While the topline story of today’s game was the possibility of sweeping a surprisingly middling Cardinals team, Madison Bumgarner’s continued struggles certainly represented the very next storyline. To say the least, anyone who hoped to see a bounceback performance from MadBum (aka SadBum) was quickly disabused of their hope. His final line of 3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 K speaks for itself, but could just as easily have been much, much worse without some impressive(?) escapes. Following his latest putrid start, Torey Lovullo seemed to indicate there might be some doubt as to whether Bumgarner would make his next start. For many of us here at the SnakePit, it is welcome news despite the laudable loyalty Torey and the D-Backs have shown to MadBum despite the diminishing returns of the past two years.
Oh yeah, I guess we should talk about the game itself. I think Michael summed it up in three words that I will take a few hundred to do:
There’s something about afternoon games that seems to bring out the sloppy play and today was no exception. The two teams combined for two errors and there were several other plays that could just as easily be considered errors to say nothing of the shoddy pitching Bumgarner and the D-Backs displayed. What’s that dear reader? I still haven’t actually begun the recap nearly three paragraphs into this article entitled, “recap?” That’s a sharp eye you’ve got there. My only excuse is that there’s very few positives to point to from a D-Backs perspective from this game honestly.
Remember how I said that any hope of an improved Bumgarner was quickly extinguished? I wasn’t kidding. After the D-Backs stranded Ketel Marte in scoring position in the top of the first, Bumgarner allowed back-to-back doubles to Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson to almost immediately make it 1-0 Cardinals. MadBum then decided he wanted to make it even more difficult on himself by walking Nolan Arenado on four pitches ahead of the scorching hot Willson Contreras. The Cardinals, sensing an opportunity, called for a double steal. Jose Herrera, spelling Gabriel Moreno for the day, did his best to throw out Arenado, but a bad hop tricked Marte and the ball skipped into center to allow Carlson to score 2-0 Cardinals. Not quite finished, Contreras decided to make the D-Backs pay for their error by sneaking a ball down the third base line for the third double of the inning and scoring the third run of the game 3-0 Cardinals. Bumgarner did manage to get weak contact from Tyler O’Neill and fellow ROY-candidate Jordan Walker to finally end the first.
Last week I mentioned getting a shutdown inning after your team scores. Evidently, neither of these teams read that article or had heard of that axiom before as Woodford failed that test with flying colors. Pavin Smith earned a walk after Lourdes Gurriel Jr bounced out ahead of the slow-starting Alek Thomas who crushed a high fastball 432 feet to the right center seats for his first homer of the season and immediately vaulted the D-Backs back into the game 3-2 Cardinals. Geraldo Perdomo appeared to have earned an infield hit, but after a Cardinals challenge, one of Goldie’s cleat nails somehow kept on the bag and the play was overturned.
After watching his teammates pick up his poor start, Bumgarner came back out and was certainly more aggressive: he got the first pitch strike on four out of the five batters he faced but failed to put several of them away. This inability to put batters away hampered him throughout his abbreviated start. The broadcast pointed out that as his velocity has dipped, it’s decreased the differential between his pitches and forces him to try and pinpoint his pitches. It’s as good an explanation/hypothesis that I’ve heard so far! Regardless, he walked Goldschmidt and Edman and allowed a sharp groundball single from Motter to load the bases. Miraculously, Bumgarner managed to escape without allowing any runs by inducing fly outs from Andrew Knizner and Carlson in addition to a groundout from Arenado. To say the least, it was a stressful inning for MadBum and all of us watching at home.
Undeterred by the stress, the D-Backs offense quickly mounted a threat with Marte sharply singling to right and Carroll slicing a ground rule double down the third base line to set up second and third with just one out for Walker. He was able to lift a ball to center to score Marte and tie the game at 3-3, but that was all the D-Backs could scratch across after Gurriel Jr grounded out.
Instead of improving on the positive vibes from his escape in the second inning, Bumgarner again struggled to put batters away as the first three Cardinals reached base with a Contreras walk, an O’Neill double, and a run-scoring Walker single that added up to 4-3 Cardinals. Even still, it looked as if he might escape once again after striking out Motter and getting a Knizner pop out, but it was not to be. Edman instead took a hanging curveball 373 feet into the midwestern jetstream to clear the bases and break the game open 7-3 Cardinals before a Carlson flyout ended the inning. That flyout marked the end of Bumgarner’s start after 80 pitches - only 48 of which were strikes.
Peter Solomon was the first out of the D-Backs bullpen to try and save some of the bigger leverage bullpen arms. He was actually responsible for one of only two clean innings in the entire game for D-Backs pitching. Unfortunately, after a 1-2-3 fourth, Solomon ran into issues in the fifth as he walked Walker and Knizner before Edman cleared the bases with a triple to make it 9-3 Cardinals and Carlson brought Edman in for the field goal 10-3 Cardinals. Then, to add insult to injury, Solomon pitched himself into another jam by walking the bases loaded and then gave up a Nolan Gorman grand salami to put the game into ridiculous realm of 14-4 Cardinals.
On the offensive side, the D-Backs created several chances for themselves throughout the game, but never found the clutch hit to get themselves back into the game, hitting just 1-10 with runners in scoring position. If we zoom out to the macro, there’s plenty of positives to see: the D-Backs maintain a lead in the division (*furious wood knocking*); they’ve just finished up a 3-3 road trip; and there were several positive individual contributions including Pavin Smith and Alek Thomas who accounted for nearly the entirety of the team’s RBI.