I will be honest....I didn’t have a good feeling about this one pretty much from the outset. Our injured starting pitchers who’ve been returning this week have been preternaturally effective, our bullpen has (mostly) not been sucking so much, and we’ve broadly been playing some relatively respectable baseball. I figured that something probably had to give, and the way things started, I had a sinking feeling that tonight would be that night, and I’d be recapping a loss.
Taylor Widener last pitched against the Dodgers right before the All-Star break, and while he’d been on a limited pitch count he looked pretty damned sharp. That was not the case tonight, though the 8 Ks in his pitching line might fool you a little bit. His velocity was good, with his fastball hitting 96mph, but his control was not great. In his first two innings of work, he only threw first-pitch strikes to two of the seven batters he faced, and in the first inning alone he threw 20 pitches. No damage was done in those first two innings, to be fair, as the only Pittsburgh batter to reach was All-Star Adam Frazier, who led off the game with a single to shallow right on the seventh pitch he saw. But the Pirates were making Widener work, and he wasn’t hitting his spots.
If the offense had been doing anything, I might have been less concerned, but Pirates lefty Tyler Anderson was perfect through three, striking out five and walking none, and only needing 27 pitches to get that far. It was beginning to look it would be a long night.
Widener’s first real trouble came in the top of the third, when he surrendered a leadoff double to Pittsburgh’s catcher and former Diamondbacks draftee Michael Perez (we traded him to Tampa for Matt Andriese, which will never be a good life choice), who lined one into the right field corner. Anderson then tried to sac bunt him to third, but the Diamondbacks are gonna D-Back, don’t you know. Anderson popped the bunt up, Varsho and Widener both tried to catch it, both failed, and Widener slid into the ball, which was already looking like it would go foul on its own. Because he touched it while it was still in play, though, it was a live ball, and then he was facing runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out. Rather remarkably, he wound up striking out the side to wriggle off the hook, but still, it was nervous-making.
Then, in the top of the fourth, Widener’s luck finally ran out. After striking out the leadoff batter for his seventh K of the game, he gave up his first walk, and then Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco sent one out into the right field seats. One out later Michael Perez reached on a ball hit to the track in left that Josh Rojas, playing left tonight for whatever reason, actually got into his glove before he dropped it. The play was scored a double, rather generously to my mind, but there you are. Widener got the third out by inducing Anderson to ground out to short, but first blood had been drawn. 2-0 Pittsburgh
Hearteningly, we got a bit back in the bottom of the frame, as the offense began to stir from its slumber. Perhaps embarrassed by his failure to catch a fly ball in the top half, Josh Rojas doinked a single into shallow center to give the good guys their first base runner of the ballgame. Two pitches later Eduardo Escobar drilled a shot down the right field line that just stayed fair. Third base coach Tony Perezchica was windmilling Rojas around from the moment the ball came off the bat, so Rojas scored from first.
Who else??— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) July 21, 2021
D-backs on the board. pic.twitter.com/zV6XHDJes0
Escobar wound up stranded, but at least we’d gotten one back. 2-1 Pittsburgh
Widener had been looking like he was kinda fading in the fourth, but he was only at 69 pitches, so he came out to start the fifth, to face the top of the Pittsburgh order for the third time. He gave up two quick singles, and then Pirates center fielder (and other All Star) Brian Reynolds hit a long sacrifice fly to right that advanced Adam Frazier to third. The Diamondbacks then tried to turn a double play on a slow grounder to second, but they were only able to get the lead runner, while Frazier scored from third. Then Pirates first baseman John Nogowski, who’d drawn the walk the previous inning, hit a 2-1 slider that Widener hung in the middle of the plate over the fence in left. That earned Widener the hook after 4 2⁄3 innings of work and 80 pitches. Jake Faria relieved him, and struck out Polanco on four pitches to end the pain. 5-1 Pittsburgh
The offense came out in the bottom of the fifth and continued to demonstrate that it at least had a pulse. Josh Reddick grounded a single to right, and one out later advanced to second on a Daulton Varsho single (!!?!) to shallow left. Josh VanMeter, who’d been part of a double-switch when Faria came in, stroked a single to shallow right that moved everyone up a base. It was strictly station-to-station stuff, but at least we had the bases loaded with only one out. Nick Ahmed, who was batting in the leadoff spot tonight, then dropped another single into right field that again moved everyone up a base, allowing Varsho to score. Sadly, the incipient rally ended when Josh Rojas hit a grounder to the pitcher, who threw home to start the rare pitcher-to-catcher-to-first-base double play (scored, in traditional scoring notation, as a 1-2-3 double play). 5-2 Pittsburgh
Faria sat the bottom of the Pirates order down in the top of the sixth, striking out two, which was nice, and the Diamondbacks got another one back in the bottom of the frame, thanks to a leadoff Escobar walk followed by a Christian Walker double to left. Perezchica had the stop sign up for Escobar, but EE just blew right on through it, perhaps to make up for last night’s silliness, and scored without a throw. That was all we managed, but still, we had scraped another one back. 5-3 Pittsburgh
JB Bukauskas (remember him, we were talking in spring training about how he was gonna be our closer?) took the mound for the top to the seventh, and pitched a nice, clean 14-pitch inning of relief, retiring the side in order on two strikeouts and an infield grounder.
Then the fun began. Tyler Anderson was finally out, and some poor guy named Austin Davis came out to replace him. He clearly was having some difficulty throwing strikes, as he walked Varsho on four pitches to start the frame. Josh VanMeter then tripled to the alley in left center to score Varsho. Nick Ahmed hit a line-drive single to right, scoring VanMeter. Josh Rojas then drew a full-count walk. Escobar flew out to right for the first out of the inning, but hey, we were already tied. Austin Davis got yanked after that for another hapless Pittsburgh reliever, this one named Clay Holmes. He promptly walked Christian Walker on four pitches, loading the bases. Kole Calhoun then struck out swinging, and it began to seem like we were going to squander yet another bases-loaded-with-less-than-two-outs opportunity, as there were now two outs.
But wait. Reddick singled to left, deep enough that it scored both Ahmed and Rojas and gave us our first lead of the game:
David Peralta pinch-hit for Bukauskas, and singled to left, scoring Walker and advancing Reddick to third. Varsho came up for the second time in the inning (yes, we had just batted around) and hit an infield single that maybe should have been an error on the Pittsburgh SS, but hey, Daulton’s batting average needs all the help it can get. Peralta advanced to second, Reddick scored. Then VanMeter came up again, and this time hit a double off the wall in center, scoring VanMeter and Peralta. Ahmed then drew a walk, but alas, Josh Rojas struck out to finally end things. But we had put up an 8-spot, our first one since August 12 of last year in Colorado (thanks for that, Jack!). 11-5 D-BACKS
Matt Peacock came out for the eighth, and pitched around a couple of leadoff singles to put up a zero, while the Diamondbacks offense was tuckered out, and went down in order. Peacock gave up a run on three hits in the top of the ninth, but closed it out to give us our third win in a row! 11-6 D-BACKS
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
Usually I go with Fearless Leader’s “This was #1 at the box office back in [YEAR X]” guidance for this section from the top of the GDT, but tonight Jim and Mrs. Snakepit were observing their wedding anniversary, complete with fancy dinner apparently, so I’m going with that theme instead. Congrats, you crazy kids!
Happy Anniversary!: Josh Reddick (4 AB, 2 H, 2 R, 2 RBI, +21.2% WPA)
It Was a Perfectly Pleasant Evening: Christian Walker (4 AB, 1 H, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, +16.1% WPA), NIck Ahmed (4 AB, 2H, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, +12.3% WPA), Daulton Varsho (3 AB, 2 H, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, +11.3% WPA)
Probably Shouldn’t Have Ordered the Fish: Taylor Widener (42⁄3 IP, 8 H, 2 HR, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K)
It was kind of a banner night in the Gameday Thread, perhaps because the cat was away at his anniversary dinner, but also because we actually seem like we might be on a little bit of a roll, and given how bad the Pirates are, it seemed like almost nobody wanted to give up even when we were down 5-1. We racked up 424 comments from 19 attendees, with DC and me leading the way with 87 and 53 comments respectively. All present and accounted for were: AzDbackfanInDc, Dano_in_Tucson, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Michael McDermott, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Smurf-1000, Snacks&Dbacks, Snake_Bitten, TheOlser4, VW Beetle, cnsieler, gzimmerm, kilnborn, since_98, therealramona
Despite my repeated pleas, nothing turned Sedona Red tonight, and while DC was lobbying shamelessly if obliquely for a CoTG nod (and shamelessly and overtly trying to dissuade yours truly from giving another one to kilnborn), I’m actually gonna give it to DC, because most of the ones that were closer to red involved a protracted discussion of food and an extended joke that posited the existence in western PA of a chain called “Pierogi Bell”. So.
CoTG is this, as it was posted in the early ABs of the Snowman Seventh, and crap our stands are empty right now. I loved the mental image of that tiny, tiny crown doing a tiny, tiny wave. Also, bonus points for the nice, non-round number. Cheers!
So we will be getting out our brooms (or our whisk brooms and dustpans, anyway) for tomorrow’s day game finale. Madison Bumgarner takes the mound for us, going up against the terrifying blank visage of TBA for the Pirates. Join us if you happen to have a window of early afternoon opportunity, as first pitch happens at 12:40pm AZ time.
As always, thanks for reading, and as always, Go D-Backs!