Record: 22-58. Pace: 45-117. Change on 2004: -7.
Jake Faria made his debut as a starter for Arizona and was surprisingly impressive, helping keep it close through six innings. But a head-scratching decision by Torey Lovullo, to let Alex Young hit for himself, backfired as the pitcher allowed six runs in the seventh, and the Cardinals took the series opener. This was initially a battle of the n00bs, with both pitchers making their first star for their respective clubs. Though they were not quite the same, in terms of experience. Wade LeBlanc made his first major-league start back in 2008 for the Padres, with the Cardinals being his ninth club. Jake Faria, on the other hand, had less than 175 MLB innings to his name. But the results they produced ended up being fairly similar:
- LeBlanc: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO
- Faria: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
I think we'll take it, considering it was Faria's first start in the majors since 2018, when he was a member of the Rays. He also became the thirteenth different pitcher to start a game for the Diamondbacks this year. That sets a new franchise record, and we aren’t even at the half-way point in the season. 12 had been reached most recently in 2019; in the entire 1999 campaign, the D-backs used just six starters. Or, as Torey Lovullo would call it, "A good week". Faria had been with the Angels, starting with their AAA club, but had an opt-out clause in his contract, which he chose to exercise. A couple of days later, he was signed by the Diamondbacks, and his opt-out proved wise. For, here he is, back in the majors.
Given his last start was 13 days ago, 67 pitches was about as deep as could be expected. He had a good first inning, retiring the Cardinals in order on 11 pitches, finishing it off with a strikeout of Nolan Arenado. The second was almost as good, working around a two-out error by Asdrubal Cabrera. The third proved stickier. A lead-off single was bunted to second by LeBlanc. But that was likely irrelevant: the next hitter launched a pitch into the right-field corner, and Pavin Smith’s ill-advised dive (above) came up short. The runner scored and the batter reached third with one out. However, Faria was able to strand the man there, retiring Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado.
[Poor Goldie. That contract extension is not looking good for the Cards - which is fine by me. But seeing Paul batting just .247 at, basically, the half-way point, is still sad.]
Both sides had a chance to score in the fourth. With one out, Christian Walker singled, and Cabrera doubled down the left-field line, on a fair ball fielded adroitly by the Busch Stadium ball-geezer. Oops. Smith hit the ball hard, but lined out to the infield, and after an intentional walk to Nick Ahmed, Daulton Varsho struck out to end the Arizona threat. The Cardinals also had two on with one out in their half of the inning, but Feria buckled down, ending his night with just the one run allowed. He then got off the hook for the loss, as Josh Rojas delivered his 10th homer, with one out in the fifth (below), tying the game at 1-1.
10th home run for number 10.@JoshRojass | #RattleOn pic.twitter.com/zSf3DnG40D— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) June 29, 2021
Alex Young took over for Feria in the fifth, but it was his appearance in the top of the sixth which provided the game's biggest talking point. The Diamondbacks had loaded the bases with two outs, on singles by Cabrera and Smith, followed by a walk from Varsho. That brought up the pitcher’s spot, and David Peralta had been in the on-deck circle. But he was recalled by Torey, who send Young up to take the at-bat. He didn’t take the lumber of his shoulder, Arizona basically punting a bases loaded chance in a one-run game. As I write, we await word from Lovullo, but I can only presume, this was basically a Faria/Young tandem, and with a thin bullpen, he couldn’t afford to burn his long reliever for just three outs.
Rojas had his second extra-base hit of the night to lead off the seventh, though this one was considerably less authoritative. An exit velocity of 68.9 mph, but at just the right angle to fall in front of the diving right-fielder. It bounced off him, and Rojas ended up on second. David Peralta had a battling AB, fouling off seven straight 0-2 pitches, before grounding out on the 12th pitch. He did advance Rojas though. Eduardo Escobar struck out on a high fastball, well out of the zone, and Walker lined out, stranding Rojas on 3rd. As so often this season, Arizona’s futility with runners in scoring position proved critical, going 0-for-10 there over the course of the game.
Lovullo’s decision to keep Young in the game had initially paid off, as he put up a zero in the sixth. But the wheels well and truly fell off in the seventh. Young allowed a home-run, two doubles and three singles, as the Cardinals scored six times, ending this one as a meaningful contest. As discussed in the preview-which-of-course-you-read, Alex now has sole possession of the lead for relief losses, with five (plus one as a starter). He needs four over the rest of the season to set a new franchise worst. Also tonight: the Diamondbacks’ 41st straight Taco Hell loss i.e. when they are held to fewer than five runs. It’s a modern-era record. Hooray! If you’re gonna be bad, be historically bad.
Here’s Torey’s post-game audio, via Jack [or link]. Basically, he said he had only three innings in the bullpen outside of Young: De Geus, Mantiply and Soria. The team could not risk pulling the pitcher with four (or more in the event of extras) potentially left to play. Hmm. With such a short bullpen, maybe not the wisest idea to start a pitcher whose cap was apparently 70 pitches. Or adding a reliever, in Castellanos, who was apparently not available. But it has been the way all this season: Lovullo backed into a corner. Tonight, it was apparently one at least partly of his own making.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Shaun of the Dead: Josh Rojas, +22.4%
Hot Fuzz: Asdrubal Cabrera, +12.5%
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Alex Young (pitching), -27.4%
Baby Driver: Escobar, -18.4%; Young (hitting), -10.6%; Varsho, -10.0%
Present in the Gameday Thread were: AzDbackfanInDc, GuruB, Jack Sommers, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Snacks&Dbacks, Snake_Bitten, VW Beetle, kilnborn, makattack71 and since_98. Three comments turned Sedona Red; two of them basically wishing Dc would be quiet. While that’s certainly food for thought, we give Comment of the Thread to the third one:
I was doing the recap. That’s my excuse as to why I kept watching. But everyone else should probably have taken the hint. Same two teams tomorrow, with another 5 pm-ish start. Caleb Smith gets the start for the Diamondbacks.