At the start of play tonight, there are six teams in the majors with between a 5% and 95% chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN. The Diamondbacks have played four of them in their last 11 games, going 9-2. Needless to say, it’s gotten a lot of us hyped up for this team’s potential, even if they’re still too far behind the Padres and Brewers and have too many Dodgers games coming up to allow ourselves to get too hopeful this season. Either way, Musgrove vs. Kelly looks like a pitcher's duel in the making, but we'll see!
Before anyone is even settled in, Rojas hits one out oppo to left on the first pitch! Varsho falls behind in the count and ultimately grounds out weakly to first. Marte hits a hot shot that eats up the shortstop Kim shifted into the usual 2nd base position, but he snags it and has plenty of time to fire to first for the out. Walker looks a bit lost but reaches out and makes contact, dunking one into left. On an 0-2 pitch, Jake McCarthy just misses an easy double down the 3rd base line with the left side of the infield wide open. He fouls off a few more pitches thrown all over the edges of the strike zone, running the count full. On the tenth pitch, he hits a slow grounder that Kim practically hands to Myers at first. All in all, they get a run and hang a 24-pitch first on Musgrove.
Let’s see if Kelly can settle in for a better first than Musgrove. He quickly gets Profar to ground out weakly to Ketel at 2nd. Soto looks so much less confident than his trademark swagger. He almost started the shuffle on a strike on the outside corner before popping out again. Machado swings through a couple pitches before grounding it up the middle with Marte making a backhand snag look easy. It’s an easy 11-pitch 1-2-3 first for Kelly, and if this first inning continues, we’re going to be looking to sweep tomorrow.
Carroll is up as the DH and pops a 1-0 foul ball a bit out of Machado’s reach. He takes the second chance to knock one into right for a great start to the inning, keeping Musgrove’s attention with a whole ton of throws over. Meanwhile, Carson impressively works a walk from an 0-2 count, laying off some close pitches, setting the table for Thomas, who unfortunately flies out to Profar in left-center on the first pitch. Alcantra lays off some tough breaking pitches but strikes out on a fastball away. After going deep on the first pitch in the first, Rojas takes the first four pitches for a 3-1 count but swings through the next two to strike out as well.
Kelly is back to work, striking out Bell on 3 pitches, the second of which is a bit of a generous call. Cronenworth pops out to Alcantra on the second pitch, and Kim strikes out. The Padres seem listless on offense as Kelly mows them down. It reminds me of the Padres last September…
Varsho creatively bunts for a hit, beating Musgrove to the bag, giving us three straight innings with the leadoff hitter aboard (including Rojas’s big fly in the first). Marte hits a short pop up that Machado tracks down, but the way folks seem to be commenting about Marte's at-bats, at least he didn’t GIDP. Walker hits a 2-0 fly ball straight to CF, bringing up McCarthy with 2 outs and a runner on 1st again. He hits a long foul ball down the right-field line on 3-1 before grounding out on a high bouncer that Musgrove snags on the mound. That’s 17 pitches seen from McCarthy in two at-bats, but it’s also starting to feel like they should try to get more than just the one run before Musgrove is out of the game…
It seems that Merrill is starting every hitter 0-2 – sure enough, all three of the batters in both the 2nd and 3rd innings started with two strikes (including Cronenworth’s 0-1 popout). Myers gets a charge into one but McCarthy runs it down in front of the short porch in left, probably the closest they’ve come to getting a hit. The crowd gets into Grisham’s flyball to center but Thomas is right there. Alfaro makes sure each of the outfielders gets in on the action this inning by flying out to Varsho in right. That’s 9 up, 9 down for Merrill.
Carroll hits another single into right-center. That’s 4 straight innings with the leadoff hitter on. We’ll see if we get as many pickoffs this time. A 2-1 cutter to Carson looks outside but gets the call – he ends up grounding into a fielder’s choice to third with the ball to first thrown away but not far enough to advance. Thomas again swings at the first pitch and pops out. Despite another borderline strike 1 call on the first pitch, Alcantra works the count full, giving Kelly the opportunity to start on the pitch. This pays off as he hits a double down the line in right, scoring Carson. With Rojas’s second 2-out RISP at-bat, he flies out to Profar in left a bit short of his first-inning homer spot.
Profar breaks the streak of 0-2’s with a 2-1 count before grounding out on the sixth pitch to Marte, whose defense looks fine at second, hamstring or no. On Soto’s ground ball to Alcantra in the shift, Marte goes into push-up position to avoid Alcantra’s throw. A first-pitch up-and-in fastball draws some boos from the crowd, but Machado hits his revenge flyball off the end of the bat to McCarthy in left for the third out. That’s four perfect innings for Kelly!
Varsho hits one just out to right! The Diamondbacks seem to be following the strategy of ambushing Musgrove on the first pitch of the inning, with Varsho’s two hits and Rojas’s homer all coming on the first pitch of their respective innings. Marte patiently works the count 3-1 before striking out swinging. Walker shows how it’s done with another home run to left-center that was hit harder than the other two but to a deeper part of the park. McCarthy doesn’t wait around as long this at-bat to hit a single through the huge gap on the left side. On a 3-0 strike to Carroll, he steals 2nd and the throw hits him, going into left-center and letting McCarthy take third. He walks, getting on for the third time in three PA and chasing Musgrove.
Tim Hill comes in… a lefty to face Carson Kelly doesn’t seem like the best timing, but I guess Musgrove was done. With Carroll on the move 3-2, Carson puts the ball in play, an RBI groundout to 2nd getting us tacos. For once, Thomas doesn’t put the first pitch of the at-bat in play but seems mighty uncomfortable up there against the sidearming Hill, working the count full but striking out.
Bell works a walk for the first SD baserunner; some of the pitches are just off the plate inside. Cronenworth takes the next pitch deep for the end of the no-hitter and shutout just like that. Oof. Kim then goes back-to-back on what looked to my eye like a pretty good pitch on the inside corner from Merrill. Myers strikes out but Kelly seems a bit rattled. Grisham and Alfaro both ground out, though, and we’re back where we were at the start of this inning with a 2-run lead.
Alcantra hitting right-handed looks relatively comfortable against Hill, and hits a single to left-center to lead off. That’s six innings now with the leadoff hitter getting a hit. But Rojas grounds into a double play, tripping over the bat on his way to first. Varsho, like the other lefties, doesn’t look comfortable and strikes out.
Third time through the order, Merrill feels like he’s working a bit harder but strikes out Profar and Machado and gets Soto to ground out on a full count. Next inning, he’ll have to face the only three hitters who have reached/scored, so I’ll definitely want a reliever to be ready just in case. He’s at 84 pitches so it’s probably his last inning either way.
Suarez on to pitch. Breaking the streak of leadoff hitters reaching, Marte strikes out again swinging on a strike in the zone, still just looking lost at the plate. Walker hits a lazy fly ball to center, and McCarthy strikes out on a nice pitch near the outside corner.
Bell hits one out to left-center, pulling the Padres within 1. Kelly gets to pitch to Cronenworth, and he skies one to left. The crowd is getting into every fly ball tonight, but hey, the Padres have at least hit 3 homers so it’s not impossible. Kim’s flyball is not hit as well, and right at McCarthy. Myers flies out to Thomas in center and with Kelly at 96 pitches he’s probably done. Certainly a bit of a strange outing – the Padres left 0 runners on base but still scored 4, on 3 hits, all homers. Here’s Merrill’s final line: 7 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K.
Garcia on to pitch. With a one-run lead, I was certainly hoping that the Dbacks could add on. Carroll is up first, which sounds promising this game, but he grounds out to first, the first time he’s made an out. Carson falls behind 0-2 and hits a lazy fly ball to center. Thomas makes an out early in the count again, grounding out on the second pitch to second. That’s two straight 1-2-3 innings against the Padres pen; let’s see if ours can also hold up.
Lefty Kyle Nelson is on to face 8-9-1 in the Padres’ order. RHB Azocar pinch-hits for Grisham, walking on five pitches as Nelson seems a bit erratic. Eeek. At least the catcher Alfaro is up, but Nelson still can’t seem to find the strike zone with ball 1, as the broadcasters recount Nelson’s recent wildness. Alfaro eventually lines it up the middle to Marte, who is perfectly positioned. Profar twice swings over the slider that Nelson seems to have corralled by now, but is able to slap a single to right on a misplaced slider up and away. Now Soto is up with the tying run at 3rd and 1 out… being left-handed, they stick with Nelson for one more batter. He unceremoniously strikes out on 3 pitches. Moronta is on to face Machado and gets him to pop out on the second pitch to Walker. Incredibly clutch performance from the bullpen for once!
Martinez on to pitch, and something about his delivery makes Alcantra and Rojas look silly, striking them out on 7 pitches combined. Varsho grounds out to third, giving us just one hit in 14 outs against the Padres bullpen, and that hit immediately erased by a double play. That’s not a great sign for our offense, as fun as the Musgrove ambushes were.
Bell patiently works a walk, not a great sign given how the 5th went. Rosario runs for Bell, and Cronenworth grounds it slowly to 3B Rojas playing near 2nd for the force. Rojas seemed to think about going for the tag before tossing to Perdomo. Kim pops up on the first pitch to Varsho in short right. Myers keeps the game alive with a single to center; it wouldn’t be a Diamondbacks save without at least one RISP to finish it. The first pitch to Azocar, batting for the second time this game, almost hits him, which would have loaded the bases. Kennedy dots the 1-1 pitch on the outside corner; he’s made some nice pitches like that this inning, but for some reason, Carson visits the mound after that one. After that unnecessary team meeting, Kennedy just misses outside with the 1-2, and then misses worse on the next pitch. Azocar fouls off three full-count fastballs, then takes one high, loading the bases. Alfaro then grounds the first pitch up the middle for a two-run single to walk it off just like that. :(
Somehow this game had all of the markings of a bullpen meltdown waiting to happen. The offense went ice cold after the three runs against Musgrove in the fifth. Merrill gave up his signature 3-run inning after four perfect, leaving the bullpen to hold a 1-run lead for two innings. They allowed 6 of the 11 hitters they faced to reach, walking a tightrope in the 8th before giving it all up in the 9th.
Almost needless to say, this game about puts the nail in the coffin of any outside playoff hopes the Dbacks might have had. They’re 9 back of the Padres, and even with 5 games head-to-head, they need to make up 4 more games elsewhere. They’re also 6 back of the Brewers, who have a lighter schedule with 7 games against the Reds and 4 against the Marlins left. So yeah, tough luck, but maybe we can try again next year with a real bullpen?