Record: 28-20. Pace: 94-68. Change on 2022: +5.
After taking the series in both Oakland and Pittsburgh, Arizona looked to continue the trend in Philadelphia. However, the pitching match-up this evening was not in their favor, as Tommy Henry was facing the home team’s ace, Zack Wheeler. As samath noted, it “was the second most uphill battle for the Diamondbacks the season to date, with a Fangraphs winning percentage of just 34.5%.” Henry clearly didn’t get the memo, however, as he out-dueled Wheeler, with home-runs from Lourdes Gurriell Jr and Pavin Smith keying the D-backs to an opening win. Depending on the result of the Dodgers-Braves game, it could mean the Diamondbacks end the night just half a game back in the NL West.
Normally, a three-run inning would feel like a job well done. But the D-backs three-run second seemed a bit disappointing. It began with a home-run for Gurriel, his eighth of the season (below). Singles by Josh Rojas and Dominic Fletcher, followed by an infield error, loaded the bases, and Gerardo Perdomo's insane production with runners in scoring position continued with a 2-run double, making it 3-0 to Arizona. They had runners on second and third, still with no out. But Moreno made an ill-advised attempt to score from third on a Pavin Smith fly-ball, and was dead at the plate. Ketel Marte then K'd on a pitch well put of the zone, and the chance for a really big inning had gone.
It certainly helped bail out Zack Wheeler who, despite the double-play, still required 47 pitches to get through the second inning. Diamondbacks’ starter Tommy Henry was not exactly efficient, needing 41 pitches to the same point, despite only facing eight batters through two. The lead-off man singled for Philadelphia in the third too - though the home-plate umpire amorphous strike-zone likely cost Tommy a K. But Henry retired the next three on a total of just four pitches, for a welcome quick inning. Wheeler had settled down after escaping a super-crooked number in the second, with just a Moreno infield single while recording nine outs to the middle of the fourth.
Henry, however, wasn't able to keep the ball in the park during his half of the inning, allowing a pair of home-runs. The good news is, they were solo shots, allowing Arizona to hold a 3-2 lead after four. They got one back immediately, as Pavin Smith launched one off the second deck in right (below), leading off the fifth. Marte singled and Gurriel notched his third hit of the day to put two men on with two out. Though Rojas wasn't able to bring them in, that helped end Wheeler's night after six innings. The D-backs did a good job of putting the ball in play. Wheeler had 5+ K’s in each of nine outings this year, but only three strikeouts tonight. He also allowed as many homers (2) as during those nine starts.
It took him 108 pitches, and it's interesting how unusual that kind of outing has become. This is game #48 of the season, and Arizona still hasn't had a starting pitcher throw even 100 pitches in a game. It was June 2022 the last time somebody reached 108 - Zac Gallen tossed an Arizona season-high 115 pitches, in San Diego. In the majors this year, of 1,406 starts, know how many have been over 110 pitches? Eleven. Less than 1%. Tonight, Tommy Henry was done at 93, having allowed two runs over 5.2 innings on four hits and two walks with five K's. Most impressively, he got 18 swings and misses, with his change-up proving particularly effective. That number was easily a career-high, Henry's previous best being 14.
With the return of Zach Davies looming on the horizon for the team, the question of who will get sent down to make room, remains to be decided. This felt almost like spring training, where the young pitchers competed with each other for one spot. Now, after the departure of Madison Bumgarner, there are two slots available. But somebody is still going to enjoy the nightlife in Reno. Henry tonight made a credible case for that bus-ticket not going to him. He turned a 4-2 lead over to the bullpen for the final 11 outs. Austin Adams closed out the sixth inning, walked the leadoff man in the seventh, then got a K, before passing the baton to Miguel Castro.
That was an interesting choice by the D-backs, because Castro had been the reliever who notched the last two saves for them. Things did not start well tonight, Miguel surrendering back-to-back singles, which made the score 4-3, and the Phillies still had men on the corners with one out. After a K, the runner took second, and Torey Lovullo opted to put Bryce Harper aboard. It was only the third intentional walk by Arizona this year, and the first one not issued by Scott McGough. It worked out exactly as hoped, Castro coaxing a fly-ball out of J.T. Realmuto, but the margin for error had been used up. A nervous six outs seemed to loom.
Relief was provided in the top of the eighth. Christian Walker and - probably inevitably - Gurriel had doubles, the latter getting his fourth hit of the game, to finish a triple shy of the cycle (and in the on-deck circle). Lourdes has been insanely hot this month. The record OPS by a Diamondback in May (min. 70 PA, a mark Gurriel has reached) is Paul Goldschmidt's 1.226 in 2015, when he batted .365 with 22 walks and ten home-runs. Gurriel currently has an OPS for the month of 1.305, batting .397 with seven home-runs. Nolan Gorman of the Cardinals came into today’s game with a 1.313 OPS, but went 1-for-4 with a single and a walk, so it’s likely Gurriell leads the NL.
Kyle Nelson did his job to protect a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth, and another insurance run was added in the ninth, courtesy of Perdomo and some Phillies' sloppiness. Geraldo walked, stole second, took third on a ground-out and scored as a hard Marte smash went through the home first-baseman, to make it 6-3. We didn’t need those extra runs in the end, but it certainly made for a less nervous ninth, as Andrew Chafin issued a two-out walk before closing things down. Bryce Harper was lurking ominously, and would have been the tying run if Chafin hadn’t retired the last batter of the game.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Steak: Lourdes Gurriell, Jr, +21.6%
Cheese: Perdomo, +11.7%; Henry, +10.4%
Mushrooms: Corbin Carroll, -7.0%
Nothing in the way of Sedona Red comments, so executive decision time. It goes to kilnborn - the reference was to Christian Walker’s mom who was in attendance, since the family lives nearby. She brings meatballs for the team when they are in town:
Tomorrow, same two teams as the D-backs seek to win another road series. Ryne Nelson starts for the D-backs, with a first pitch of 3:40 pm, Arizona time. Now: go Braves!