This evening's contest at Chase Field began with a bit of bad news. Both TV announcers, play-by-play man Steve Berthiaume and color analyst Bob Brenly had tested positive for COVID, and so were not in the booth. We wish them both a speedy recovery. It's going to make for a bit of a nervous few days. I would presume they were traveling with the team on the recent road-trip. Let's hope the outbreak goes no further than the broadcast team.
As for the game, it was a little bit of everything that had both troubled and encouraged the Diamondbacks over the first 13 games. Solid starting pitching? Check. But also a veteran reliever struggling. Problems with runners in scoring position. Sure. On the other hand, a clutch ninth inning homerun, when all hope seemed lost. Then again, some defensive plays not made that perhaps should have been. At the end of nine innings, you'd have been hard pushed to say the Diamondbacks deserved to have won it. But they had hardly deserved to lose either. So it was likely a reasonable outcome that this was decided in extras.
That's getting WAY ahead of ourselves though. It began with us watching, but not listening to the game. Nothing against the emergency commentators. But since the whole COVID thing started, we've been doing a lot more listening to music. In particular, on Twitch where you can find DJs in every genre. Friday evenings have become DJ Bueller and DJ Slave1 nights. Why let a stand-in recap get in the way? So the soundtrack to this contest was a mix of 80s new wave and hard dark dance. Oddly, both of these felt not inappropriate to the action unfolding on the field.
In the early going, the starting pitchers dominated. Zac Gallen's first three innings were as dominant as I've seen him in a long time. He retired all nine Mets, to be perfect the first time through the order. That included six strikeouts, five of which came in a row. Meanwhile, Mets starter David Petersen was being less dominant, but considerably more efficient: his pitch counts by inning were 10, 10, 14, 11 and 11. But Arizona were able to take the lead in the third. Pavin Smith doubled to lead things off, advanced to third on Jose Herrera's first hit of 2022 (it'll look like a line-drive in the scorebook. It wasn't) and came home on a Cooper Hummel groundout.
But after cruising through three innings, Gallen hit traffic in the fourth, when he was required to throw 31 pitches. Opponents of the shift would have found a lot to shake their heads sadly at in the frame, beginning with a lead-off double which was squirted through the largely unoccupied left-hand side of the infield. One out later, Pete Alonso blooped an RBI single into shallow right, which could have been caught either with a competent right fielder, rather than Pavin Smith, or if Ketel Marte had been playing a conventional 2B spot. It should also be mentioned that Gallen was hosed by home-plate umpire Rob Drake blowing a first-pitch strike. It was one of a number of terrible calls by Drake on the night.
Gallen got through the fifth, but was lifted at that point, having thrown 79 pitches. He allowed one run on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts: that increased his ERA to... uh, 1.00, but dropped the Arizona starters’ ERA to 2.45. The relievers ERA, on the other hand, went up tonight, ending the day at 4.38. That’s because Oliver Perez was charged with two runs while retiring one batter, and J.B. Wendelken also allowed two earned runs, while letting Perez’s inherited runner score in the sixth and giving up a two-run homer in the seventh. Oh, I mentioned Drake’s calls above. Here is the at-bat between Wendelken and Jeff McNeil in the seventh. Pitch #4 is a CALLED STRIKE. #RoboUmpsNow
With the D-backs now 5-1 down, I felt safe in getting the recap under way. But to Arizona’s credit, they did make a game of it, when I expected them to give up. They got one back immediately in the bottom of the seventh, with a Daulton Varsho sacrifice fly scored Seth Beer. In the eighth, Christian Walker's third homer of the year (above) made it a one-run game, coming with Cooper Hummel on base, after his lead-off double. But it seemed to be all in vain, as the Diamondbacks were down to the final out in the ninth: Nick Ahmed (0-for-4 in his return) grounded out, and Smith struck out. But Varsho retook the team lead for homers with his fourth of 2022, just over the fence in right field (below).
Into extras it went, with Mark Melancon summoned to try and stop the Manfred man from scoring. He came very close. With two outs, the runner was still at third, and Melancon got a ground-ball to Matt Davidson at third. His throw across the diamond to Walker at first got the call for the final, but it was reversed on appeal, becoming an RBI single for Starling Marte. You wonder if another defender might have got just a bit more on the play, which appeared to back Davidson up a bit. That proved decisive, as the Diamondbacks were unable to advance their Manfred man, giving the win to the Mets. Arizona finished the night 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position - and one of those hits didn’t score a run.
Smith led the offense, getting two hits and a walk, which bumped his season average up to .263. Davidson drew both of the team’s other walks, but Ketel Marte struck out three times, and now has 17 K’s in 61 PAs, compared to 4 BB’s. We also got the Diamondbacks debut of reliever Edwin Uceta, who worked a clean eighth innings. Below is postgame audio from Gallen, Varsho and Torey Lovullo: not had a chance to listen to them in detail, but Torey seems miffed about the Marte call.
Unsurprisingly, Daulton Varsho led the Win Probability at +35.7%, with Zac Gallen’s +14.4% the only other D-back in double digits. But there was a lot of negative to go around, starting with Oliver Perez (-22.8%). Also severely in the demerit column, we have Marte (-19.7%), Ahmed (-15.3%), Walker (-14.1%), Wendelken (-13.8%) and Hummel (-11.3%). Same two teams tomorrow evening at Chase, with Humberto Castellanos getting the start for the D-backs, and a 5:10 first pitch.