**Disclaimer: The opening paragraph is not intended to start a political argument in the comments of a fan baseball platform, but memorialize the events of the day. Thank you for understanding.**
It was questionable earlier today if the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies would even take the field against each other tonight. No, it had nothing to do with a positive COVID-19 test. The dominant conversation in the sports realm was of teams, players, and even broadcasters declining to participate in the day’s games in objection of the continued tensions that afflict our nation. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds were the first MLB teams to postpone their game today, following the entirety of the NBA doing the same, and were joined by the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants. Individual players on other teams removed themselves from lineups in games that were played, including Matt Kemp of the Rockies.
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Tonight I stand with my fellow professional athletes in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer. I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel. In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad. To the families who have experienced these tragedies first hand my heart breaks for you, my prayers are with you and I use my platform to speak on your behalf. I will be protesting tonight’s game in honor of all of my fallen brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality. #BLM #JacobBlake #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #Saytheirnames
Robbie Ray and Jon Gray faced off against each other on the mound today for their seventh start of the season each. The Arizona offense tagged Gray for eight runs over 3+ innings on August 10th, so it would be expected to have revived itself against him again tonight. That was not the case.
As we have become accustomed to this season, the opposing team got out to an early lead in the first inning. Robbie Ray’s mechanics tonight were almost completely unrecognizable from his first couple starts of the season. Gone was his shortened throwing motion. He pitched exclusively from the stretch and seemed to dial down his velocity from the second inning forward. It did him no favors as he walked the first two Rockies, Garrett Hampson and Trevor Story. Walking hitters ahead of Nolan Arenado is never a good idea, and Robbie was punished for it on a left field double which gave Colorado the two run advantage with no outs. Ray settled in after that retiring seven Rockies hitters in a row following the Arenado double.
Robbie struck out the side in the second and Hampson to begin the third for his fourth strikeout in a row. He found himself in trouble again after that by walking Story and Arenado, but continued his strikeout tear getting both Charlie Blackmon and Josh Fuentes for his sixth and seventh strikeouts of the game.
Meanwhile, Jon Gray was giving up nothing to the Arizona offense as he had a no hitter through three innings. The Diamondbacks’ first hits came on consecutive singles from Starling Marte and David Peralta in the bottom of the fourth. Christian Walker scored Starling on a sacrifice fly, but that would be all Arizona could manage for the inning making the score 2-1 in favor of Colorado.
Due to time constraints, we now fast forward to the much more entertaining later innings of the game. Jon Gray held Arizona to a single run and three hits through six innings while Robbie Ray did what Robbie Ray does walking six and striking out eight on 99 pitches through four innings.
The excitement level of this game transitioned from a losing Wednesday bingo night at the country club to high wire action in the eighth and ninth innings. For whatever reason with the D’backs only down by a score of 3-to-1, Torey Lovullo turned to a pair of rookie relievers in the eighth inning and it backfired. First up was Matt Grace who pathetically gave up three hits on three pitches. Sam Hilliard hit a lead off home run followed by singles from Drew Butera and Garrett Hampson. Still clinging to life Lovullo decided to give Riley smith his MLB debut with two runners on and no outs. Impressively, he struck out Trevor Story as the first batter of his big league career. Riley very nearly induced an inning ending double play against Nolan Arenado, but a high chopper from him forced Eduardo Escobar to climb too far up the ladder to get either the speedy Hampson at second or Arenado at first. Now the rookie was facing one of the league’s best hitters in Charlie Blackmon with the bases loaded who took him deep on a grand slam to right field. Just like that Colarado had an 8-to-1 lead.
So what was so exciting about the end of the game from a Diamondbacks fan’s perspective? Much like last night they clawed their way back to come within one run of tying, two runs to walk it off, with bases loaded and two outs. Arizona tacked on two runs in the bottom of the eighth on extra base hits from Kole Calhoun, Starling Marte, and Christian Walker. That set the stage for a tense bottom of the ninth.
Riley Smith completed his second inning of MLB work with relative ease, leaving an uphill battle ahead for the Arizona offense. Nick Ahmed started the D’backs rally on a single to left field. Bud Black lifted Tyler Kinley from the game in favor of Jairo Diaz after a walk to Stephen Vogt. Jake Lamb very nearly hit a three run home run, but his charge went opposite field to the left center corner, one of the deepest parts of the ballpark, resulting in a loud out number one. Calhoun walked to load the bases, but Ketel Marte grounded into a fielder’s choice bringing Arizona down to their final out with only a single run scored in the inning to show for it. Starling Marte was hit with a glancing blow to his hand to once again load the bases. That brought David Peralta to the plate as the tying run. He singled to left field making the score 8-to-5.
At this point as a fan you start to hope that you can see something magical happen. I’m reminded of Ryan Robert’s extra inning walk off grand slam in 2011, and just hoping that I would have the chance to recap a comeback nearly as epic. One of Arizona’s most dangerous hitters in the lineup, Christian Walker, steps up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs down by three runs. He does exactly what a fan would wish for and smashes a line drive towards the left field bleachers, but it lands just under the home run line. Still, the score is now 8-to-7 and momentum is clearly in the Diamondbacks favor. Bud Black dips into his bullpen yet again this time calling on Jeff Hoffman.
An intentional walk to Eduardo Escobar later and now we once again find ourselves right where we were last night. Bases loaded. Two outs. Down one run. Nick Ahmed at the plate. Remember that he did single to begin the ninth inning rally, and now the game was his to win for the second night in a row. Unfortunately, he fell victim to an absolutely brutal called strike three to end the game on a strikeout just as he did last night.
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