Coming off their huge upset of the 2002 division winners, the 2018 Diamondbacks will take on underdogs 2010. That team has been even more surprising, knocking off 2007 and 2011 division winners enroute to this semifinal matchup.
Today’s starting pitching matchup features 2018 Co-Ace Patrick Corbin making his second start of the tournament. He’ll face 2010’s Ian Kennedy, also making his second start.
2010’s typically left-hand dominated lineup will have that imbalance lessened slightly by having Chris Snyder and Rusty Ryal get starts over Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra. Sorry DC. I’m not sure if you need to blame AJ Hinch or Kirk Gibson for that move.
Torey Lovullo will ignore Kennedy’s revers split (.720 OPS allowed vs RHB, .671 vs. Left), and load up his lineup with hitters who will face Kennedy from the left side. Today’s player focus is going to be one Daniel Descalso. AKA. #Desclutcho.
There can be little doubt that this gritty utility player came up with numerous big hits for the Diamondbacks. Here is one example, a clutch 3 run homer in the 12th inning against the Dodgers in LA the lead to a Diamondbacks victory. This highlight also notable for the comments from Mark Grace afterwards.
Daniel Descalso didn't start this game -- 4.5 hours ago -- so it took until his second at-bat to get in on the home run derby. All 8 @Dbacks runs have come via the long ball. pic.twitter.com/6iud0U0fer— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) May 9, 2018
Baseball-Reference.com tracks many different kinds of splits. Some deal with High Leverage, or “Clutch” Situations. They also have a metric called tOPS+. This measures a players OPS in that particular situation against their usual performance. Just like regular OPS+, 100 = average and a number over 100 is better than average. Obviously Daniel is not a better hitter than Paul Goldschmidt, or Mike Trout. But relative to his own abilities he has had periods of his career where he outperformed his own overall performance when faced with the most important situations.
Here are Descalso’s career tOPS+ in various “clutch” metrics, and shown against league average
For his career, Descalso has clearly been at his personal best when it mattered most. This was especially true during his time with the Diamondbacks in 2017-18. I would be remiss at this stage not to mention that “Clutch” like all other things, is not static. The ability to step up in key moments can ebb and flow just like anything else. In fact, a year by year examination of Daniel’s High Leverage performance will show that in the year just before and just after his D-backs stints he did very poorly in high leverage situations. But for the most part he has consistently shined when the lights were brightest, never more so than during his tenure in the desert. Lucky for us. It was a lot of fun.
You really should re-run the sim as many times as it takes to come up with a result that has Descalso delivering the big clutch hit. Who will know? lol
— Jack Sommers
#19 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks 3, #10 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks 8
Descalso’s clutch was rather balky today, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts. But it wasn’t needed, as the 2018 D-backs roared out to a six-run lead after two innings, and were rarely troubled thereafter. David Peralta lead their offence, driving in four runs, and as in the other semi-final, there was a two-run inside the park home-run - this one, slightly more plausibly, was by A.J. Pollock. Ketel Marte also homered, reaching base four times, and Patrick Corbin delivered a just-quality start, allowing three runs over six innings.
Stephen Drew opened the game by drawing a walk for 2010, but Corbin then settled down, getting the next three batters, including a pair of K’s. His offense then provided just about all the support he would need with a four-run first. It took Ian Kennedy four attempts to record an out: Marte legged out an infield hit to short, and Peralta then lined one over the fence in right for a quick 2-0 lead. Kennedy then hit Escobar in the arm. Though he got Paul Goldschmidt to pop out, Pollock then lined one down into the left-field corner, which then ricocheted past a flailing Rusty Ryal. By the time the ball was recovered and thrown in, the speedy Pollock was on his way to crossing home-plate and giving 2018 a 4-0 advantage.
Two more followed in the second inning. Jon Jay led off with a single, and Corbin bunted him over. Marte then walked, and Peralta brought both base-runners home with a triple. Though Kennedy struck out Escobar and Goldschmidt, the damage had been done. Two innings in, 2010 were starting up at a 6-0 deficit. However, they didn’t fold. Indeed, they got half of those runs back immediately with a three-run third. Kelly Johnson got them on the board with a two-run Texas Leaguer that dropped into left-center with men on second and third. Justin Upton then brought Johnson in with an RBI double. 2010 got the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Mark Reynolds struck out. This is my unsurprised face.
Both starting pitchers then settled down, and there was no more scoring until both had keft the game. That came in the bottom of the sixth. Esmerling Vazquez took over for Kennedy, who had managed to get through five innings, though was charged with six runs on eight hits and three walks. IPK struck out four. Corbin was up first, and having thrown 98 pitches was pulled by 2018’s manager Torey Lovullo for a pinch-hitter. Patrick scattered five hits and four walks, but did have eight K’s, and outside of the third inning, was able to stay out of real trouble.
Any hopes of 2010 pulling off an epic comeback withered. First, Ketel Marte pushed the lead back to four in the bottom of the sixth, with a solo home-run to center, Then Jay made it 8-3, Pollock coming home from third on an infield single. Meanwhile, Yoshihisa Hirano and Archie Bradley were locking the door, combining for three innings of one-hit and scoreless baseball. Bradley retired all six batters he faced, on just seventeen pitches, and that included a pair of strikeouts. Chris Young went down swinging, and the tenth sees set up a final confrontation with the 1999 Diamondbacks.
Five different hitters on the 2018 roster got two hits - Descalso was the only position player not to get one! [Those low-leverage situations...] Upton had two hits for the 2010 team, and Reynolds had a typical day, not putting the ball in play once - he was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and two strikeouts.
Next Thursday will see the final of the World Series tournament, and it looks set to be decided by whether good pitching beats good hitting. The 1999 Diamondbacks have conceded only six runs over their three contests so far. But the 2018 Diamondbacks have had their hitting shoes on in their games. They have tallied eight or more every time, with a total of 26 runs over the three contests. Which of these streak continues, will go a long way to deciding who is the greatest Diamondbacks team of all time,