Don’t look now, but the D-backs are on a path towards respectability. Since the calendar flipped, the D-backs are 7-9 and have turned it on as of late, winning 3 of 4 against the Padres in Arizona and have a chance to sweep a potential playoff team in the Phillies. Listen, I get it, these wins really don’t mean much except for lessening our chances of the #1 overall pick, but if there’s a sport where the first overall selection means less, it’s baseball. 3 of the last 10 number one picks have been everyday players (Cole, Correa, Swanson), while the jury is out for the other 7 as some are still getting seasoning the minors or have struggled since. So let’s just enjoy the good baseball while we have it.
Pitching for the D-backs was Madison Bumgarner, who is starting to turn things around and is starting to earn that paycheck, insomuch he may have trade value if he keeps things up. He hasn’t given up more than 2 earned runs in his last 6 starts before today’s game and has pitched at least 6 innings in all but one of the starts. Exactly what the team envisioned when they signed him to the deal in the 2020 offseason. Just one of the many interesting options for this team as they try to bounce back from the back-to-back poor seasons.
It didn’t start out too great, with old friend Jean Segura doubling to left to begin the game. Bumgarner was excellent from that point until the 5th, when Didi Gregorius was HBP with one out, and Luke Williams walked. But Zack Wheeler struck out looking and the D-backs escaped potential trouble. He wasn’t particularly dominant, but only two batters had an exit velocity above 90, with both fly balls caught by defenders.
He continued another pitching streak after the walk, inducing 5 of the next 6 batters to ground out and keep his scoreless outing intact.
But like the 1st, a leadoff double threatened things for the D-backs as Ronald Torreyes led things off with the aforementioned double. Luke Williams singled to put runners on the corners, and an Odubel Herrera HBP loaded things up. But, Jean Segura grounded into a fielders choice, erasing Herrera at second, J.T. Realmuto struck out, and Bryce Harper grounded out to end the inning and outing for Bumgarner.
He was excellent. Pitching 8 innings, striking out 5 while allowing the three hits.
The offense struggled on their end against Zack Wheeler, who has been superb for the Phillies, enough so that he will earn some Cy Young votes and could potentially even win it with a solid stretch to end the season.
The offense struggled to begin the game, as Wheeler retired the first 14 batters he faced, before Peralta doubled with two outs to break up the perfect game. Christian Walker made sure to make the double count, with a bloop just in front of Harper in right field to give the D-backs a 1-0 lead.
With how both pitchers were going, it looked like that single run might have what it takes to win the game.
Wheeler, wasn’t as perfect as he was in the beginning innings, allowing hits in each of the next 3 innings, with the wheels falling off in the 7th.
Walker doubled to lead off, and after a sac bunt, he moved to 3rd. A sharp grounder to 3rd almost got Walker off the bag but a nifty juke allowed Ellis and Walker to be safe on the play. I mean, come on, this is baseball.
Nick Ahmed capitalized, doubling to left, scoring both Walker and Ellis and the big inning continued with a Bumgarner single, scoring Ahmed, and a Rojas walk to replace Wheeler. Zack wasn’t happy, glaring at the umpire for missing a borderline pitch that would’ve gotten out of the inning with minimal damage, but the bullpen made sure those runners would score, as VanMeter doubled home both runners to push the advantage to 6-1.
Taylor Clarke would give up a run in the 9th after 4 straight hits, but a strikeout and ground out gave the D-backs the win 6-2.
Madison Bumgarner was the king of the WPA, with his 8 innings of 1 run ball in a close game worth a shocking +.469 WPA. On the offensive end, Christian Walker was a +.148 on the day.
The sweep was the 1st since the Pirates in July, and a nice note to leave on as they head for a long 10-game road trip with stops in Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia to end it. Stop on by!