Wow. What a deeply stupid day, and what a deeply stupid baseball game to top it all off. First of all, I had a doctor’s appointment today at 8am, and the practitioner didn’t show up until 8:30. Then we were supposed to have a desk delivered from Amazon for TheRealRamona, and the desk did not arrive. We were also supposed to have a washer and dryer delivered, and neither of those arrived either. And then there was this game. Oh, my. Tuesdays suck sometimes.
So let’s talk about pitchers’ duels, because on paper, at least, this was nominally one of those rare animals. For the Reds, Tyler Mahle (with a 5.00+ ERA going into tonight) was on the mound. For us, Zach Davies (with a 4.00+ ERA going into tonight) had the ball. Nine innings later, both of them were out of the game, no runs had been scored, and we were going to extra innings. Davies pitched seven scoreless, with a final pitching line of 7 IP, 6 H, 7 K, 0 BB, and 0 R. Mahle, meanwhile, went the full nine for the Reds, with a final pitching line of 9 IP, 3 H, 12 K, 0 BB, and 0 R. So, their respective ERAs notwithstanding, they both clearly did some business.
But here’s the thing. When I think of pitchers’ duels, I think of, well, good starting pitchers, facing off against their opposite numbers, with good lineups on both sides, and each pitcher shutting the other team down. But neither the Reds nor the Diamondbacks have a particularly good lineup on any given day—I think Cincinnati’s is better, but still, they’re not that great. On the flip side, I think that Davies is a far better pitcher than Mahle, despite his much less clean pitching line. But neither of them are aces, and neither lineup is a Murderers’ Row. That’s my point.
I guess the question is really, when is a pitchers’ duel really a pitchers’ duel, rather than fairly mediocre pitchers having pretty good nights against fairly mediocre batters on the other team? If it’s the latter, does it even count? Is it a pitchers’ duel, or just a contest of relative mediocrities, and sort of a race to the bottom?
Anyway. So. The game. Zach Davies plunked Jonathan India, last year’s Rookie of the Year, to begin the contest. He erased him one out later by inducing a double play that ended the inning. He then pitched around a one-out double to Albert Almora, Jr. in the third, a couple of singles in the fifth, another single in the sixth, and another double in the seventh. He put up zeroes in every frame, though, and while it took him until the third inning to throw a first-pitch strike, he did the business, and he did it efficiently. When he was pulled after the seventh, his pitch count was at 90 pitches thrown. He did a nice day’s work. Noe Ramirez pitched a clean eighth, and despite surrendering singles to the first two batters in the top of the ninth, Joe Mantiply pitched out of trouble deftly.
Meanwhile, Tyler Mahle was perfect through three, striking out four on his first trip through the Diamondbacks lineup. Ketel Marte golfed a line drive double to the base of the right field wall with two outs in the fourth to get us out of no-no territory, but that was one of only three hits we managed in Mahle’s nine innings of work. The second was a Geraldo Perdomo opposite-field single with two outs in the sixth, which he hit against the shift and so was nice to see as an example of what Diamondbacks hitters should maybe do more of. The third was a Daulton Varsho single to short that was initially ruled an error, somewhat bizarrely, with one out in the ninth. But in terms of the regular order of business, that was all the action. Mahle pitched the full nine, finishing with 119 pitches thrown.
Thing is, Mahle, like Davies, wasn’t doing anything particularly special. He didn’t have pinpoint control or extra velocity on his fastball or a crazy cunning game plan or anything. He just kept pumping fastballs at us that for whatever reason we were unable to hit. On the broadcast they kept expressing surprise that, after dominating us for six innings last week doing the exact same thing, he didn’t change up his game plan or do something different facing us for the second time in a week. No mystery, there, though. He didn’t need to. And again, to reiterate, he’s not a particularly good pitcher. We can’t hit him, apparently, but it seems from his numbers like just about everyone else can.
When is a pitcher’s duel actually a pitcher’s duel, and when is it something else?
Anyhow, the game went to the tenth all tied up at zero, and of course the ghost runner, the Manfred Man, came into play. Unsurprisingly, runs began to be scored. Mark Melancon, whose record of performance in non-save situations we are very well acquainted with already, predictably did what he does in such situations and allowed CIncinnati’s first Manfred Man to score on a one-out single. 1-0 Cincinnati
Happily (sorta), David Peralta hit a triple (or possibly a double with a fielding error attached at the back end—scoring was weird tonight) into right field that scored Ketel Marte, who was our first ghost runner. Peralta wound up stranded, and the game slogged on. 1-1 TIE
Ian Kennedy took the 11th for us, and thanks to the Reds’ second Manfred Man and two singles allowed, gave up the first earned run of the game. 3-1 Cincinnati
Somewhat hilariously, the Diamondbacks answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the eleventh, on an Alek Thomas infield hit that advanced Jake McCarthy, our second Manfred Man, to third, after which two wild pitches allowed both McCarthy and Thomas to cross the plate without an RBI being recorded. 3-3 TIE
So onto the twelfth. I gotta be honest, I never at any point tonight believed that this was was going end well, and sure enough, Sean Poppen ensured that it didn’t. Perhaps wanting to one-up the Reds in the previous frame, he issued a wild pitch to advance Cincinnati’s third Manfred Man of the night to third base without there even being a hit ball to advance him. Then Almora hit a triple to right, and one out later, Jonathan India singled home Almora. Poppen then walked Brandon Drury before getting out of it thanks to a line-drive 3-6 double play that was corrected after a replay review. 5-3 Cincinnati
In the bottom of the twelfth, we managed to do nothing, and that’s your final. Sorry.
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
In honor of World Blood Donor Day, I’m gronna go with a vampire theme here. So.
Spike: Alek Thomas (4 AB, 1 H, 1 R, +49.5% WPA!!!), Zach Davies (pitching line above, +45.1% WPA)
Angel: Joe Mantiply (1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, +14.2% WPA), Noe Ramirez (1 IP, 1 K, 0 R, +10.9% WPA)
Lestat: Pavin Smith (5 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 RBI, -33.0% WPA), Ian P. Kennedy (1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, -29.4% WPA). Sean Poppen (1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 1 ER, -29.4% WPA)
It was actually an incredibly slow and quiet Gameday Thread, with only about 90 comments by the eighth inning. But as we dragged on into extras, things picked up, and we wound up with a fairly remarkable 250 comments at time of writing. Nothing went Sedona Red tonight, and I don’t have the heart or energy to pick one at this point, so there we go.
Well, whatever Reds fans might be coming to Chase tomorrow afternoon will have their brooms with them, so tune in tomorrow to see if we can salvage at least a little bit of dignity and deprive them of the sweep. Luis Castillo faces off against Zac Gallen, with first pitch scheduled for 12:40pm AZ time. Join us if you dare.
As always, thanks for reading. And as always, go Diamondbacks.