I gotta say, I was a bit uneasy going into this one. We basically got trashed by the hated Doyers last night, and while I have always been a big Merrill Kelly fan, I wasn’t impressed by him during the WBC, and felt—rightly, I think—that he wasn’t nearly stretched out enough coming into the regular season. Also, recapping on Fridays is new for me, and it’s weird. So.
Turns out I was right about Kelly, in some ways. Turns out, also, that it didn’t matter.
So Kelly was taking the mound and facing off against Doyers righthander Dustin May, whose name faintly rings a bell in the back of my brain though I have no idea why, but who seems to be reasonably good at his job. Oh, right. I just looked at his MLB stats page, and the dude has been pitching, and mainly starting, for LA since 2019, but he’s never managed to throw more than 56 innings, as a starter, coming into this year. So yeah. He’s one of those guys.
Turns out, though, he was quite good at his job tonight. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a walk over that stretch, and only needed 84 pitches to do it. Basically, he shut us down. He retired us in order in the first, fifth, and sixth innings, and pitched around only mild traffic in the other four frames.
The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, had a much bumpier road. Merrill Kelly, who was on a limited pitch count tonight, needed 28 pitches to complete the bottom of the first, pitching around a two-out walk and a single, and then 17 more to get through the second, after surrendering a leadoff single to David Peralta and then, after the Freight Train was thrown out trying to steal second, a double to Doyers 2B Miguel Vargas, shut them down again with no damage done. He got through the third with only a leadoff walk as a blemish, but only recorded two outs in the fourth before getting the hook. Thing was, he wasn’t throwing many strikes, and he wasn’t pitching to contact (which has always been a strength of his, when he’s right) until later in the outing. And then he entirely lost the strike zone in the bottom of the fourth, walking Peralta and Vargas on nine pitches combined. But ultimately, no damage was done, as the score remained tied at 0-0.
Then our first big damn hero of the game came out of the bullpen—our
sixth starter long-relief arm, Drey Jameson, who quickly retired his first batter and then proceeded to pitch us through into the eighth. Jameson did have his own control issues, failing to record a clean inning as he pitched around walks in both the fifth and the sixth, and then hanging a slider to Mookie Betts with one out in the bottom of the seventh that Betts deposited into the stands in left center to get the Doyers on the board. One out later, LA catcher Will Smith singled to left, but a sharp lineout to right field that Jake McCarthy made a nice play on ended that business. Still. 1-0 Los Angeles (NL).
The top of the eighth, though, well. That was a happy time. After doing absolutely nothing for seven innings against Dustin May, Torey Lovullo unleashed his master plan of actually having right-handed bats to bring in off the bench when the Doyers swapped out May for lefty reliever Alex Vesia. Nick Ahmed pinch-hit for Alek Thomas to lead off the inning, and grounded out to third. Evan Longoria then pinch-hit for Perdomo, and doubled past David Peralta to left. And then. And then. The superstar of our spring training, Kyle Lewis, pinch-hit for Josh Rojas, and, well, he did this:
Longo doubles.— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 1, 2023
The new @Dbacks are alright. pic.twitter.com/vSK0bHNmb1
One out later, Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. singled to right, but nothing more came of the inning. Still, we had us a lead, thanks to our newfound righthanded bench bats! 2-1 D-BACKS.
And after that, it was just a matter of holding the lead. The one-run lead. Against the Doyers who hung eight runs on us last night. With a bullpen that is untested, and largely unknown, and which has been a massive problem for us in recent years. So yeah, white-knuckle time. Yikes.
Funny thing, though, in this new baseball year? We did okay. Jameson actually came out to start the bottom of the eighth, and recorded two outs before giving up a walk to Vargas and getting pulled for fresh-from-Japan maybe-closer Scott McGough, who gave up another walk but then induced a grounder to end the eighth. Corbin Carroll then beat out an infield single to start the ninth, but no insurance runs resulted. McGough then came out to try to complete the four-out save, walked Mookie Betts to lead off the inning, and was yanked immediately for...ulp...Andrew Chafin? Yeah. Okay.
And check it out, Chafin did the business. Three up, three down, starting with a fielder’s choice to retire the lead runner at second. So the good guys win, and we have attained Mount .500 on Day 2 of the new baseball season. Yay!
Win Probability Added, courtesy of Fangraphs
The individual player WPA stuff is especially stupid today, so I’m not going to bother with it, beyond Kyle Lewis, for his 1 AB, 1 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, which amounted for an unsurprising +44.3% WPA.
A very nice and lively Gameday Thread tonight, with 344 comments total at time of writing. As near as I can tell, at least a couple went Sedona Red, so tonight’s Comment of the Game goes to Xerostomia, who was, at the end there, clearly processing some of the residual trauma all of us who were here last year still have from the 2022 season “bullpen solutions.”
As for tomorrow, we get to experience the first Rodeo Clown day of 2023, as our very own Mason Saunders takes the mound against LA’s Clayton Kershaw in a vintage battle of perhaps over-the-hill NL West lefties. It’s a late game, with first pitch is 6:10pm AZ time (h/t ISH for catching my initial mistake). Come join us if you are able!
And for me, it’s a pleasure to be back recapping for you all for another year. As always, thanks for reading, and as always, go Diamondbacks!