Record: 20-40. Pace: 54-108. Change on 2004: -4.
Generally, when writing recaps, I like to do so when the outcome seems fairly certain. While most of the middle paragraphs, describing the game action can often be fairly neutral in tone, I feel more comfortable if I can stress the crucial components in determining the final result. But this was the kind of game where the outcome felt uncertain from the first pitch until almost the last. The Diamondbacks had a 2-0 lead in the middle of the fourth, but the Brewers then scored five unanswered tallies, to have a three-run lead after six. But just as it felt I was safe to start the recap, home-runs from Josh Rojas and Eduardo Escobar tied the game up. What’s a recapper to do? Wait for Joakim Soria to show up, it appears.
The D-backs took an unexpected lead against Brandon Woodruff, who came into this game with a league-leading 1.27 ERA for the season - and below one (0.94) over his last ten starts, having struck out 78 in 67 innings. Rojas made that ERA figure trend up, as Woodruff left a full-count sinker in the middle of the zone, and Josh hit his sixth home-run of the season off the batters’ eye in center (above). It was the third homer leading off a game for Arizona this year: Rojas had one on April 18 in Washington, and Pavin Smith did the deed a week later in Atlanta. [Four D-backs have more lead-off homers than Rojas: Chris Young (6), Jean Segura (4), Stephen Drew (3) and Jarrod Dyson (3)]
It was only the tenth time this year Arizona had ended the first inning with a lead, compared to 20 deficits after the first frame. For Merrill Kelly took the mound, and delivered a welcome shutdown inning aided by a nice play from Rojas. Indeed, he was very quick and efficient the first time through the order. He needed only 26 pitches for the first nine Brewers, and the only base-runner was a two-out single by Woodruff in the third. Arizona then extended the lead in the top of the fourth. Smith singled to lead off the frame, and was immediately driven in by Josh Reddick, making it 2-0. But Kelly was unable to deliver another shutdown inning.
The Brewers loaded the bases against him without recording an out, on a pair of singles sandwiching a walk. It then looked like the D-backs might pull off a miraculous escape, as Kelly got a strikeout, and Nick Ahmed them made a great diving catch in the hole for the second out, and Kelly went 0-2 on the next hitter. But Arizona were unable to pull off the final act of the Houdini impression. First, a pitch skittered away from Stephen Vogt for a passed ball that got Milwaukee on the board. Then the batter dumped a single to left, which brought in the tying and go-ahead runs, making the score 3-2 to the Brewers.
There seemed some question as to whether Kelly might be pulled in the top of the sixth. There was action in the D-backs bullpen, but Kelly’s spot didn’t quite come up, and he went out for the bottom half of the inning. It didn’t go well, with the Brewers extending their lead on a two-run homer with one out. He got through the sixth without further damage, and his final line saw him charged with four earned runs on six hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. With this outing, his ERA crept up a few ticks to 5.12, but considering every other member of the Opening Day rotation is now on the injured list, it’s not as if there are many credible alternative options.
The offense did get back into the game immediately, however (above). With one out in the seventh, Rojas swatted his second home-run of the contest, for the first multi-homer game of his MLB career. Ketel Marte followed with a double down the line, and Eduardo Escobar tied it up, hitting his fourteenth of the season and making the score 5-5. That also gave him 41 RBI for the season, briefly tied with Jesus Aguilar for the National League lead, until Aguilar retook it later this afternoon. I wonder if there have been any previous times that a player on a last-placed team led the league in runs batted in? You feel it can’t happen often.
There was a contentious play in the eighth; Stephen Vogt walked and was pinch-run for by Tim Locastro. With two outs, Locastro stole second, but his hand came off the bag. Looking at the replay, there seemed a credible case to be made that the Brewers’ defender had pushed the runner’s limb off the bag. But the umpire crew, led by Joe West, decided otherwise on a Brewers’ appeal, ending the frame. Joakim Soria entered the game, and rendered the decision moot, allowing two home-runs in six pitches. His season ERA is now 5.25, and on the day it was announced Chris Devenski has had Tommy John surgery, Mike Hazen’s taste in veteran relievers seemed questionable.
In the ninth, Josh Hader duly Hadered, and the D-backs had lost their sixteenth consecutive road game. There has only been one longer streak since 1985; the 2010 Pirates lost 17 in a row. If you’re looking for longer than that, we have the 1985 Pirates the last to be beaten in 19 straight road games, and the 1963 Mets dropped 22 in a row. They share the all-time MLB record there, with the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics. Weirdly, the Rangers are currently sitting on a 15-game active streak of their own. Feels like that must be close to a first. At this point, I’m almost cheering for it to continue. As Jack noted yesterday, from a recapper’s point of view, it does at least give you something to write about, rather than just another loss.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
The Hangover: Eduardo Escobar, +20.7%
The Hangover 3: Joakim Soria, -32.0%
The Hangover 2: M.Kelly, -27.9%; Ahmed, -15.2%
There was a Gameday Thread. It was happy, then it was sad, became hopeful for a bit, then collapsed into a sort of resignation. Present were: Augdogs, AzDbackfanInDc, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, KJKrug, Keegan Thompson, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Oldenschoole, SenSurround, Smurf-1000, Snake_Bitten, edbigghead, and gzimmerm. Just one Sedona Red comment from Snake_Bitten, but it’s a GIF, so I’ll just link to it. All told, probably more entertaining that this sad excuse for a baseball game. That’s now 2-18 over their last twenty, matching the nightmare streak of 2020.
Tomorrow, the series finale sees Caleb Smith take the mound. Or someone. I’ll not blame you if you find something else to do. I know I will be.