Record: 68-79. Pace: 75-87. Change on 2021: +21.
This felt like a flashback to an earlier, dark era when Clayton Kershaw used to dominate the D-backs. In 2010-11, he went 6-1 against us with a 1.42 ERA, but it seemed those days were gone, as he entered the twilight of an undoubted Hall of Fame career. Over the three seasons from 2019-21, he was only 2-2 with a positively human 3.83 ERA. But that’s now twice in a week, he has beaten Arizona, allowing one run over 13 innings, with a K:BB ratio of 15:1. Hey, at least we scored off him tonight, and it did briefly get interesting in the 9th, with the tying run at the plate.
It was clear this was going to a long night, from the second batter in. Ketel Marte struck out looking, on a pitch off the outside edge from Clayton Kershaw. Jake McCarthy followed, going down on three straight strikes. Merrill Kelly was not overawed, retiring the Dodgers in order with a pair of strikeouts too. Coming into tonight's start, Kelly had a record of 12-2 against everyone but the Dodgers, with a 2.38 ERA... and 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA against Los Angeles. Then again, the D-backs are 65-67 and 3-11 respectively. They'd lost nine in a row in Dodger Stadium. Roll on 2022 and a more balanced schedule.
You can see why my expectations for this contest were fairly muted. However, the Diamondbacks had matched their hit total from all of Kershaw's last start against them - which would be 2 - by the end of the second inning. Carson Kelly and, be still my beating heart, Jordan Luplow singled with two outs, though were stranded when Daulton Varsho struck out. The Dodgers also had two hits in their half. One was a 437 ft bomb by Joey Gallo with an exit velocity of 110 mph. This was followed by a 27 ft squibber with an EV of... 25.9 mph. [In case you are wondering, the slowest EV for a hit this year is 12.9 mph, on a bunt by the Padres' Ha-Seong Kim.]
Arizona responded to the 1-0 deficit by... Well, striking out in order on 14 pitches. Los Angeles then hit a lead-off double, which Luplow should have caught, only for it to squirt out of his glove. However, Mookie Betts hit into a 1-4-3 double-play - not something you see often when there's no runner on first! That didn't help the offense, who added two more K's in the top of the fourth. If you are keeping score at home, that was eight through four innings. The Dodgers then scored four runs off Kelly on four hits and just five pitches, effectively ending the game as a competitive spectacle by taking a 5-0 lead.
They had taken advantage of sloppy defense from the D-backs, including a Varsho error. But a three-run homer (albeit after umpire review) rendered it all a bit irrelevant. Arizona did manage to get on the board in the fifth. Carson Kelly got his second hit, a lead-off double, and one out later, Varsho blooped a single to left. Geraldo Perdomo was then just able to leg his way out of an inning-ending double-play, though it had to withstand a nerve-wracking review. Still, it wouldn't be our fourth shutout in eight games. #GreatSuccess There was also some nice defense in the bottom half, M. Kelly and C. Kelly combining for a strikeout, caught stealing double-play.
One-out singles by McCarthy and Christian Walker in the sixth inning gave the Diamondbacks hope of narrowing the gap. Emmanuel Rivera (strikeout looking) and Carson (groundout) had other plans. And that was more or less it for a bit. Merrill did, at least, get through six innings without further damage, being charged with five runs on eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. So he is now 0-5 against LA, though did improve his ERA versus the Dodgers to 8.25. Luis Frias was the only reliever used, tossing a pair of scoreless innings, albeit only just. The bottom of the eight saw him walk a pair before a two-out single, but the runner was thrown out at the plate by Luplow, albeit only after Torey Lovullo requested a review.
Arizona entered the bottom of the ninth still 5-1 down, and this seemed pottering towards an inevitable conclusion. Put it this way: the audio on my game feed died around the seventh inning, and I simply couldn’t be arsed to get up and fix it. However, eight pitches later, the Diamondbacks had loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to a Walker single being followed by pinch-hitters Josh Rojas and Corbin Carroll both being hit by pitches from Craig Kimbrel. He’d had his issues of late, so perhaps there was hope, especially when another pinch-hitter, Sergio Alcantara, scalded one at 99.5 mph with an expected batting average of .670. Yes, two-thirds of the time, it’d be a hit, probably score two and put the tying run on base.
Of course, it ended up being a double-play.
Admittedly, the second unusual one of the game, in this case the old 4-6-5-6. with the last out being of the runner on second. It still counted as two, despite scoring a second run, and the Varsho pop-out which followed felt inevitable. Arizona struck out a total of 12 times without drawing a walk. They have just two walks over the past five games, compared to 49 strikeouts. Feels like that must be close to a record.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Captain Jack Sparrow, +7.8%
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Merrill Kelly, -21.1%
Stede Bonnet: Sergio Alcantata, -13.2%
All considered, 120 comments on the GDT is more than I’d have expected, given the overall sense of futility for this contest. Just the one Sedona Red comment, but it needs too much context. Read from here down if you’re curious.
Tomorrow doesn’t promise to be much fun either, with a long day in prospect. It begins at 12:10 pm with the first of two games in a double-header scheduled as a result of the late start to the season. Zach Davies starts the day contest, so I guess I’d better start on that preview!