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Diamondbacks 2, Minnesota 3: Men Without Bats

Your friends don’t hit, and if they don’t hit, they ain’t no friends of mine

So I spent a fair amount of time on the cover image here, because I like fooling around with Photoshop, but also because I’ve been avoiding starting to write this recap. In the spirit of that, those of you of a certain age and music literacy will get the joke contained in the title and the cover image. For those of you who do not, there was a band a long time ago now called “Men Without Hats” that is only remembered now, if they are remembered at all, for a song they released and charted in 1983 (God, I’m old) called “Safety Dance.”

The underlying photo for the cover image is, as I understand it, a more or less contemporary promo image of the band as they were back then, that can be viewed here. I would include it in the recap (yeah, I know that we haven’t talked about baseball yet, but this is still a recap, trust me), but it might be copyrighted, and I’m honestly way too tired tonight to do the work of finding out, so you get a link instead. Sorry.

Fun fact, though, and thematically fitting given our recent troubles at the plate, Men Without Hats has gone down in pop music history, quite fairly, as a one-hit wonder. Get it?

On top of the base image, I pulled from the player pages the player photos for all the Diamondbacks hitters tonight who wound up with negative Win Probability Added percentages according to FanGraphs, and grafted them onto the base photo with some of Photoshop’s nifty tools. From left to right, we have new acquisition Tommy Pham, Corbin Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo, Ketel Marte, Emmanuel Rivera, and other new acquisition Jace Peterson. I did a color version of the compiled image, but decided that the grayscale version works better, because the underlying photo is in black-and-white. Feel free to comment on my aesthetic decisions below....your feedback is always welcome.

So, yeah. I suppose we need to talk about the baseball now. Okay. Fine. Here’s the long and the short of it: Merrill Kelly was dealing, though maybe he wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been on his best days. The offense let him down, which is basically the everyday refrain right now, it seems. Sure, we got a respectable number of hits. But not when we needed them, and so here we are. Again.

Merrill Kelly climbed up on the hill for us tonight, facing a very large right-handed gentleman for Minnesota named Bailey Ober (he apparently weighs in at 6’9” and 260 lbs.). Seemed like we probably had the pitching edge in terms of ERA and whatnot, even with Merrill still shaking off a little rust perhaps from his recent stint on the IL.

An interesting thing about Ober is that, despite his Randy-Johnson-esque frame and build, he doesn’t throw very hard—his fastball topped out at 92 or 93 mph, which is how he does. And we started hanging good, long, patient at bats on him from the get-go. Geraldo Perdomo and Ketel Marte both flied out to center to start the game, but Perdomo made his out on the seventh pitch he saw and Marte on the tenth. Corbin Carroll then hit a two-out single to right and he stretched into a double by sheer speed, hustle and moxie. Christian Walker then fouled out to shallow left, but it seemed like a decent enough start with us hanging 23 pitches on the guy to open things up.

Kelly sat down the top of Minnesota’s lineup in order in the bottom half with two strikeouts looking and a pop-up to short to end the inning. He didn’t seem as crisp and efficient as we’ve become accustomed to—he didn’t throw a first pitch strike to any of those batters (or, in fact to any of the first five batters he faced, and only two over his first time through the Twins’ order), but he put up a zero and a clean bottom of the first, so it was all good.

New acquisition Tommy Pham, starting in left field for us tonight and batting fifth, led off the second with a frankly pretty pathetic pop-out to third in foul ground. Things got better then, though, because Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., tonight’s designated hitter, continued his apparent return to the groove with this shot over the wall just inside the foul pole in left:

One out later, Jake McCarthy stroked a single to right, but wound up stranded when Jose Herrera, our catcher today, flied out to right. 1-0 D-BACKS

Kelly pitched through some traffic in the second inning—a questionable hit-by-pitch that, apparently due to intercom problems or something in the visitors’ dugout (I might have that wrong, to be fair), Torey Lovullo failed to challenge before the challenge timer ran out, as well as a two-out single followed by a walk to load the bases. No harm was done, though, as Kelly ended the frame with his third looking strikeout.

Despite a single by Perdomo leading off the top of the third, we didn’t do anything of note, while Kelly pitched a pretty good bottom of the third, aside from a two-out dinger to right that he surrendered to Minnesota third baseman Jorge Polanco. 1-1 TIE

No worries, though, as we got the lead back in the top of the fourth, thanks to another possibly questionable hit-by-pitch call on an Ober fastball that apparently clipped Gurriel’s pinkie finger, though he didn’t seem to be aware that he’d been hit. That was with one out—Pham had struck out to lead off the inning—and, after an Emmanuel Rivera flyout to right, Jake McCarthy hit a weak single to center that moved Gurriel to second. Herrera then came to the plate and blooped a little Texas Leaguer just behind Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, driving in Gurriel and advancing McCarthy to second:

Perdomo ended things with a popout to shallow right, but hey, at least we had the lead back. 2-1 D-BACKS

Kelly pitched around a two-out single in the bottom of the frame but put up another zero. The heart of our order—Marte, Carroll, Walker—sat down in order in the top of the fifth. Kelly pitched around another two-out single in the bottom of the fifth, but put up another zero. He also seemed to be finding in efficient, as even with the single he only threw nine pitches in the inning, putting his pitch count after five at 79 pitches thrown.

Tommy Pham finally did something good at the plate to lead off the sixth, singling to right against the first guy our of Minnesota’s bullpen, one Dylan Floro, recently a member of the Miami Marlins. Alas, he didn’t advance at all, as Floro retired the next three batters and put up a zero of his own.

Kelly gave the lead back to begin the bottom of the sixth, giving up another solo homer to right, this time to Twins’ right fielder Max Kepler. He got out of the inning without further damage, despite giving up a one-out single, but the lead was gone. 2-2 TIE

And for us, that was that, as our offense did mostly nothing the rest of the way. Kelly’s night was over after six, and Scott McGough came out to pitch the seventh, promptly surrendered a leadoff dinger to Michael R. Taylor, who is apparently the Twins’ starting center fielder now (who knew) to blow the tie, and then walked the bases loaded before being pulled for Luis Frias who thankfully wound up ending things without further pain or humiliation. 3-2 Minnesota

Miguel Castro put up a zero in the eighth, but it didn’t matter, as we managed nothing in the seventh, or the eighth, despite a one-out single from Christian Walker in the top of the eighth. We did manage to get runners on second and third with only one out—McCarthy walked, and Alek Thomas singled, pitch-hitting for Herrera, off Minnesota’s absolutely terrifying closer (and former Diamondback prospect, because of course) Jhoan Duran, who regularly pumps 102mph+ fastballs over the plate—but an absolutely pathetic bunt attempt by Perdomo resulted in a pop-out to the pitcher, and then Ketel Marte was called out looking on an utterly bogus called third strike to end the game.

[cue sad trombones]

Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs

Man Without Hat: Alek Thomas (1 AB, 1 H, +24.4% WPA)
Men Without Bats, worst offenders: Ketel Marte (5 AB, 0 H, 1 K, -28.8% WPA), Geraldo Perdomo (5 AB, 1 H, 1 K, -27.7% WPA)

It was an unsurprisingly desultory Friday night Gameday Thread for most of it, given our recent disappointing performances, but with a surge of hope-against-hope and heavy 2021-reminiscent gallows humor there at the end, bringing us to an ultimately respectable 168 comments at time of writing. The only one to go Sedona Red was an early, optimistic remark of mine, so I’m giving this one to Snacks & DBacks, who had a solid and spot-on-reaction to the game-ending bad strike call, and which captures how I’ve been feeling as well when watching Diamondbacks games recently:

Sad, but true.

Ah, well. Anyway. If you feel so inclined, the second game of this Minnesota scrum takes place tomorrow, with Ryne Nelson and Kenta Maeda taking the mound for us and them respectively. I honestly am not sure I’m even going to turn it on, but if I do, it would be lovely to see you, so I hope you can join us. First pitch is 4:10pm AZ time.

As always, thank you for reading. As always, go Diamondbacks!

And now, I’m off to listen to “Safety Dance,” possibly on repeat, until the memory of this sad business is obliterated from my consciousness. See you soon.