Record: 24-18. Pace: 93-69. Change on 2022: +3.
Without the A's, I likely would not be here. For Athletics Nation begat SB Nation, which begat AZ SnakePit. So I have nothing but sympathy for what Oakland fans are going through right now. Their local team appears to be on life-support, to the extent this could very well be the last time Arizona plays there. A move to Vegas seems almost inevitable, and it's clear most residents have already abandoned the team. I can only imagine how I'd feel if the D-backs announced they were moving. It’s no surprise the crowd this evening was a scant - and I’m writing it out, to make sure you don’t think I mis-placed a digit - two thousand and sixty-four. Outside of COVID, it’s the smallest MLB crowd since 1997.
But all empathy aside, these are the major leagues, and the Diamondbacks cannot afford to let any emotions get the better of them. They need to take care of business against losing teams like the A's - something they haven't necessarily done, e.g. losing home and away against the Marlins. That was never an issue here tonight. Early home-runs from Geraldo Perdomo and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. helped Arizona jump out to an early lead, and Merrill Kelly continued to show why he's a great #2 behind Zac Gallen. He pitched into the eighth inning and allowed one earned run, as the D-backs won their fourth game in a row, moving six games above .500.
Neither team scored in the first, though the Diamondbacks did put two men on base, courtesy of a Josh Rojas single and Gurriel walk. However, there were some wild hacks going on, most notably from Pavin Smith. The visitors soon had another chance, because barely were they out of the dugout for the bottom of the first, than they were back in it. For it took Kelly just six pitches, all strikes, to retire Oakland in order, and that included a K. Second time up, Dominic Fletcher doubled to lead things off, and Perdomo went down to collect a low slider, banging it over the right-field fence (above) for his third homer of the year, and a 2-0 Arizona lead.
After another 1-2-3 inning from Kelly, the pattern was similar in the third. Our lead-off man got on base again, this time courtesy of a wake by Corbin Carroll, and it was Gurriel’s turn to go deep (below), with his sixth home-run. After retiring eight in a row, Kelly lost his perfect game bid on an error by Rojas, as his throw sailed wide of Pavin Smith. The runner ended up on second, and scored on an annoyingly bloopy single with a 72 mph exit velocity that went 215 feet. But Arizona got the run back immediately. Perdomo walked, Ketel Marte singled him to third, and Geraldo scurried home on a pop-fly the shortstop had to range out to catch, which went... 215 ft.
After another walk, the A's starting pitcher was lifted, but he seemed to take the D-backs offense with him when he went. Against the Oakland bullpen, Arizona managed four hits and a walk over 5.1 scoreless innings. It had been all Arizona in the first half. Through five innings, the Diamondbacks had the FOURTEEN hardest-hit balls of the evening. Kelly was continuing to twirl a gem, at one point striking out five Oakland batters in a row. Arizona had the best chance to add on, loading the bases in the fifth, but Marte struck out. The most interesting play thereafter was a nice bit of defense from the A's first baseman, flipping the ball between his legs to the pitcher covering first.
To be honest, I was wondering what I'd have to write about in the middle of the eighth, with Arizona still 5-1 up. But the bottom of the inning provided plenty of drama. Oakland homered to lead things off, and 1B umpire Brock Ballou then blew a checked swing call, which should have been strike three and the first out of the inning. Torey Lovullo picked up his second ejection of the year for his complaints to the umpire. That batter walked, and a single then ended Kelly's night. He made his feelings about Ballou known as he left the mound, but it was a fine outing all told. Kelly was charged with two runs on four hits and a walk, with nine strikeouts.
Miguel Castro came in with two on and no outs, to squash the uprising (phrase courtesy of ‘hacks!), albeit with big help from a rank baserunning blunder by the A's. They turned a pop out to Perdomo into a double-play, the runner on second either misjudging the ball badly, or thinking there were two outs rather than... um, zero. Either way, we’ll take it, especially as Castro walked the next hitter, bringing the tying run back to the plate for Oakland. A fly ball to Dominic Fletcher in right ended the threat, and after that, Andrew Chafin pitched a drama-free ninth inning for his sixth save, retiring all three batters he needed to face.
Everyone bar Alek Thomas (now hitting below the Uecker Line, at .195) had a hit, with Rojas and Perdomo getting two each - the latter dropped down a lovely bunt single in addition to his home-run. Gurriel drew two walks in addition to his homer, though inevitably, hit into his contractually obligated double-play. He’s tied with Gabriel Moreno for the team lead, each man having had seven. The team single-season record is 29, set by Martin Prado in 2013, so we’ll see if either of those men can make a run at that mark.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
A desert island: Geraldo Perdomo: +22.3%
A country garden: Castro, +17.4%; Gurriel Jr, +12.9%
Solitary confinement: Pavin Smith, -6.3%
Almost two hundred comments in the Gameday Thread tonight. So just about one for every person in attendance at the ballpark. Comment of the night to kilnborn for his reaction after the Perdomo home-run. I don’t think he’s being sarcastic either.
Same two teams tomorrow, in front of close family and friends only in Oakland. We ask you to respect their privacy at this time. Tommy Henry will be starting for the D-backs, and it’s another 6:40 pm first pitch.