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D-Backs 5, Athletics 3: Rubber Meets the Oakland Road

TL;DR: Ryne Nelson was great, the bats got just enough offense to pickup the bullpen, and the D-Backs avoided another late-inning meltdown to earn a series win. 

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics
Ryne Nelson had his best outing of the year against the hapless Athletics.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For those that fell asleep late in last night’s game (including myself who succumbed to the melatonin around the eighth inning) and woke up to a very confusing notification from last night’s debacle, feel free to torture yourself with Spencer’s recap of the ugliness here. You’d be forgiven for thinking the Diamondbacks had a handle on the game given the Athletic’s struggling offense, but they did not in fact have a handle on it. Regardless, it would have been understandable for the D-Backs to struggle emotionally after an extra-innings heartbreak combined with a getaway day game in front of all 10 fans in attendance. Instead, we got a well-played, well-pitched, and well-defended game that went for the D-Backs.

Folks, I think Christian Walker is kinda good. I know, I’m really going out on a limb here /s. After a routine first inning for the D-Backs involving a Josh Rojas groundout, Geraldo Perdomo popout, and Corbin Carroll strikeout, Walker had a 10-pitch battle that he won with a frozen rope to the left field bleachers for an early 1-0 D-Backs lead. That represented nearly the totality of the D-Backs offense through the first five innings. They only managed two baserunners after that home run in the form of a Jose Herrera walk in the third and a Dominic Fletcher hustle double in the fifth. There was plenty of hard-hit balls, but the Oakland defense – especially in the outfield – was up to the task and stole several base hits away from D-Backs’ hitters.

Unfortunately for the A’s, there’s no defense against a walk and that’s exactly what Luis Medina did to Geraldo Perdomo in the visitor’s half of the sixth ahead of “The Barrell” Carroll. Corbin lived up to his nickname in this at-bat as he absolutely hammered a middle-middle fastball 405 feet to direct center that eluded Esteury Ruiz to extend the D-Backs lead 3-0. Speaking of walks, Ryne Nelson had arguably his best performance of the season heading into the sixth inning as he had allowed just two baserunners through the first five frames on just 56 pitches. Regrettably, whether it was physical or mental, Nelson really struggled in the sixth inning – getting just one out and walking the bases loaded before yielding to newly-recalled Luis Frias.

I can only imagine the kinds of nerves that a player can have entering a close game with the bases loaded and less than two outs. But you would never have guessed based on Frias’ performance as he induced an infield popup from slugger Brent Rooker and a routine groundout from JJ Bleday to snuff out the threat, keep the shutout intact, and keep Nelson in line for a win. Despite the laudable Houdini performance by Frias in the sixth, he immediately struggled in the seventh as he gave up back-to-back walks to Carlos Perez and Jace Peterson ahead of Ramon Laureano who promptly deposited a four-seamer into the left-center seats to tie the game 3-3. That ended up being Frias’ final pitch and was certainly not the most inspiring way to end his outing as he yielded to Kyle Nelson.

Sadly, the second D-Backs Nelson was not quite as sharp as the first Nelson as he quickly allowed a single to Tony Kemp and his .169 BA who then advanced on a sac bunt from Nick Allen. That’s when the game got a little squirrelly as Ruiz looped a ball into center. Dominic Fletcher then collected and fired an absolute dart to Herrera on a single hop in time to tag Kemp for the second out. The A’s challenged the play arguing that Herrera blocked the plate and didn’t give Kemp a clear enough lane before catching the ball. FWIW, I think they had a legitimate argument, but New York upheld the play based on the following replay:

The D-Backs would mount another threat in the next half-inning on the backs of a pinch-hit version of Ketel Marte single and Perdomo walk ahead of a Carroll ground-out that advanced the runners to second and third. Regrettably, Mark Kotsay made the perfect move by inserting Shintaro Fujinami into the game to relieve Sam Moll and who quickly repeated his performance from last night to strikeout Walker to end the threat. Luckily, dear Reader, the D-Backs had one more rally in them for the night - begun, of course, with a leadoff Lourdes Gurriel Jr double who advanced on a Pavin Smith flyout.

“Just as one Taketh, so much as one shall Giveth” said the Baseball g-ds.

And just as Kotsay made the perfect play in the last half-inning, he made the wrong one in the ninth as he intentionally walked Fletcher to pitch to Emmanuel Rivera who promptly earned a walk to load the bases. The D-Backs would strike twice on a Herrera sac fly and a looping single line drive from Marte, but it still felt like a missed opportunity given the see-saw nature of this series. Evidently, Miguel Castro had seen enough of the Athletics for this moment and dispatched the bottom of the ninth in just eleven pitches to earn the game and series victory.

While it’s hard to argue with the results of the series victory, the aesthetics (or vibes if you will) feel off in some way as you’d hope a team with playoff aspirations like the D-Backs would be more easily be able to dispatch a team in deep rebuild mode - both on-and-off the field. It also seems to be a pattern in which this D-Backs team plays to its competition rather than its potential, but that’s more anecdotal than anything at this point given their .600 record against teams with records below .500. Regardless, it was an emotional win for these young players and we have to hope they can keep the good times rolling as they have a weekend series against the Pirates after a much-needed day off.

Another rollercoaster from the D-Backs.