It’s easy to look at this D-backs team and find the ways they failed. With 104 losses (and climbing!), plenty of blame can go around. But games like today give you the blueprint this team needs to rebound in 2022.
Jack posted a beautiful sheet detailing just exactly one of the reasons this team lost so much this season. And while it’s a glaring issue the team needs to figure out, more homers isn’t the simple answer that we’d all like it to be. But when you combine it with a bottom-10 team strikeout rate (23.9%), you’re just not getting enough chances to string together hits and score multiple runs in an inning.
Take today for example. Through 6 innings, the D-backs had 1 inning with multiple hits, the 5th, and that led to their lone run. Whether that was opposing pitcher Charlie Morton losing velocity as the game went on (Morton touched 98mph in the 1st), or the dreaded 3rd batting appearance against the same pitcher (He’s allowed only a .723 OPS in those scenarios), the D-backs finally broke through. VanMeter and Vargas singled and Carson Kelly homered. The assault continued, with Calhoun and Varsho doubling before a Ramos sac fly scored Varsho and the 5th run of the inning. That 5 spot in the 7th was just the 32nd time this season the team has scored more than 4 runs in an inning. Significant? Probably not, but it does show this team struggles to string together hits and knock out opponents by getting up big.
On the pitching side it was Madison Bumgarner, who continues to chug along as the season winds down. He was almost out of 3rd unscathed, getting two outs from the pitcher and leadoff batters, but a 2-out walk to Freddie Freeman and fan interference on a deep fly ball to left brought home that run. Austin Riley stepped up and homered, as the Braves are wont to do, giving Atlanta a 3-0 lead.
That was really all the trouble Madison had in this one, as he left after the 5th with 90 pitches. He struck out 5 and walked 2 with the 3 earned runs the only real blemish on his start. Taylor Widener was the first out of the bullpen, and immediately allowed a single and double, but kept the damage to a minimum with a sac fly and strikeout to keep the game in striking distance at 4-1.
The 5 run barrage in the 7th, combined with an abnormally dominant bullpen, gave the D-backs a much-needed 6-4 win. Combined, the 4 relievers struck out 7 with just the single run allowed. Props to Poppen, Ramirez, Wendelken, and the previously mentioned Widener.
Carson Kelly flashed his early-season brilliance in this one, picking up 2 hits and a walk with 3 RBI coming on this homer for an excellent +.337 wPA.
Varsho had 2 hits himself, including the tie breaking double to take second with a solid +.217 wPA to support the team.
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The news of the Torey Lovullo extension will probably take the front page over this game, but it was an excellent game all around for the young club. Let’s hope they continue the good play as the Dodgers come into town for a weekend series.