielder, Starling Marte was shipped to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for closer, Steve Cishek. This was a difficult decision to make. I had expected to play out this entire sim under the pretext that there was just no way Marte would go anywhere in 2020. But then, two things happened. After 10 weeks of play, including a “strong” stretch at the beginning of May, Marte is still batting well below league average. Secondly, the Diamondbacks were able to land their likely center fielder of the future in the guise of Brandon Marsh.
Lastly, one more potentially high impact trade was made. Arizona once again pillaged the Miami Marlins for one of their bright pitching prospects who was showing early signs of MLB success. The Diamondbacks sent super utility minor league infielder, Ryan Grotjohn to the Miami Marlins for #68 overall prospect, left-handed pitcher, Braxton Garrett. Garrett was being under-utilized on the Miami bullpen, while having all the tools and stamina to be an effective left-handed starter. Arizona sent Garrett to Reno to work on starting, but fully expects that he will see more time in the Majors this season, likely continuing to throw from the bullpen at that level. With Robbie Ray set to depart at the end of the season, Garrett’s path to the Majors as a starter is a simple one, stay healthy.
On to the game...
The Diamondbacks jumped out to a quick lead in this marathon game. Brandon Marsh led the game off by striking out on three pitches. David Peralta and Ketel Marte then followed by drawing walks from Phillies starter, Jake Arrieta. Christian Walker then came up and launched the first pitch he saw deep into the stands, giving the Diamondbacks a three-run lead.
Walks and long fly balls bit Arrieta again in the fourth inning. In that frame, Arrieta walked Josh Rojas, bringing Carson Kelly to the plate. Kelly turned around an Arrieta fast ball, hitting a two-run home run of his ow, putting the Diamondbacks up five. Arizona seemed to be working on cruise control.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Phillies managed to take back the two runs they had allowed off the bat of Kelly. Then, they tagged Zac Gallen for two more runs before he could get any outs in the sixth inning. Still, the Diamondbacks were up by a run and able to turn the ball over to their solid bullpen. Which, is exactly what they did. Andrew Chafin restored order. Kevin Ginkel held the line. Archie Bradley then came in to close out things in the ninth inning.
Archie Bradley had a rare stumble, coughing up the lead and blowing the save. After that hiccup, Arizona’s bullpen went back to work and continued to shine. The newest member of the bullpen, Cishek, four outs of shutout baseball. Then, the bottom of the 15th rolled around. Yoan López, another bullpen stalwart, faltered, while showing a disturbing lack of velocity. López was not bad by any stretch, simply not the crisp and effective sort we have come to know. With one out in the bottom of the 15th, he allowed a double to Neil Walker. That was the end of the night for López. Merrill Kelly came out to try and slam the door shut, only to end up surrendering a single to right center off the bat of Roman Quinn. Walker never hesitated and scored on the play, giving the Phillies a marathon on a walk-off single.
It should not go unnoticed that the Diamondbacks failed to score in the final 11 innings of the game. This shutout of the Arizona offense is becoming all too common. This particular one was punctuated by a a perfect, three-strikeout inning by former Diamondback reliever, Héctor Rondón. Damn it.
Final Score: AZ 5 - PHI 6
The player of the game wound up being the Philadelphia catcher, Andrew Knapp. Knapp was 3-for-7 with a run and 2 RBI.
Game three of the four-game series in Philadelphia is tomorrow. The Diamondbacks will send Luke Weaver tot he mound to face Vince Velasquez.