So usually when a Diamondbacks starter begins the game with a 4-pitch walk, follows it up with a 6-pitch walk, and then follows that up with an 8-pitch walk, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be reading a sad recap. Not tonight, though, as it happens, because baseball is deeply weird, and sometimes, very occasionally perhaps, magical things happen in a good way. The entire west coast has recently been on fire, glaciers in Antarctica are beginning to legitimately melt into the sea, and of course we are all still beset by plague, but even in 2020 we can sometimes have nice things. Small things, perhaps, but nice things, and to paraphrase a line from a great novel by someone who wound up not being, to my thinking, a particularly great writer, “Nice things are infinitely nicer than nasty things.” This is a true statement. So yay.
Anyway. Relatively new acquisition Caleb Smith took the mound tonight against Texas journeyman Jordan Lyles. We acquired Smith in the Starling Marte trade at the deadline, and he was one of the Marlins who spent some time out at the beginning of the season with covid-19, so we’ve been bringing him along slowly. This was his third start in a D-Backs uniform, and he went three innings in his first, and two innings in his second. The pregame indicated that he was on something like a 75-pitch limit tonight. And he blew through nearly half of that before even escaping the 1st.
As indicated above, he walked the first three batters he faced on 18 pitches, loading the bases. For some reason, though, Rangers batters then decided to swing at his pitches. Granted, he seemed to be finding more and more command as the inning went on, but I’m fairly certain that, had the middle of the Texas order simply not swung at a single pitch, we wound have been down by at least two by the end of the top of the frame. Happily they did not, though. Joey Gallo popped out to Eduardo Escobar in foul territory for the first out of the top of the first on Smith’s 21st pitch. Smith then struck out the next two batters he faced, wriggling off the hook with no damage done except to perhaps his pride and certainly all of our nerves.
What ensued thereafter, for the next couple of innings, was a kind of half-assed pitchers’ duel, as the Rangers only managed a two-out single in the 2nd, and the Diamondbacks put two runners on to lead off the second, on singles to center by Escobar and Peralta, before stranding them and then sitting down in order in the third. Caleb Smith, meanwhile, retired the Rangers in order in both the 3rd and the 4th, ending his night with a line of 1H, 2K, 4BB on 78 pitches thrown.
Clown show fielding was a bit of a theme for Texas tonight, alas, which allowed Kole Calhoun to reach in the bottom of the 4th on a grounder to Texas first baseman and best-name contender Sherten Apostel that pulled him off the bag. He lobbed an easy toss to Lyles who was covering, but Lyles failed to catch it for an E1. It would not be the last. Escobar then hit a sharp single to Gallo in right that was hit too hard for Calhoun to advance to third. No matter, though, as Peralta hit his second single of the young ballgame to Gallo, and Calhoun scored from second when Gallo’s throw was cut off by Apostel. The smart money in the GDT seemed to be that Calhoun would have been out at the plate had the throw not been cut off, but hey, we take what we can get:
The Freight Train brings home the NL POTW to give the D-backs a 1-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/LsncnZBKev— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) September 23, 2020
Ahmed then struck out, but a Pavin Smith sac fly to right (yes, Gallo was busy this inning) brought home Escobar, who’d advanced to third on Peralta’s hit. That was all for the time being, but it was a very nice start. 2-0 D-BACKS
Meanwhile, relative newcomer to the bullpen Riley Smith (there were an awful lot of Smiths involved in this game on our side, as it turned out) came out to start the 5th. He pitched around a one-out single for a nice, quiet, 12-pitch shutdown inning.
The Diamondbacks tacked on another one in the 5th, after Lyles allowed his third no-outs baserunner by drilling CF Daulton Varsho in the back to start the frame. Ketel Marte, making his first appearance off the IL, singled him to second with a grounder to right. Lyles then helped the cause yet again, fluffing a pickoff throw to first on what appeared for a moment to be a broken double steal or something. The clown show allowed Varsho to take third, still with nobody out. Christian Walker, DHing tonight, struck out swinging, but Calhoun lifted a ball to left that allowed Varsho to tag and score. 3-0 D-BACKS
Riley Smith sat the Rangers down in the top of the 6th, needing only 8 pitches to do so, notching his second of what would ultimately be 7 strikeouts. Riley was looking sharp.
And then, in the bottom of the 6th, we finally and entirely broke Jordan Lyles. Peralta led off by shooting a double down into the right field corner for his third hit in as many at bats. Ahmed followed with a “triple” into the exact same place that scored the Freight Train—Gallo misplayed the carom off the wall and it rattled around there long enough for Nick to pull into third. Pavin Smith then delivered an infield dribbler that was generously scored a “single,” because Apostel fielded the ball, Lyles was coming to cover, Rangers 2B Rougned Odor was already covering the bag, and Apostel fell down and simply held the ball. Sensibly, Ahmed didn’t try to score, but we had runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out. That was some special advanced Clown Show right there. That was graduate level stuff.
Anyway, it was fine, as it turned out, that Ahmed hadn’t tried to score from third, because Carson Kelly came to the plate. He’d been kinda disappointing all night, as he often is, but then he did this to a Jordan Lyles slider that hung there in the middle of the zone:
Goodbye, hanging slider! Goodbye, Jordan Lyles. He got the hook, and some guy came in to relieve him. His name is not important, trust me. He walked Varsho, the fifth Diamondback to reach in the inning with no outs, but then kinda settled down. Marte popped up in the infield, Walker reached on an E5 that went under the glove of Isiah Kiner-Falafa and skipped out into left field, Calhoun flew out to center and Escobar struck out. But the lead was something we could begin to feel confident in now. 7-0 D-BACKS
And that was pretty much that. Varsho singled to lead off the 8th, but it came to nothing. Meanwhile, Riley Smith pitched out the rest of the game, giving up two singles apiece in the 7th inning and the 9th, but no damage was done, and his five scoreless innings of relief cemented the first Diamondbacks shutout of the season!
WIN PROBABILITY ADDED, courtesy of FanGraphs
Sherman Tank: Caleb Smith ((1H, 2K, 4BB, 78 pitches, +21.9% WPA), David Peralta (4AB, 3H, 1R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, +20.9% WPA)
Full Tank of Gas: David Peralta (4AB, 3H, 1R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, +20.9% WPA)
Septic Tank: Happily, no one tonight, as no Diamondbacks player had a WPA% lower than -6.7%!?!
Of course, if you were hoping for us to tank tonight so as to improve our draft position, you might want to reverse the order of the labels. If you feel like you need to, it’s fine...you do you. I won’t judge.
And despite us definitely being on the downward glide path of an arguably wasted season, we had a lively and mostly nice Gameday Thread, with 302 comments by 18 participants. DC and Guru led the way with 73 and 35 respectively. All present and accounted for were: AzDbackfanInDc, ChuckJohnson56, Dano_in_Tucson, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Preston Salisbury, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, gzimmerm, kilnborn, makattack71, onedotfive, therealramona
Only one comment made Sedona Red tonight, and as it captures a feeling that I think is beginning to sink in for a lot of us as we’re down to only five Diamondbacks games in 2020, the CotG goes to DC, for the second Tuesday in a row:
Even though many of the games were painful to endure this season and the Diamondbacks have, well, they’ve kinda sucked for much of this funny little season, I’m certainly gonna miss ‘em come next week.
Anyway. Come join us again tomorrow for the end of this tiny little two-game penultimate series, when Alex Young takes the mound versus Texas lefty Wes Benjamin, and we clutch our whisk brooms and go for the sweep. This is a getaway day for the Rangers, so be advised it’s an early start, with first pitch at 3:10pm AZ time. Hope to see you!
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks as well for another year of recapping Diamondbacks games with you all on a weekly basis. It’s an honor and a privilege, and also a helluva lot of fun. All the best to all y’all, and much love. Go D-Backs!