Through six innings, this looked like another dismal D-backs defeat. They were 5-0 down, and had been held to just one hit. They looked flat in all aspects of the game, and were lucky to only be down by five. But the offense woke up over the final three frames, staging another sterling comeback to force extra innings. This time, however, there was to be no happy ending: the Reds scored their bequeathed runner on second, while the D-backs could not, dropping their season record to 2-6.
I turned the game on, just in time to see the ball arcing towards the pool area, on Taylor Widener's first pitch of the night. It seemed to hit the top of the fence, but bounced back into play. The batter stopped at second, but on replay (below), it certainly looked like it had ricochet off the back of a chair beyond the fence. However, the review umps did not agree, and it was indeed called as a double. They say you'll always see something you've never seen before at a baseball game. This would be tonight's offering. The chair was subsequently signed to a minor-league contract, and assigned to the alternate site.
Widener was able to work out of that jam, and was certainly more efficient than his opposite number. Through four innings, he had thrown 56 pitches, while Tyler Mahle was up over ninety, after a 32-pitch first, and had to be lifted from the game. There had been some good, patient at-bats by Arizona hitters, drawing four walks to that point. But no victories are awarded for efficiency or plate discipline. For the second day in a row, St. Penelope was forced to begin stretching languidly in the bullpen. Because the Diamondbacks had no hits through four innings, and hadn't come particularly close.
This couldn't be said for the Reds, who were making a lot of hard contact off Widener. To this point, the end of the fourth frame, the visitors had put six balls in play over 98 mph. The D-backs' hardest hit ball? A 93.8 mph pop-up by Kole Calhoun. In the top of the third, a Reds' double at 99 mph off the bat was followed by a 101 mph RBI single that gave Cincinnati the lead. Then, in the fourth, Tyler Naquin really got into one (below). That one left the bat at 111.3 mph and went 454 feet, well over the back of the pool to make it 2-0 for the Reds.
Question: Who currently leads the league in home runs?— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 10, 2021
Answer: Tyler Naquin pic.twitter.com/bMX1htC8RV
Two more runs were conceded in the fifth, though Widener was unlucky. There were some dubious calls. Two of the three singles which loaded the bases were not of the hard-hit variety. And he then got a groundball which could have ended the inning. But it instead clanked off the glove of Eduardo Escobar, for a run-scoring error. A sacrifice fly made it 4-0, and the way the Diamondbacks were hitting, it seemed like 40. However, it was clearly a case of "anyone but Mahle". The first batter up after he left the game, Carson Kelly, ended the no-hit bid, with a screamer to third that Mike Moustakas couldn't handle. Arizona weren't going to steal any of Texas's limelight tonight.
Widener was replaced by Caleb Smith, who demonstrated why he wasn't good enough even for a Diamondbacks rotation missing Zac Gallen. He allowed a run on a hit and two walks in the sixth. One of the free passes was to a Cincinnati reliever. He did put up a zero in the seventh, despite a double, and plunking poor Moustakas, who must be reconsidering retiring to Arizona. The D-backs finally got on the board in the seventh. Escobar doubled to lead off the inning, and came around to score on a couple of productive outs, making the score 5-1.
You wondered if it would be no more than a token gesture. Yet it seemed to waken the dormant Arizona bats. Pavin Smith and Tim Locastro singled, and Kole Calhoun brought them both home with a double to right (above). Christian Walker, representing the tying run, worked a walk. Torey Lovullo then pinch-hit for David Peralta against a lefty with Wyatt Mathisen. But he lined the first pitch he saw right to Moustakas at the hot corner - at 105.6 mph, it was the hardest-hit ball of the night by a Diamondback, so you couldn't ask for much more.
Anthony Swarzak was next out of the bullpen. I hadn't seen him before, and his first outing - three runs in an inning - didn't inspire confidence. But he worked a 1-2-3 eighth and looked to have a particularly sharp slider. Escobar was then able to atone for his earlier gaffe, with a two-run shot (below), his second of the year, coming after a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera. [Last year, it took Escobar 21 games to hit his second home-run. This year, just seven] Having also come back from five runs down in the season opener against the Padres, only to fall short, would this unexpected resurrection prove any more successful for the Diamondbacks?
Stefan Crichton worked the top of the ninth, and worked around a leadoff single with the help of a double play. In the bottom half, Walker drew a two-out walk, and Lovullo sent up pinch-hitter... Madison Bumgarner. Yes, you read that right. It was not his first... er, rodeo, having gone 4-for-11 with three walks previously. He had a couple of good takes, but then popped up, sending the game to extra innings - courtesy, in no small part, of that first inning chair. Would it be as much FUN as the opener of the series in Colorado? Should I really be ending consecutive paragraphs with a question?
Alex Young took over, with the requisite man on second. A groundout advanced the runner and a strikeout gave the hope of keeping Cincinnati off the board. But Young couldn't get the third out, a single scoring that placed runner to put the Reds 6-5 up. In Arizona’s half, Cabrera couldn't move the man off second, popping up. Escobar flew out to center, but again, the runner couldn't advance. That brought up Josh ".074" Rojas, who managed to draw a walk, bringing Kelly to the plate. A passed ball advanced both runners, so the Reds walked Kelly to pitch to the left-handed Smith. He grounded out, and the D-backs had lost their home opener.
If the misery of an extra innings defeat wasn't enough, the extra inning might have allowed a few more people to get fed. For it appears the contactless concessions and phone ordering was an unmitigated disaster. Let me present a selection of tweets from aggrieved fans.
This is the worst experience I’ve had at any sporting event ever— Goldschmidt Happened (@GoldyHappens) April 10, 2021
@Dbacks can someone explain how this is Express pickup? I’ve been waiting over 30 minutes and still have not received a pickup text. 2 hot dogs and 2 drinks takes this long? I came to watch a game not stand in a line. pic.twitter.com/VEOS5cgU8Y— Tom Dorantes (@AZTommy335) April 10, 2021
Three mobile orders placed through the ballpark app over an hour ago, all charged, got confirmation text, still no food, orders keep getting canceled. Guest Relations is no help. I've maybe seen 1 inning of the game so far. Upper level 3b side.— Jeff (@eyedocjeff) April 10, 2021
The shortest game in @dbacks history was 1:52 on 5/31/2008. My order for 2 beer cheese brats is now at 2:05.— Jeff Summers (@azjazzyj) April 10, 2021
It was also very obvious from the TV that there was basically no mask enforcement. You just had to look at the fans behind home plate, who were clearly not "actively eating or drinking". Yeah, I think I'll be pushing back any plans to visit the ballpark. And probably, bringing a picnic.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Lair of the White Worm: Eduardo Escobar, +29.5%
Snakes on a Plane: Crichton, +13.7; Young, +11.5%; Walker, +11.1%
Piranhaconda: Pavin Smith, -28.9%
Lake Placid vs. Anaconda: Bumgarner, -23.5%; Cabrera, -17.4%; Widener, -16.4%; Locastro, -11.9%;
In the Gameday Thread were: AzDbackfanInDc, AzRattler, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Schilling2001, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, edbigghead, gzimmerm, kilnborn and redsedona. Comment of the night to MrMrrb, to whom we send our best wishes:
It’s the same two teams tomorrow, with Riley Smith making his first start in the majors. Hopefully it will go as well as Widener’s did last weekend.