Record: 50-110. Pace: 51-111. Change on 2004: +1.
The baseball game tonight was an abject reminder of why I’ve given up caring. Coming in to 2021, the D-backs had lost ONE game in history where they had a seven-run lead. They have done it TWICE this year (an 8-9 loss in San Francisco on June 15), as a 7-0 lead melted away tonight as neither our starter nor the back of our bullpen could get outs when they needed them. The D-backs tragic number to clinch the #1 draft pick is now reduced to one: another loss or Orioles win, tomorrow or Sunday, will do it.
Yes, this is my last recap of 2021, and I echo the thoughts of previous recappers this week: "Thank God it's all over." I came into this season with my interest in MLB already at a low ebb, for a variety of reasons. And outside of the pleasant surprise which was the first month, the 2021 campaign has been a real grind. Rather than re-igniting a love of the game, this was more like a sustained beating with rubber truncheons. I remember 2004, but that was in the pre-SnakePit days, so I didn't have to engage unless I wanted to. This year? No escape. Game previews and threads, virtually every day. This, folks, is why I don't want to be a professional beat writer. I value the ability to say "Screw it," and find something better to do instead. And this year, there have been so many things better than the 2021 Diamondbacks.
I do want to give enormous thanks to all the writers, who have helped shoulder the burden. In other words, they watched the games, read the news stories and previewed the series, so I didn't have to. A particular shout-out to Jack, for his diligent work as our official ambassador to the team. His everyday effort was sterling. But the writers are only part of the community here, and I also want to thank everyone who read, commented, guest recapped, or just lurked. This may not be the most trafficked site in the SB Nation, but in terms of community, it can stand with any of them. In a year where the baseball largely blew chunks, it's the people here that made it worth showing up every day.
“But what about the game?” you say. “Really, do I have to?” I reply. But then the muscle memory kicks in, and words begin to flow. Though the first couple of innings were largely notable for another exhibit in the #RobotUmpsNow campaign. Humberto Castellanos loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk (though one of the former should perhaps have been an out, clanking off Josh Rojas's glove at third). But the pitcher was up: that helped Castellanos escape with a zero, and he settled down, with a 1-2-3 top of the third.
Through three innings, Colorado starter Jon Gray had six K's. However, the D-backs had a 7-0 lead, batting around in the bottom of the third, and hitting three home-runs. Things started with bloops by Jake McCarthy and Geraldo Perdomo. Then Castellanos happened, getting into a pitch for a 391-foot, three-run homer to left (above). It was the first HR by an Arizona pitcher, since June 24, 2019, when Zack Greinke took Clayton Kershaw deep. Only two pitchers had previously hit three-run homers in team history: Greinke on April 2, 2019 and Zach Duke on May 28, 2011. Ketel Marte followed with his 14th HR, David Peralta had an RBI triple, then Christian Walker his 10th bomb. Gray must have been having 2017 wild-card flashbacks.
With the CBA expiring, and universal DH likely (another chip off my interest in the game), that could be the 30th and final homer by a D-back pitcher. Indeed, it could be the final one by any pitcher. It seemed to enliven Castellanos, who retired eleven in a row through the end of the fifth. But things went very pear-shaped, very quickly. The Rockies started hacking, and tagged him for four singles, a double and a three-run homer in the sixth, as it went from 7-0 to 7-6 in just 15 pitches. He was lifted with two outs, charged with six runs on nine hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. An excellent outing... through five. Things continued not to go the D-backs way. It seemed both the umpire on the field and the review crew blew a call, saying McCarthy was out on a stolen-base attempt in the bottom half.
For the D-backs, the bullpen initially had a good night, Joe Mantiply tidied up the sixth, Tyler Clippard worked the seventh and Caleb Smith looked very good in the eighth, striking out a pair. But the Rockies' relievers proved to be just as effective. Arizona’s best chance to add insurance runs came after Varsho bunted his way on to start the eighth - though he was lucky more than good, popping the bunt up into dead space behind the pitcher. Kole Calhoun then reached on a fielders' choice, as the Rockies failed to get Varsho at second. But Carson Kelly, Walker and McCarthy struck out: the Diamondbacks had fourteen strikeouts on the night, compared to just one walk.
Through the end of the eighth, the two sets of relievers had combined for 6.1 shutout innings of two-hit ball, with one walk and twelve strikeouts. Not bad considering the bullpens came in ranked 27th (Colorado) and 29th (Arizona) by ERA in the majors. However, you knew something would probably give eventually. And it did, in the top of the ninth. With left-handers coming up, southpaw Smith was left in the game. Naturally, like every other move Torey Lovullo made this year, it backfired as a lead-off homer tied the game at 7-7. Smith and J.B. Wendelken combined to allow two more runs in the ninth, and Arizona went down meekly in the bottom half. I used to be surprised, but now I’m just... numb.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
MySpace: Humberto Castellanos (hitting), +13.0%
Twitter: J.B. Wendelken, -46.4%
Facebook: Caleb Smith, -14.8%
It was a happy Gameday Thread, up until it wasn’t. Present were: Blind Squirrel has found his nut, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Keegan Thompson, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Rockkstarr12, Smurf-1000, Snacks&Dbacks, Snake_Bitten, Xerostomia, gzimmerm, kilnborn and mcbenseigs. Comment of the night to Keegan: it may not have been the most-rec’d, but note the timestamp. It proved eerily prescient:
Elsewhere, the NL West still isn’t quite decided, as the Giants’ magic number is down to one. Fun fact: the Padres are now exactly as close to the D-backs as they are to the Giants. And in the AL wild-card, Toronto and Boston won, but New York and Seattle lost, so still nothing decided there. Tomorrow, Zac Gallen goes for the D-backs, with first pitch at 5:10 pm. I’m pretty sure I’ll have found something else to do.