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Diamondbacks 5, Reds 4: Happy ending

I love a good cliffhanger... especially when it ends well.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC

17 pitches in, the Diamondbacks had a three-run lead, having sent six men to the plate and seen five of them reach. Pavin Smith led off with a single, Kole Calhoun reached on an error, then Asdrubal Cabrera and David Peralta got the team on the board, each providing RBI singles. Carson Kelly made it 3-0, albeit by hitting into a double-play, and Eduardo Escobar had a double, as Arizona came out, swinging with intent Nick Ahmed continued his tough start to the season, striking out for the eighth time in 30 at-bats this year. But the D-backs continued to narrow the offensive gap over the early going. Through the first four innings, they’ve now only been outscored 45-32. On April 11, that margin was 30-4.

Luis Castillo’s control imploded with one out in the third. He walked David Peralta and Eduardo Escobar, each on four straight balls, sandwiching a first pitch inside that just grazed Carson Kelly’s elbow guard. That loaded the bases with one out for Ahmed, who could only pop out, though he almost dropped it into shallow left field, and it took a snow-cone catch by the Reds’ shortstop. That’s the way things go for a batter, when they aren’t going well. Nick Heath wasn’t able to get it done either, and the Diamondbacks left the bases loaded. However, they had run Castillo’s pitch count up to seventy pitches in the middle of the third.

After walking the first batter of the game, Zac Gallen settled down, retiring the next seven batters in a row. Then, his opposite number squeezed one down the line, past a diving Escobar, and the Cincinnati lead-off guy Texas Leagued one to put runners on the corners with one out. Those hits were 74 and 61 mph off the bat, with expected batting averages based on speed and angle of .030 and .130 respectively. But it does go to show, that sometimes it’s not how hard you hit them which matters, it’s where. A ground-out got the Reds on the board, scoring Castillo, but Gallen was able to limit the damage, getting Eugenio Suarez for his second strikeout.

The D-backs spurned another chance in the fourth. After Gallen couldn’t quite bunt his way on to lead off, Smith had his third hit in four innings with a single, and Calhoun doubled. After Cabrera popped up on the first pitch - seems a dubious choice, given the way Castillo had been spraying the ball around - they walked Peralta to get to Kelly. He ran the count to 3-0, but eventually flew out, as the Diamondbacks left the bases loaded for the second inning in a row. They are now 3-for-17 with ducks on the pond this year, and the Reds scratched back another run in their half of the fourth. Gallen got the first two outs, but a walk and two singles made it a one-run game, 3-2 to Arizona.

Neither side could score in the fifth, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Gallen out in the bottom of the sixth. He almost got through it, getting the first two outs and then going 0-2 ahead of the next batter. Zac couldn’t finish him off, eventually walking him and that ended his night. Gallen went 5.2 IP, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks, with six K’s. and threw 98 pitches. It was thus over to the Diamondbacks’ relievers to preserve the lead, beginning with Yoan Lopez. Some wise person over the weekend tagged the bullpen as the team’s weakness: “The bullpen might be unable to protect any lead, and there are hardly any arms down there in which I have confidence.” Oh, hang on: that was me... :(

The lead lasted three pitches, Lopez allowing a two-run homer which gave the Reds their first advantage of the series. It was the bullpen’s fifth collective blown save already, in 17 games (note, you can blow a save before the ninth). All of last year, they had nine, and in the last full season of 2019, Arizona’s fifth blown save didn’t happen until May 27. Kelly worked a lead-off walk in the seventh, his eighth straight game with at least one base on balls. It’s the longest streak since Goldy went eight in July 2015. The franchise record is 10, most recently by... Ryan Roberts, in 2011. Here, it was irrelevant, as after he got into scoring position, Nicks Ahmed and Heath had an impromptu “Ugly at-bat” contest. 11 left on base...

Alex Young got the first two outs in the bottom half, albeit with the help of a startlingly large strike zone. He then walked the next two, which led us to the major-league debut of highly touted prospect, J.B. Bukauskas, as the rain fell and the wind-chill temperature dropped into the thirties. The first two pitches generated ugly swings at sliders down and away, and he eventually provoked an easy fly-ball. There had been a double switch, so Andrew Young took over in the pitcher’s spot, and after his grand-slam in Washington, he came through again, connecting on a fastball for a game-tying homer (below).

Smith drew a walk, reaching base for the fourth time, and Calhoun doubled to right, putting two men in scoring position, still with no outs. Cabrera lined out for the first out, and Torey Lovullo then pinch-hit for Peralta with a lefty on the mound. PH Wyatt Mathisen was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with one out for Kelly. The weather was becoming incredibly unpleasant by now, and it seemed to be causing a control problem for the Reds pitcher, who walked in the go-ahead run. Cincinnati clearly really wanted the game to be delayed, and I have to say, I can see their point. Eventually, the umpires saw their point and we went on rain delay.

The game was eventually suspended, and will restart tomorrow at 2:10 pm, Arizona time. The Diamondbacks will have the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth. Per Fangraphs, Arizona has an 83.5% chance of winning at the point of suspension. Zac Gallen said he had difficulty getting in a rhythm. ”Too many two out walks. My job is to try to keep us in the game, so I’m happy about that. But for the most part it was just whatever”. But he felt fine with the pitch count - there was a soft cap at 95 pitches. He was happy to get one more guy, (Jonathan India), and they would all sleep easier knowing they were up instead of down while waiting to restart the game.

Manager Torey Lovulo was surprised they were able to execute at such a high level, in the unpleasant conditions. He’ll probably try to put out his best defensive team in the bottom of the 8th, depending on how the rest of the top half goes. He acknowledged they had an advantage in the bottom of the 7th as it was only light rain. In top of 8th the heavy driving rain clearly created a disadvantage for Red’s pitchers. The umpires were hoping to end the inning but it never got there. It wasn’t clear if J.B. Bukauskas will re take the mound when the game restarts. Stay tuned...

Play resumed after a further 30-minute rain snow delay in Cincinnati, but the D-backs were unable to take advantage of the bases loaded situation. Escobar popped up into foul territory and Ahmed flew out, as Arizona left three men on base for the third time in the game. The team stranded no less than 14 base-runners; that’s a figure not surpassed in a regulation length game since September 19, 2015, when they left 15 on base, in a 6-0 win over San Francisco. Kevin Ginkel worked the bottom of the eighth, and had a clean 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts, and Sean Doolittle repaid the favor with the same performance in the top of the ninth. Hey, can’t strand base-runners if you don’t get base-runners...

Ginkel had gone to a full count on two of his three batters, and Stefan Crichton continued the theme by doing so to each of his first two hitters. There were also a couple of nerve-jangling loud foul balls that hooked foul, and the second man up eventually singled, on Crichton’s 17th pitch of the inning. But a pop-up to Ahmed was good enough for the second out, by the dangerous Tyler Naquin, and the slumping Eugenio Suarez struck out on three straight pitches, and Crichton picked up the save. J.B. Bukauskas got the win in his major-league debut. He’s the seventeenth Diamondback to do that, and joins Matt Peacock who did so earlier this season.

There’s no Fangraph available for this one, as it seems to have stalled at the point of suspension last night. To that point, Carson Kelly’s +31.6% was the best mark, and Yoan Lopez’s -34.6% was the worst. The final GDT count shows 435 comments, from AzDbackfanInDc, DORRITO, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Keegan Thompson, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Smurf1000, Snake_Bitten, TheGoldenSombrero, Xerostomia, edbigghead, gzimmerm, kilnborn, makattack71, piratedan7 and redsedona. Most rec’d comment was by DORRITO, but it was kind of a visual joke, so Comment of the Night goes to the other red comment, by Michael:

The D-backs will be back on the field pretty shortly, so expect a preview imminently!