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Tampa Bay 4, Arizona 8: Battle of the Best

The Diamondbacks faced off against MLB’s best team of the season, sending ace Zac Gallen to the mound to get the Snakes rolling.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in a battle of division leaders. The Diamondbacks entered the game leading the NL West by 2.5 games over the surging San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Rays and their obscene +150 run differential entered the game leading all of MLB by no fewer than three games. Fortune was a fickle mistress for Arizona today. On one hand, they began this big test of a series by sending none other than Zac Gallen to the mound after a day off, setting the Diamondbacks up with the best possible pitching opportunities for this first game. On the other hand, they also sent their workhorse starter, Merrill Kelly to the IL with a bum leg. While he is expected to be back in just two weeks, the fact remains that they will be missing a vital portion of their rotation in a series with all sorts of potential playoff implications.

First Inning
No slow start for Gallen today. The Rays went quietly, 1-2-3 on a whopping eight pitches.

In the bottom of the first, the Rays sent Taj Bradley to the mound. Unlike Gallen, his first frame featured more pitches and excitement than the Rays would have cared for. Geraldo Perdomo led off with a single. He then advanced on a wild pitch by Bradley before Marte extended the at-bat and drew a walk. That brought up Corbin Carroll with runners at first and second. Seven pitches later, Carroll continued to make his case for both NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP by launching a three-run home run off the batter’s eye in center - his 17th big fly of the season.

That brought up Christian Walker. He only needed six pitches before he hit a home run of his own, his 16th of the season, putting the Diamondbacks at slam-to-tie range, which prompted a mound visit.

Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. made the first out for the Diamondbacks, running the count full before grounding out to Isaac Paredes at second. Evan Longoria took the start at third base tonight and continued to keep the pressure on Bradley by singling. Alek Thomas then came up and laced a shot out to center. Thomas’ counterpart, Jose Siri was not as slick a fielder as Thomas has been this year, failing to make a routine play. The error resulted in runners on the corners for Gabriel Moreno. Moreno responded by lifting a fly to deep left-center, which brought home a tagging Longoria. Jake McCarthy then brought the bottom of the first to a merciful end by grounding out to Paredes at second. Still, the Snakes finished the first by putting themselves out of slam range and sending Gallen back to the mound to continue carving up the Rays.

TB: 0, AZ: 5

Second Inning
The second was not as efficient for Gallen. Randy Arozarena led things off with a walk. Isaac Paredes then doubled, putting runners at second and third. Gallen then got ahead of Luke Raley 0-2 before spiking four consecutive curves into the dirt, Riley not biting on any of them. That loaded the bases with no one out. That was followed by a wild pitch, which allowed Arozarena to score, putting the Rays on the board. Then Gallen uncorked another wild pitch, allowing Paredes to score. That brought about a mound visit for Arizona. Suddenly, the comfortable first inning was no longer feeling like the beginning of a smooth-sailing rout. After the mound visit, Manuel Margot flied out to right, not dee enough to score Raley from third. A routine groundout to short by Christian Bethancourt brought Raley home from third. Jose Siri than made amends for his error in the previous half inning by smacking a solo shot to left, his 15th home run of the season. Yandy Diaz followed with a single to center. On his 30th pitch of the inning, Gallen induced a routine groundout to Perdomo off the bat of Wander Franco to blessedly bring the top of the second inning to a close.

Geraldo Perdomo led off for the second inning in a row. Alas, this time he was unable to reach base, grounding out meekly to Paredes. Then, Ketel Marte lined out to Paredes. Corbin Carroll fell behind 0-2 before calling time. He then laced a single to center. to extend the inning for the Snakes, hopefully giving Gallen some time to recuperate from the marathon inning he just completed. That would be the end of the second inning threat from Arizona though. Christian Walker turned on a 2-1 fastball but grounded it to Diaz down at third who fed to Paredes to end the inning.

TB: 4, AZ: 5

Third Inning
Gallen, without relying on the curve that he simply could not locate anywhere close to the zone int he second got two quick out on only five pitches before Paredes doubled to left. That brought up the left-hand hitting Luke Raley. After running the count full, Gallen got Raley to strike out swinging by running a cutter in on his hands.

Gurriel made Bradley work, working himself an eight-pitch at-bat before grounding out to the pitcher, bringing up Evan Longoria. With the count 2-0, Longoria got in on Arizona’s homer party, depositing a solo home in the left field bleachers, extending the Arizona lead to two runs, giving Gallen and the Snakes at least one run of breathing room insurance.

Alek Thomas followed by striking out and then Moreno grounded out to first on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat.

TB: 4, AZ: 6

Fourth Inning
Zac Gallen got back to work in the fourth. Once again he primarily avoided the disastrous curve, throwing only one in the 15-pitch frame, another offering that was in the dirt, but that still managed to induce a swing and miss from Bethancourt. The bottom third of Tampa’s order went 1-2-3.

McCarthy unsuccessfully attempted to bunt his way on to start off the bottom of the fourth before eventually flying out to Arozarena in left. Perdomo followed by popping up the first pitch he saw to Diaz at third. Bradley then fell behind Marte 3-0, throwing three pitches nowhere close to the zone. Marte fouled off a center-cut fastball. Bradley tried to come back with another one and Marte jumped all over it, hitting a bug fly out towards the pool.

Corbin Carroll was unable to keep the pressure on, striking out on a foul-tip.

TB:4, AZ: 7

Fifth Inning
One pitch to Yandy Diaz led to one out for Gallen. Two pitches to Wander Franco, including a called strike one on the curve led to out number two. Gallen then broke out back-to-back curves against Harold Ramirez, getting a called strike and a weak foul before using the cutter and then his fastball to strike Ramierez out swinging to end the inning on a tidy, efficient seven pitches, three of which were curveball strikes. Despite the 30-pitch second inning, Gallen finishes five frames with only 74 pitches thrown. If he has truly found the control on his curve, getting another two innings out of the ace is not out of the question. Tampa Bay is fast running out of time. They had their shot and came up a bit short.

Tampa Bay sent reliever, Shawn Armstrong out to the mound for the fifth, leaving Bradley on the hook for the loss. He managed to be effectively wild against Christian Walker, striking him out looking. Gurriel followed by grounding out to Franco at short. Longoria followed with a walk that was aided by a pitch clock violation. Alek Thomas managed to run the count full, but succumbed to a reverse-K strikeout that was thigh high and probably should have been another hard-hit ball for Arizona.

TB: 4, AZ: 7

Sixth Inning
Gallen faced Arozarena to start off the sixth. Another curve in the dirt resulted in a swinging strike by the left fielder before he finally flew out to center. Paredes continued to be a thorn in Arizona’s side, singling to center. Perdomo botched an attempt on a potential double-play ball, resulting in Paredes reaching second safely and Luke Raley being safe at first. Having thrown four curves in his previous 14 pitches, Gallen is starting to feel the groove again. He used the pitch to get a quick first strike on Manuel Margot before getting the right fielder to ground out to Perdomo, with the runners taking second and third with two out. Gallen was helped by getting strike one on a batter clock violation. A cutter for a ball was followed by two more curves and then high heat that Bethan court swung underneath, giving Gallen his fourth strikeout of the game and sending the Rays back out to the field. Now, at 96 pitches, Gallen’s night is likely over.

Gabriel Moreno hooked a slider down and away into left field for a single. He advanced to third on a two-pitch single by Jake McCarthy to right. Geraldo Perdomo then came up with runners on the corners and nobody out. He lifted a pitch into deep enough center that Moreno was able to tag and score. Armstrong came right at Ketel Marte and ate him up on four pitches for a swinging strikeout. That brought up the sparkplug, Corbin Carroll. With Carroll at the plate, McCarthy decided to get the party started and stole second, his 17th theft of the season. The safe call was challenged by Tampa, but the call on the field was upheld. Carroll was unable to get McCarthy home though, flying out to right field to end the inning.

TB: 4, AZ: 8

Seventh Inning
As expected, Zac Gallen’s night is done. Enter, Miguel Castro - but which version? Nine pitches and three outs later strongly suggested the good version.

Robert Stephenson came on to replace Shawn Armstrong on the mound. Stephenson promptly struck out Christian Walker swinging and then got Gurriel to line out to first on the second pitch. Longoria slowed things down some, taking his allotted timeout before the first pitch. That extra time might have been more useful if he didn’t strike out swinging on three pitches. After a very brief half-inning, the Snakes were headed back to the field still up by four with only six out left to go.

TB: 4, AZ: 8

Eighth Inning
The just-activated Kevin Ginkel received the nod for the eight inning. He began the frame by coaxing a swinging strikeout by Harold Ramirez. He then got away with a 3-1 fastball center-cut at the knees when Arozarena grounded it out to Longoria at third. It took nine more pitches, but Ginkel induced a groundball to short off the bat of Paredes to end the Tampa Bay half of the eighth.

Jake Diekman came on for Tampa and made quick work of Alek Thomas, striking him out looking. That at-bat marked Thomas’ third strikeout of the game. Diekman then struck Moreno out swinging on four pitches. Four more pitches and Diekman made it a clean sweep of the side, three up, three down, three strikeouts.

TB:4, AZ: 8

Ninth Inning
Jose Ruiz took the mound for Arizona in the ninth inning, looking to close out the game in a non-save situation. Two pitches led to a fly out to left by Raley. On the next pitch, Margot Manuel doubled to left. Looking to ambush Ruiz, Christian Bethancourt tagged a first-pitch, thigh-high fastball to right, but Jake McCarthy was there to make the play for the second out. Manuel held at second base as his run would mean nothing without more behind it. Four pitches a bit all over the place ended with Jose Siri popping out to Gabriel Moreno to end the game.


Simply the best: Corbin Carroll +16.8%
Better than all the rest: +11.4%
Kangaroo Court for being the only player with negative WPA: Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. -3.9%

The same two teams will be at it again tomorrow. It will be a battle of Zachs as the Rays will send Zach Eflin to the mound to face off against the human white flag, Zach Davies.