Record: 42-85. Pace: 54-108. Change on 2004: +3.
The first inning looked as if we could be in for dueling Madduxes. The Pirates starter came out and retired the Diamondbacks in order, needing just nine pitches. Madison Bumgarner then said... Well, you’ll find out what he said later, and retired the home team in order, on a mere six pitches. I was looking forward to this being the first full contest for the Diamondbacks completed in under two hours, for over 13 years. The last such, coincidentally, was also against the Pirates: this crisp game from August 2008 took just an hour and fifty-five minutes. That was largely because each side needed only 103 pitches: or, as the 2021 D-backs rotation calls it, “A decent four innings.”
Any such hopes largely died in the second inning, though the two halves did end up curiously parallel. Both teams had men on second and third with two outs, then walked the number eight hitter to get to the opposing pitcher, at the cost of loading the bases. It worked out well enough for both sides, though in the bottom half, it took MadBum hustling over to cover first on a groundball. In the top half, Madison did hit the ball hard - exit velocity of 97.3 mph - but did so right at the third baseman. The D-backs were making a lot of hard contact off J.T. Brubaker, led by Peralta’s one-out single at 111.4 mph - he has just one harder-hit ball this year.
Arizona did their best to squander an opportunity in the third. Josh Rojas led off with another rocket (104.2 mph) for a double, and took third on a wild pitch. He was still there three batters later, as Pavin Smith and Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, and Carson Kelly had a nice at-bat to draw a walk, then took second on another wild pitch. But Peralta followed Cabrera - the left-handers seemed to be having real trouble picking up Brubaker’s slider - and struck out. On the plus side, after he’d needed 9 pitches for the first three outs, he then required 56 more pitches to get the next six. Still, it didn’t take long for Arizona to start regretting the stranded runners.
For it was the Pirates’ turn for hard contact in the third, and theirs proved considerably more productive. An 86 mph cutter from Bumgarner got too much of the plate, and left about twenty miles an hour faster than it came in, traveling 429 feet over the fence in right center. The lead was then doubled after a triple and sacrifice fly, and the D-backs hardly made Brubaker work in the top of the fourth, making him throw barely a handful pitches. Per inning, his pitches had been 9, 27, 29, 7. After a lead-off walk, David Peralta made a lovely play to take away extra bases on a deep fly-ball. Sadly, his effort proved somewhat moot, as the next batter tagged MadBum for another two-run homer, giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, with the D-backs in the rare (very rare, on the road) position of being the bookie’s favorites tonight. Since the start of June, Bumgarner had made eight starts, covering 48.2 innings, and allowed only five home-runs - no more than one in any game. Brubaker, on the other hand? Eighteen home-runs over the same time, in 61 innings of work. But he was getting the job done this evening, and left after five innings with a shot at ending his streak of 12 starts without a W. I’d normally not mention it, this being the opposing pitcher ‘n’ all. But sadly, tied for the major-league lead in that area this year, is Zac Gallen, who had currently made 13 winless starts in a row.
Daulton Varsho made a nice play in the fifth, nailing a runner trying to stretch a single into a double. And Bumgarner was done after six innings and 92 pitches, having allowed six hits and three walks (one intentional) with five strikeouts. But the four earned runs allowed meant this was his first non-quality start since returning from the injured list, just after the All-Star break. At least the bullpen were left with a difficult job in terms of losing this one, not least because the offense were faring little better against the Pirates’ bullpen, than they had done against Brubaker. The question was more whether this would become the D-backs 13th time being shut out this year - that would trail just 1998’s 16 times.
However, Ketel Marte came off the bench: “What do we say to the god of shutouts? Not today.” As shown above, he blasted his seventh home-run of the year, 435 feet, after Asdrubal Cabrera’s lead-off double, to make it 4-2. That ended an 0-for-8 streak of futility by Arizona with runners in scoring position. Matt Peacock had put up a couple of shutout innings, helped with a pitchout that led to a caught stealing, so the D-backs entered the ninth needing a bloop and a blast. However, Nick Ahmed, Drew Ellis and Josh Rojas went down in order, and another road series loss is in the books. That’s sixteen without a win since Arizona’s last victory, at Atlanta in April. Cabrera and Rojas each had two hits today.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Liu Kang: Josh Rojas, +7.0%
Shang Tsung: Madison Bumgarner, -17.1%
Those present in the Gameday Thread were: AzDbackfanInDc, Dano_in_Tucson, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Jack Sommers, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, Oldenschoole, Smurf-1000, Snake_Bitten, gzimmerm, kilnborn, and since_98. No question about the Comment of the Thread, which goes to kilnborn with what may be a season-high nine recs on the day.
The Diamondbacks will try to avoid the sweep tomorrow in the series finale, with Tyler Gilbert starting for Arizona. It’s a 4:05 pm first pitch which, you will be glad to hear, I shall not be recapping. :)