Let’s start by talking a bit about classical mythology. For those of you who don’t recall (or managed to avoid, like I did, reading it at all) Homer’s “Iliad” from your high school English classes, there was this Greek hero named Achilles. At some point early in his life, a parent or someone dipped him in a pool that made all of the submerged parts of his body immune to all weapons. Nice choice by the caretaker, but for whatever reason (narrative expediency, I suspect), they had to hang onto the child while dipping him in the pool, so they held him by the heel. Thus, the heel was the only vulnerable point on Achilles’s body—otherwise nothing could kill him, or even wound him. Of course [SPOILER ALERT!], fairly late in “The Iliad”, someone manages to shoot what I believe was a poisoned arrow into the Greek hero’s vulnerable heel, killing him and ramping up the third-act Trojan War drama. Hence the idiomatic expression. Bear in mind, though, it had to be a damn lucky shot, because it was only his heel.
And yeah, I’m kind of nattering on about this so as to avoid reliving the pain of the Diamondbacks’ 17th loss in the last 19 games, but I’m also going somewhere with the metaphor, so bear with me. So the D-Backs are not a good baseball team this year, I think we can all agree on that. The starting rotation has been disappointing, especially in the early going, thanks to their inability to pitch deep into games. The offense has also been disappointing and perhaps even historically bad, going missing for long spans of time. But the Achilles’ Heel of the Diamondbacks (see, I was getting there!) has revealed itself in 2020 to really be our dumpster-diving bullpen. Sadly, though, it’s not just a heel we’re dealing with here. It’s more like a whole leg, or perhaps both legs, or maybe even the entire body from the belly button on down. Perhaps even right on up to the man-nipples. Who’s to say? In any case, our bullpen is deeply vulnerable, and so it was, again, tonight. And once again, it killed us.
Diamondbacks starter Luke Weaver didn’t pitch particularly badly, and seems to continue to be on the right track overall. He pitched into the fifth inning, and while none of those innings were clean and he surrendered 4 walks and 4 hits, the only damage done against him was a one-out home run that he surrendered in the 2nd inning to Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux on a lazy fly ball to deepish left field that just kept on carrying. The roof was open at Chase for the entire night tonight, and so there was wind-related weirdness, of which this was only the first manifestation. To be fair, Weaver was playing with fire all evening—of the 12 outs he recorded, only two of them were K’s and only two of them were on infield grounders. The other 8 were on more or less long fly balls that managed to stay in the park. Still, it wasn’t a bad outing. 1-0 Los Angeles, after 2
Also, we experienced a rare sighting of the Diamondbacks offense in the wild, despite Dodgers starter Walker Buehler regularly hitting 100mph on the radar gun and sitting our boys down in order through the first two innings. That changed in the 3rd, when Daulton Varsho hit his second dinger in as many games, on an opposite field fly ball to left that very much resembled the Lux homer in the top of the 2nd:
Happily, though, we weren’t done yet. Tim Locastro then smoked a single to right, followed by Josh Rojas (playing SS tonight) who did the same after Locastro had stolen second. Locastro was unable to score, simply because the Rojas single was hit so very hard. Ketel Marte then reached on a Gavin Lux fielding error, allowing Locastro to cross the plate. Christian Walker hit into a Max Muncy fielder’s choice that Muncy was hoping would be a double play, but Walker hustled down the line and beat the return throw from Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. Then, with two outs in the inning and a runner on first, Kole Calhoun hit a slightly more empathic fly ball to left, that did just what Varsho’s and Lux’s had done. It carried, just enough:
That actually chased Buehler after a paltry 22⁄3 IP, and got us into the LA bullpen. 5-1 D-BACKS
Weaver, meanwhile, pitched around two more walks in the 4th to record a sorta sloppy shutdown inning. He even came out to start the 5th, but surrendered a leadoff single to Dodgers DH AJ Pollock. He was already at 86 pitches at this point, so Torey Lovullo gave him the hook. Lefty Travis Bergen (I know, who?) came on to relieve, and was ineffective, recording only two outs while surrendering a single and two more walks (yeah, this wound up being a trend tonight) and allowing Pollock to score before getting the hook himself for Keury Mella, who recorded the final out and shut that crap down. 5-2 D-BACKS
We did get the run back in the bottom of the 6th, thanks to a Kole Calhoun leadoff walk, an Eduardo Escobar single, and a David Peralta fielder’s choice that forced Escobar at second but allowed Calhoun to score. So that was nice. 6-2 D-BACKS
The top of the 7th, though, was not so nice at all. After a truly unexpected appearance from Hector Rondon in the 6th, wherein he struck out the top of the Dodgers’ order on 11 pitches total, newly promoted lefty Joe Mantiply (again, who?) came on to start the 7th. He walked Cody Bellinger, retired Max Muncy on a fly ball to left, then walked Chris Taylor and surrendered a Gavin Lux single to center that scored Bellinger before getting the hook. In came usually relatively steady bullpen hand Stefan Crichton, who surrendered a double to Dodgers 3B Edwin Rios that scored Taylor and Lux, followed by a walk to catcher Austin Barnes, and then a single to Mookie Betts that plated Rios. It would have been worse, too, but for this absolutely stellar double play turned by Josh Rojas, which had to be confirmed on review. It’s worth having a look at, because it’s a thing of beauty, and impressive for such a young player:
Inning over. 6-6 TIE
The Diamondbacks couldn’t do anything in the bottom of the frame, and rather to my surprise, Crichton came out for the 8th as well, and again it did not go smoothly—a wild pitch on a 3rd strike that allowed Bellinger to reach with one out, followed by a mildly scary HBP to Chris Taylor that hit him in the helmet. Titular closer Kevin Ginkel came in, loaded the bases with the 10th walk of the game surrendered by D-Backs pitchers, but shut down Edwin Rios to escape without damage. Ginkel also pitched a scoreless 9th, though he added an 11th BB to the tally. Meanwhile, the good guys utterly failed to do anything on offense, so we went onward to extras!
Yeah. So Yoan Lopez came out to pitch the top of the 10th, with AJ Pollock starting the inning on second. Lopez recorded the first out on a Bellinger fly to left, but Pollock tagged and advanced to third. Lopez then walked Muncy for the 12th and final Dodgers walk of the game, after which Taylor hit a grounder to third that Eduardo Escobar botched, recording no outs as he tried and failed to throw Pollock out at home. Then Gavin Lux sent a Lopez meatball into the seats in right for his second HR of the night, giving the Dodgers their first lead of the game. 10-6 Los Angeles of Los Angeles
But it wasn’t done yet, oh no, because the baseball gods seem to enjoy extending and dragging out our pain in 2020. Josh Rojas started off the bottom of the 10th on second base, thanks to some TOOTBLAN nonsense that ended the bottom of the 9th during Ketel Marte’s at bat. Marte grounded out to Kenley Jansen, who was now on the mound for LA, but then Christian Walker, who hadn’t done much of anything with his bat all night, hit this no-doubter into the stands in left:
Kole Calhoun then grounded out to second. Escobar then delivered his second hit of the night, a double down the right field line that probably would have served as atonement for his error, had we won. David Peralta then shot a single to center that scored EE, and we were within one, with newbie Wyatt Mathiesen (who had pinch-hit for Vogt in the 6th, and stayed in as DH) coming to the plate. Mathiesen saw six pitches. The first three were balls. The next three were strikes, all of them actually in the zone, and he never took the bat off his shoulder. So. Game over.
WIN PROBABILITY ADDED, courtesy of FanGraphs
Odysseus/”Balance of Terror”: Kevin Ginkel (+23.5% WPA)
Ajax/”The Trouble with Tribbles”: Kole Calhoun (+13.5% WPA)
Paris of Troy/”Charlie X”: Yoan Lopez (-48.0% WPA), Stefan Crichton (-23.3% WPA), Wyatt Mathisen (-20.0% WPA)
Anyway. It was a very, very lively Gameday Thread tonight, which was nice to see, especially given that it was a Tuesday night game and, well, the Diamondbacks kinda suck right now. We reached a whopping 588 comments from 28 different contributors, with Oldenschoole and DC leading the way (aside from yours truly, but I don’t count) with 61 and 60 respectively. All present and accounted for were: Augdogs, AzDbackfanInDc, ChuckJohnson56, DORRITO, Dano_in_Tucson, DeadManG, EdTheRed99, GuruB, Husk, Jack Sommers, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MonkeyEpoxy, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Rockkstarr12, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, Totally Not Blind Squirrel, but still I apologize, Ubersnake, Xerostomia, cjzdad, gzimmerm, makattack71, onedotfive, therealramona
Nothing actually went Sedona Red, and if we’d won, the CotN would have gone to DC for his accurate SIREN prediction in the bottom of the 3rd, but given that it didn’t, it has to go to Nik, for this trenchant yet sadly true observation, in response to Jack’s continuing advocacy for the idea of Luke Weaver as closer:
Also, I wanted to call attention to MonkeyEpoxy, a friendly visitor from Lone Star Ball, who as a fan representative of the Texas Rangers, another team in the running for the top 2021 draft pick (perhaps), stopped by to commiserate, and then stuck around for awhile there at the end. Well met!
If you haven’t had enough pain recently, be sure to stop in tomorrow for the second game of the series. Dodgers chiropractor employment booster Clayton Kershaw takes the mound against Taylor Clarke, who has some of the best numbers for a healthy D-Backs starter this year. Just like tonight, first pitch is 6:40 AZ time.
As always, thanks for reading, and go D-Backs!