Record: 7-4. Pace: 103-59. Change on 2022: +4.
I got up early today to watch the crucial game between Wrexham and Notts County. Back in the seventies, Wrexham were one of “my teams”, so I followed their purchase by Ryan Reynolds, etc. with interest, and we loved the first series of Welcome to Wrexham. This season, the team has been fighting with Notts County all season, culminating in the two teams facing off today, in a key contest to decide who'd get promoted up a tier. [They are two of the three oldest pro clubs in the world, founded in 1862 and 1864] Wrexham came from behind to win 3-2. Their keeper, who came out of retirement after the regular guy was injured, stopped a penalty in the seventh minute of time added on, to save the win.
Which is a roundabout way of saying, the bar was set very high in terms of today's sporting events and excitement. Tonight's contest was nowhere near as emotionally exhausting - probably a good thing. But the Diamondbacks delivered a very solid performance, as Zac Gallen resumed what we've come to expect as normal service, pitching seven scoreless innings before Scott McGough and Andrew Chafin completed the three-hit shutout, of the team with most wins in the National League. Christian Walker hit a two-run homer, and with the Padres losing in New York, the D-backs have sole possession of first place in the division for the first non-Opening Day time since August 31st, 2018.
After Zac Gallen worked a 1-2-3 first, the Diamondbacks got off to a good start. Ketel Marte doubled and Josh Rojas singled him home for a quick 1-0 lead against former D-back Wade Miley. A free baserunner courtesy of an error was quickly negated by Christian Walker rolling over into a double-play. That was an early tendency, Arizona sending a stream of weak groundballs to the left-hand side of the infield. Gallen struggled a bit in the second, but got back-to-back strikeouts, after a wild pitch put men on second and third, to escape the threat.
He then switched to his curve and it seemed Milwaukee were just not able to pick it up. From the wild pitch through the end of the fourth, Zac retired eight in a row, six of them by strikeouts. But the Diamondbacks were not squaring up the ball off Miley. To the same point, they had put only two balls in play at 93 mph or higher, both becoming groundball outs. Arizona had a chance in the fourth after a lead-off walk to Evan Longoria - who hadn't realized a ball had been called on Miley for a pitch violation - and one out later, a Nick Ahmed single. But Gabriel Moreno and Alek Thomas were unable to get the run in.
C-Walk's opposite field power. The catch from the fan.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 11, 2023
Just an impressive play all around. pic.twitter.com/btfbj32Nbj
Moreno did redeem himself with a nice caught stealing, to end the top of the fifth: the pop time on it was 1.83 seconds, which is top five in the majors this year. The D-backs were then able to break through in their half. Marte reached base safely for the third time, and on this occasion did so with a walk. It was his first of the year, after 40 walkless PAs. Two outs later, Walker got into a 1-1 cutter that didn't, and went the other way, 380 ft over the right-field fence, for his second home-run of the season (above). Gallen was continuing to carve up the Brewers, though did get some help when land mammal Rowdy Tellez took too long getting into the batter's box and was assessed strike three.
Gallen finished the night with seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, all of them singles, with one walk and eleven strikeouts. He threw his curveball 39 times tonight, which I believe the broadcast mentioned was a career high. It was then over to the bullpen, where McGough and Chafin retired all six batters faced. McGough still does seem to be having some issues with the splitter, which had been his signature pitch when he was playing in NPB. I wonder if this struggle might be a result of the differences in the baseball between the two leagues. A study backed up anecdotal evidence, that MLB balls are slippier than those used in Japan.
Chafin took over on the mound, and Mrs. SnakePit was all, “Didn’t he used to pitch for us?” When I confirmed that was so, she followed up with the less-answerable question: “When did he get so fat?” Ummm... It is the first time I’ve seen Chafin pitch and he definitely did appear to be... larger than previously. He’s listed officially by the team at 235 lbs, which for comparison is the same as Kevin Ginkel. I’ll have to dig out some of the old media guides, and see if that differs from what he was listed at in his previous stint here. However, if he repeats tonight’s performance, I frankly don’t care if he approaches Tellez-like levels of gravitational pull. Chafin struck out the side on 14 pitches, for his second save.
All told, Arizona’s pitchers struck out 15 batters, the most in a regulation game since July 31, 2020 - another Gallen start. The last time they had 15 K’s along with one or fewer walks? April 18, 2019. Chafin struck out every batter he faced that day as well. Combined with the Padres being blanked by the Mets, it means the D-backs 7-4 record is good enough for first place in the National League West. Enjoy the view from the top, folks...
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Ben Foster: Zac Gallen, +38.4%
Paul Mullin: Ketel Marte, +10.9%
Notts County: Alek Thomas, -8.2%
In contrast to what I watched this morning, this was a low-impact, workmanlike performance. Once Gallen got out of that jam in the second, he was on cruise control, and the Brewers had no answer. A few Sedona Red comments, but it has to go to this one from SafeTwire389, who is rapidly turning into Jack v2.0, having also pronounced concern about Walker’s “slump” earlier in the night.
I think you’ll find it was MORE than enough... Anyway, tomorrow, the D-backs go for their fifth win in a row, which would tie their best since August 2020. Merrill Kelly starts for Arizona, with a first pitch at 6:40 pm.