After a frustrating and disappointing series against the Red Sox over the weekend, you would be forgiven for giving up early on this series opener. But, like many good things in life, patience was rewarded as the D-Backs managed to overcome an early deficit and hold off a surprisingly feisty Rockies team to take the series opener. Even better, now that we have hit the unofficial start of watching the standings, per the Memorial Day Weekend adage, the D-Backs gained a half game on the idle Dodgers.
Again, this game started as ugly as you could possibly imagine as Ryan McMahon continued his hot streak by homering in a fourth consecutive game on Ryne Nelson’s fifteenth pitch of the game to give the Rockies an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of the game. Even worse, after the D-Backs squandered a leadoff Pavin Smith walk with a double play from Lourdes Gurriel Jr, the Rockies quickly mounted yet another threat in the visitor’s half of the second. Following a Harold Castro ground out, Nelson allowed back-to-back singles from the bottom of the Rockies’ order from Mike Moustakas and Brenton Doyle. Ezequiel Tovar then mashed the first pitch he saw into the left-center gap that landed between Corbin Carroll and Gurriel Jr and which would clear the bases to give the Rockies an early 3-0 lead. Just to add insult to injury, McMahon would deliver again with a two-out single that brought Tovar home to give the Rockies a 4-0 lead, but he was tagged out trying to stretch the hit into a double to end the inning
“What’s that in the sky? Is it a plane? Is it a snake? It’s the Answer Backs (TM)!” After spotting the Rockies a four-run lead, the D-Backs offense quickly built themselves a scoring threat with a leadoff Christian Walker single, an Emmanuel Rivera single, and a Josh Rojas walk to load the bases full of Snakes. Of course, because this D-Backs team loves drama, they flirted with squandering the chance as Gabriel Moreno flied out to shallow right before the oft-maligned (and recently recalled) Jake McCarthy delivered a clutch two-run single to left to make the game 4-2 Rockies. Keeping themselves on-brand, the D-Backs then perfectly executed a double steal with Rojas and McCarthy moving up 90 feet to get out of the double play and set up a possible sacrifice situation for Geraldo Perdomo who unfortunately failed to deliver. You know those struggles with runners in scoring position (RISP) that the D-Backs have exhibited thus far in the season? Pavin Smith showed you don’t have to worry about them as he absolutely crushed a Karl Kauffmann sinker 426 feet to leapfrog the Rockies 5-4.
Just to add some additional comfort, the D-Backs’ offense wasn’t finished as Moreno collected a sacrifice fly in the third following a leadoff double from Rivera and a groundout rom Rojas that advanced the runner to make the score 6-4. Gurriel Jr would add another insurance run in the following inning as he snuck his ninth homer of the season over the left field wall to give the D-Backs their seventh run 7-4. That would represent most of the remainder of the Diamondbacks’ offense as they would collect just three baserunners over the final four innings. Instead, they would trust a beleaguered bullpen that has struggled through the first third of the season to hold a two-run lead and boy howdy would they deliver!
After allowing five of the first nine Rockies to reach, Ryne Nelson settled down through the third and fourth innings, allowing just a Randal Grichuk walk and Tovar single in those two innings. Unfortunately, McMahon continued his one-man wrecking crew in the fifth as he collected his third RBI of the afternoon with a triple down the right-field line to bring the Rockies a run closer 7-5 D-Backs. Thus faced with a runner at third with no outs, Nelson showed the chutzpah of a well-traveled veteran as he induced pop outs from Elias Diaz and Grichuk before a lineout from Castro ended the threat in the fifth and closed the book on Ryne Nelson. His final line of 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K is certainly nothing to write home about, but I give him points for bouncing back after two ugly innings to at least go five innings given the bullpen struggles this team has shown so far.
Drey Jameson is the unsung hero of today’s game though in my opinion. In a game wherein the D-Backs desperately needed length from the young righty, he delivered 3.2 scoreless innings to save a bullpen that has needed to cover a ridiculous number of innings so far. He ran into trouble in the seventh as he loaded the bases on back-to-back-to-back singles from McMahon, Diaz, and Grichuk, but struck out Castro to extinguish the threat and keep the score where it was. Finally, after 59 pitches from Jameson, Torey Lovullo pulled the newly-recalled righty in exchange for Andrew Chafin who promptly struckout the pinch-hitting Elehuris Montero to end the game and seal the series opener.
There are abounding questions for this D-Backs team, especially when it comes to the rotation and the bullpen. For example, is Drey Jameson a starter long-term or will he be a swingman out of the bullpen like he was today? Where do Zach Davies and Brandon Pfaadt fit into the rotation picture for this year and the years beyond? Will the D-Backs finally settle on roles for on the numerous pitchers in their bullpen?
What is the meaning of life? Regardless, as long as the offense can take advantage of their opportunities and they can continue to pressure starting pitchers and relief pitchers alike, I like their chances overall. Here’s to more hits with RISP tomorrow!