Record: 45-57. Pace: 71-91. Change on 2021: +14.
The unexpected return to the rotation of Zach Davies, when he was still well short of full stamina, led to speculation that tonight's outing was a showcase for potential trade partners, in advance of tomorrow's deadline. If that was the case, the best thing you can say is thar Davies proved his health, throwing 56 pitches without apparent difficulty. The bad news? It was only enough for Zach to record six outs. He was tagged for a pair of two-run homers, and left with a 4-1 deficit. However, Christian Walker bailed him out of the decision with a three-run shot, and the game would eventually become a battle of the bullpens. And August began as July ended: with Mark Melancon taking the loss.
Both sides went down in order in the first, before Arizona took the lead in the top of the second. That came courtesy of Daulton Varsho, who pounced on a 1-0 pitch, and deposited it 397 feet to right center for his 14th home-run of the season (above). But the Guardians struck back in their half of the inning. An infield hit was followed by a high fly-ball that left the park, giving Cleveland a two-run homer and a 2-1 lead. Davies had to work considerably harder, throwing 26 pitches before finally getting the third out. It was the last out he'd get. The third inning opened with a walk, then another two-run homer, and that was it for Davies tonight - and, possibly as a Diamondback. He was charged with four runs over two innings, on three hits and two walks with one strikeout. However, he only had two swinging strikes all night.
Kyle Nelson took over, and avoided further damage, then the D-Backs went from 4-1 down to a tied game in nine pitches. Alek Thomas legged out an infield single, despite missing the bag as he ran through it (to be fair, the Cleveland 1B was occupying way too much of the base). Fortunately, he was able to sneak back and touch the base before the fielder noticed. Ketel Marte was nicked by a pitch to put another man on, and Walker then deposited his twenty-fourth home-run into the seats, for a three-run bomb (below). He's on pace for 38 HR while hitting .203. That would be a combination never before achieved in the National League. The only player in MLB history to do it is Joey Gallo last year, who hit below the Uecker line at .199 with 38 homers for the Yankees and Rangers.
Scoring then became at a premium. The Diamondbacks bullpen was pressed into long service with Davies getting just six outs. However, they were up to the task, and did sterling work. Especially after the trade of Luke Weaver, news of which broke just before game time, and the loss of Caleb Smith to the injured list after "punching something he shouldn't have" (per Torey Lovullo), the lack of a long reliever felt problematic. Still, the bullpen arms used did the job. No more so than in the fourth. where Nelson and the newly returned Kevin Ginkel combined to come one pitch from an immaculate inning. 10 pitches, 10 strikes, 1 foul ball, three strikeouts. [The last immaculate inning by Arizona was October 1, 2012 by Wade Miley]
Tyler Holton, Chris Devenski, Noe Ramirez, Joe Mantiply and Ian Kennedy all also chipped in, the Arizona bullpen combining for seven shutout innings on five hits and two walks, with eight K's, to take the game into extra innings. There were some scary moments. In the sixth, the Guardians got a lead-off double, even though Jake McCarthy's throw easily beat the runner to second-base. Marte wasn't able, for some reason, to apply the tag in time. However, Devenski stranded the runner. In the seventh, Cleveland loaded the bases after Mantiply came in and walked the first batter he saw on four pitches, then went 2-0 to the next hitter. Mantiply left the ducks on the pond, and came back out to record a four-pitch eighth inning.
Kennedy worked a scoreless ninth, and it was time for the Manfred Man. It's an area where the D-backs have struggled this season. Despite starting with a runner on second, they had scored in only five of nine extra innings [MLB average is 62%] They did improve their number in the 10th, after Thomas had an infield single, before Marte hit into a run-scoring double-play. This brought in closer Mark Melancon, who blew the save on a groundout and RBI single, to tie the game back up/ Cleveland then stole their fourth base of the night to put the winning run on second. Josh Rojas snared a liner for the second out, and some guy making his first major-league appearance grounded out on the first pitch. Into the eleventh!
Arizona weren't able to score their ghost runner, despite leading off with a Rojas sacrifice bunt. McCarthy lined out, and Buddy Kennedy came off the bench to strike out in place of Seth Beer [It wasn't an auspicious return for Beer, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout]. With the newly-promoted Taylor Widener the only man left, Lovullo opted to stick with Melancon. Like Arizona, Cleveland bunted the runner to third. Unlike Arizona, they got the run home with two outs, on a single to right. That gave Melancon his 10th loss of the year, in only 36.2 innings, even if both runs tonight were unearned. He’s the first Diamondbacks reliever to take a loss on consecutive days since Fernando Salas on May 9-10, 2018.
To be fair, this wasn’t an easy scenario, especially in the 11th, when avoiding the loss meant stranding the runner on second with no outs. However, just as they are now 6-of-11 in scoring when given a Manfred Man, the opposition are almost perfect, having gone 10-of-11. The inability of Arizona to post a zero in extras has hurt them. Elsewhere, Thomas had three hits, Walker and Varsho two apiece, but Marte was 0-for-4 with that double-play. Most importantly: number of times Bob Brenly said “Indians” = 4.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Paul Atreides: Christian Walker, +18.7%
Duncan Idaho: Thomas, +18.5%; Mantiply, +17.8%; Kennedy, +13.3%
Baron Harkonnen: Zach Davies, -30.8%
Feyd-Rautha: Melancon, -25.6%; Beer, -22.5%; McCarthy -16.6%; Marte, -14.2%; Kennedy, -12.2%; Perdomo -11.0%
If there was a red comment tonight, I must have missed it. Same two teams tomorrow in Cleveland, with another 4:10 pm start. But, hey, Melancon is unlikely to be available! So we might have a chance, folks! Zac Gallen starts for the D-backs.