Record: 26-66. Pace: 46-116. Change on 2004: -5.
The Diamondbacks had a chance to do something today they hadn’t managed since 2018: win a series in Dodger Stadium. It would have been rather amusing had they done so, despite being outscored 10-25. That was the situation in the middle of the eighth, as Arizona held a 4-1 lead, thanks to some offense from unexpected sources. But the old bugbears of bullpen pitching and outfield defense combined to gift Los Angeles three runs in the eighth, tying th game, and J.B. Bukauskas surrendered a three-run homer in the ninth, as the D-backs instead imploded into the break, doing their best impression of England taking penalties earlier this afternoon. But let’s kick off with something more pleasant instead.
Ten years ago, at this time of year, the All-Star game was here in Phoenix. Indeed, as Mrs. SnakePit just reminded me (OK, technically, Facebook reminded Mrs. SnakePit, who then reminded me), on this very day a decade ago, I was downtown interviewing Chris Pratt about Moneyball. That was then followed by a trip to the All-Star Fan Fest at the Convention Center, which included batting tips from Cal Ripken. Those were the days - when baseball was not the relentless chore it has felt like over the past three months. Last night's 22-1 slaughter felt like an accurate summary of a first half that began with so much promise, and ended in...
Well, put it like this. Today, during the first four innings I was watching the Euro final between Italy and England, rather than this game. This is why I am fine with not being a "professional" journalist with all those "responsibilities" and "integrity". Besides I'd miss not being able to embed a giant pile of dinocrap in my article. Anyway, if you want me to provide a breakdown of the penalty shootout which decided the contest in favor of Italy, I'll be happy to provide one. There would be charts involved. But thanks to the wonders of the DVR, I was able to get caught up on the game's events, whizzing through advert breaks and unproductive outs with my finger on the fast-forward.
It didn't start off well. The Dodgers took the lead before recording an out, as Mookie Betts homered in the bottom of the first, on a 2-2 cutter which got way too much of the plate. However, Merrill Kelly settled down very nicely. In a year where the rotation has been a grab-bag of random names, Kelly has been the only steadying factor. This was his 19th start. Only Madison Bumgarner (12) has made even half as many for the Diamondbacks this year. Today, he worked 5.1 innings and allowed only three more hits and a walk after the Betts homer, striking out three. The Dodgers only had two at-bats with runners in scoring position against Kelly, coming up empty in both.
There was some concern when he left, after a one-out double in the sixth, Merrill moving around gingerly post-pitch. However, he stayed in the dugout after coming out of the game. The team was apparently being cautious, with it subsequently reported as just a leg cramp. Kelly likely wasn't long for the game anyway, having thrown 88 pitches, so was getting close to his season high of 99. In 92 games, only two Diamondbacks have thrown a hundred pitches in a start this year. Both were Caleb Smith, on June 12 (103) and 23 (101). Coming into today, the D-backs were averaging only 80 pitches per start, tied for second fewest in the league. Mind you, the division-leading Mets are fewest, at 76.
He turned things over to the bullpen with a shot at victory. It wouldn’t have been a surprise. Kelly is the ONLY Diamondbacks starting pitcher with a win since May - the last other being Matt Peacock on May 30. Stephen Vogt had tied things up at one apiece, his solo shot coming with two outs in the fourth. It was his fifth homer of the year, and first by Vogt since May 29. Arizona then took the lead in their next turn at the plate. Josh Rojas hit a one-out ground-rule double down the right field line, and Josh VanMeter singled him home, staking Kelly to a 2-1 lead. He turned the ball over to Brett Van Geus; he and Joe Mantiply combined to keep the Dodgers off the board in the remainder of the sixth, and the seventh innings.
Arizona managed to pad its lead, as Daulton Varsho hit a two-run shot (below), in the top of the seventh, scoring Vogt who had led off the frame with a single. It was Varsho’s first MLB home-run off a left-hander, and his first of any kind since September 15 last year. Indeed, he had not even had an extra-base hit of any kind since May 2. Over his 29 games since then, Varsho had been hitting less than a buck (.099 coming into today, having gone 7-for-71). Maybe this will be the knock which gets him started in the second half? It would be nice if some of our prospects were able to live up to... Well, I was going to say “the hype”, but I’d settle for “our hopes” at this point.
Six outs to go and a three-run lead, had some people already gloating in the GDT, and promising to post p*nies. So, we know who is responsible for what happened in the eight inning. Noe Ramirez walked the lead-off man, gave up a pair of singles to load the bases, and then got a fly ball to the outfield... which Josh Reddick and Varsho somehow combined to let drop between them. It was another painful example of defensive incompetence, which has littered the first half of the season. That scored one run; a hit batter drove in another; and another singled tied it up. It was Arizona’s seventeenth blown save to this point; almost twice as many as their number of actual saves (9).
They did escape with the scores tied, but it felt like only putting off the inevitable. And by, “inevitable”. I mean the bullpen finishing the first half by picking up their major-league leading 23rd loss. [That’s a franchise worst to this point: even the 1999 D-backs’ bullpen lost only 20 games in their first 92] Bukauskas - another prospect whose performance has been massively disappointing (remember when we thought the team was keeping him in the minors for service time purposes? LOL!) - went single, sac. bunt, IBB, three-run homer, and has an ERA of 9.24. You’ll understand why interest is considerably more focused on the draft. But there’s a separate thread for that!
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Final Fantasy VII: Brett De Geus, +14.2%
Final Fantasy VI: Rojas, +12.2%; Kelly, +10.9%; Vogt, +10.9%
Final Fantasy II: Noe Ramirez, -42.7%
Final Fantasy XV: J.B. Bukuaskas, -37.2;
Those present for the spectacle in the GDT were: AzDbackfanInDc, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Snacks&Dbacks, Snake_Bitten, TexAgMatt, VW Beetle, gzimmerm, kilnborn and since_98. One Sedona Red comment, provided by someone who should have known better than to tempt the baseball gods, who clearly hate him... The following proved about as useful as his opinions on cooking steaks and alcohol. :)
On the plus side, the Diamondbacks are about to enjoy their longest undefeated streak, in terms of days, since April. And that’s a prediction with a better chance of coming true than the one above... We’ll still be busy here, with a bunch of draft coverage, but otherwise, I’ll see you on the far side. Only 70 games left, folks!