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Diamondbacks 5, Padres 6: The Kennedy Assassination, Part II

It’s deja vu, all over again

Robert F. Kennedy Shortly Before Assassination

From my recap, three weeks ago today, amended appropriately.

Well, that’s three hours and thirteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I could have watched a couple of movies. Improved my mind by reading. Rammed my head repeatedly into a concrete bollard. All of them would have been more entertaining than the end of this suck-fest. The D-backs were one strike away from victory. But the head of the apparently fictional “closer by committee”, Ian Kennedy, walked two batters before allowing a two-run walkoff single. He and Mark Melancon have now combined for SIXTEEN SEVENTEEN losses.

This may, in fact, have been even more painful, for the Diamondbacks coughed up a five-run lead here, rather than just one run. Merrill Kelly allowed only three hits over seven innings - unfortunately, all three of them left the yard, as the Padres pulled to within one. Kyle Nelson and Reyes Moronta dodged a bullet in the eighth. But Kennedy was roundly Sirhan Sirhan’d in the ninth, ruining what had been, to the half-way point, a thoroughly enjoyable night of baseball.

I had barely turned the TV on before the Diamondbacks took the lead. To be honest, I was listening to Mrs. SnakePit, who had gone off on a bit of a rant about an issue at her job, to which I was contractually obliged to pay attention. But I am reliably informed that Josh Rojas jumped on the first pitch from Joe Musgrove and flipped it just over the fence the opposite way. It was his eighth home-run of the season and got the D-backs out to an early 1-0 lead. While that was all the damage, I do want to mention the 11-pitch AB by Jake McCarthy. It ended in a groundout, yet helped run up Musgrove's pitch-count. That would become a theme.

It seemed as if the Padres' starter was almost permanently working out of the stretch. Including Rojas, who was more "trotting round the bases" than standing on them, the leadoff man for Arizona reached base each of the five innings Musgrove pitched. However they weren't able to do anything in the second or third. Even when the first two reached in the second, on a Corbin Carroll single and Carson Kelly walk, the D-backs came up empty. With two outs in the fourth and Kelly on first, however, Sergio Alcántara worked the count full, then doubled down the right-field line. With Kelly going on the pitch, our catcher was able to score all the way from first, making it 2-0.

The fifth inning was considerably more entertaining. Musgrove's pitch count was at eighty after only four innings, and Daulton Varsho ambushed pitch #81 to lead off the fourth, for his 21st home-run (below). Ketel Marte struck out, something that has become an all too common event of late. Tonight, he was 0-for-4 with a pair of Ks, and since August 14, is 8-for-57 with 13 strikeouts. However, rather than dwell on that, let's instead praise Christian Walker, who hit his 32nd homer to give Arizona a 4-0 lead. McCarthy then manufactured a run: he singled, stole second, took third on the catcher's throwing error, and scored on a Kelly groundout. Tacos? Don't mind if I do.

With the Diamondbacks 5-0 up and cruising, it seemed all but assured that the team were going to lock up a fourth consecutive series victory and run their record to 10-2 over the last dozen games. When was the last time Arizona did that? Again you have to go back to 2019: August 26 through September 8, to he precise. Truth be told, I was quietly hoping for something even more memorable. Because to that point, Merrill Kelly had retired all twelve batters he had faced, throwing four perfect innings. This was the point at which I wrote the paragraph below, effusively praising the joys of late 2022 D-backs baseball. Part of me wants to pretend it never happened, but I’ll leave it here, for reasons I’ll get to later.

I can’t remember the last time I genuinely watched back-to-back Diamondbacks games. I certainly can’t remember the last time I genuinely ENJOYED watching back-to-back Diamondbacks games. I’m thinking it was at least the 2019 season, back before... [gestures vaguely] all that happened, to rob so much of my enjoyment of baseball. It has been a LONG three years. But the recent incarnation of Diamondbacks baseball has been a genuine pleasure to watch. Perhaps it’s all relative. From the end of 2019 through the All-Star break this year, this was basically the worst team in the majors. Since the All-Star break though, that certainly hasn’t been the case.

How much was I enjoying this game? samath offered to guest recap it, and I turned him down. Narrator: “It would be a mistake he would later come to regret.” For Merrill Kelly ended losing the perfect game, the no-hitter and the shutout in consecutive pitches, first walking Josh Bell, then allowing a home-run by Jake Cronenworth on the next offering. Another home-run followed four pitches later, and the cruise control on this one was suddenly rolling into the shop. Kelly got through the sixth, but gave up another homer in the seventh. He became the fifth pitcher in team history to give up 3+ hits, all of them home-runs. The record there is four, set by Micah Owings on September 3, 2007.

The D-backs offense had, once again, completely shut up shop against the Padres bullpen. Indeed, they sent up the minimum 14 batters against them. Their only base-runner was an Alcantara single, leading off the sixth inning. He was then immediately erased on a ground-ball double-play by Rojas. He would likely have legged it out, except for tripping over his own bat as he went up first, leading to a forward roll. We should likely have just gone home after that poor omen. Kelly left after seven innings, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk, with five strikeouts. It’s the first time since September 20, 2017 that both starters have allowed 3+ HR in a game at Petco: we were the visitors then too, with Robbie Ray our starter.

With the score now 5-4 to Arizona, Kyle Nelson’s struggles since his recall continued in the eighth. He walked the lead-off man, and one out leader, a single put the tying run on third. Nelson bounced back to get a huge strikeout of Juan Soto, then Reyes Moronta replaced him and got Manny Machado to pop out. It was all in vain, thanks to Kennedy’s sixth blown save. After a lead-off walk, he retired the next two, allowed a single, then got to two strikes on the following hitter, before walking him to load the bases. On a night of first-pitch attacks, it seemed only appropriate that it ended on Kennedy’s first pitch to Jorge Alfaro, who singled right back up the middle to score the tying and winning runs.

Despite the loss, I did have a bit of an epiphany in the ninth inning. I realized that I actually cared about the result of the game, and that’s why I left the paragraph of praise higher up. Over the past three seasons, my passion for baseball and the D-backs in particular, had been grindingly replaced by a kind of benevolent apathy, where I hardly bothered to do more than check the score. The last frame tonight though, was the most invested I had been in any Diamondback game for a long, long time. Even if the result was not what I hoped, perhaps it marks a turning point in the overall picture. Though if the team could book seats on the next Greenland flight for Kennedy and Mark Melancon, I’d be all the happier for it!

Click for details at
The Princess of Hearts: Reyes Moronta, +13.8%
Elton John: Merrill Kelly, +10.3%
A tunnel in Paris: Ian Kennedy, -81.6%

A happy Gameday Thread, right up to the point where it wasn’t. I am going to go with a positive Comment of the Game, from Chewbrocka. We do need to realize that, even as the team comes back from the suck we’ve experienced over the past three seasons, there are still going to be games like tonight. They’re not the end of the world. What matters is the long-term future, and that is still looking brighter than for quite some time.

Same two teams tomorrow, in the rubber game, with another odd start time, this one getting under way at 5:40 pm, Arizona time. Tommy Henry starts for the D-backs, hoping to bounce back from a bit of a shellacking in his last outing.