“Momentum” - it’s vastly over-rated
Well, I don’t want to say I told you so., but: I told you so. The D-backs “backed into the playoffs”, losing their last four regular-season games, while scoring a grand total of three runs in the process. And, guess what? It didn’t matter in the slightest. This was another case where the D-backs made a Cy Young contender look like a scrub - rather than the other way around. Brewers’ ace Corbin Burnes turned out to be the one with the long-ball problem, as he was tagged by Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte and Gabriel Moreno. He only allowed 3+ home-runs twice this season, in 32 starts. Meanwhile, the quick hook for Brandon Pfaadt allowed the bullpen to do what they’ve done a lot of late: post zeroes.
Room for improvement
What’s impressive is that the D-backs won, while playing far from their best baseball. The team spurned any number of opportunities to score. Before Christian Walker’s double in the ninth, they had gone hitless with runners in scoring position, and ended the night just 1-for-10 in that category. When those hits start dropping, it’s going to help. Meanwhile, the much-vaunted Diamondbacks’ running game was just 2-for-4 in stolen-base attempts. Carroll and Geraldo Perdomo, who combined to go 70-9 in the regular season, were 0-2 last night. If you had Walker or Tommy Pham as the team’s stolen-base leaders after Game 1, good for you!
Long baseball != boring baseball
Last night’s game lasted three hours thirty-six minutes, which is fourteen minutes longer than any of the 153 regulation games played by Arizona this year. Heck, it’s a full hour longer than the D-backs’ July 8 game vs. the Pirates, and that went extra innings. But you’d be hard-pushed to say it was not enthralling. It was certainly the most interesting of the four wild-card games played, none of which lasted longer then 2:46. A dozen pitching changes, most of them taking place in the middle of an inning, certainly extended things. But, from a viewer’s perspective, it felt like they were a much needed chance to exhale: something there was precious little chance to from the moment Carroll’s home-run left the park.
The loss of Jake McCarthy
The late loss of McCarthy with an oblique strain is certainly a blow. Having him replaced by Jace Peterson is a downgrade, both at the plate and defensively. While McCarthy might not be your everyday starter, Alek Thomas had a terrible night at the plate, obviously completely over-matched. But with McCarthy out, the alternatives are slim. Outside of Thomas, McCarthy and Gurriell, the only other outfielders on the roster are Tommy Pham and Pavin Smith. Pham is dealing with turf toe and is likely only able to DH, while Smith would have to be considered an outfielder only in an emergency. You have to imagine McCarthy has played his last game of the year, regardless of how deep Arizona goes.
1 win down, 12 wins to go
The D-backs continued to do what they’ve done all year: surpass expectations. Even getting here was house money, but the Brewers are in shambles, having lost a game where their ace went against a starter with a 5.72 ERA in the regular season. They used a lot of their bullpen trying to keep it a one-run game, while their closer threw 30 pitches. Although I’m sure everyone will be available tonight, his effectiveness has to be in question. This leaves Arizona in an unusual position: favored to win tonight. That expectation may apply a little more pressure to them, and I hope they continue to play their game. If good Zac Gallen shows up, I see no reason we aren’t celebrating our first playoff series win since 2007.