Record: 76-69. Pace: 85-77. Change on 2022: +8.
Zach Davies starts are always more of a chore than a pleasure. Even when he is pitching well, it feels like he is basically trying to bore the opposing hitters to death somehow. Maybe it's a factor of previous trauma suffered at his hands, with only two wins in sixteen starts now this year (a situation which also was true for much of last season). The bases on balls don't help. His walk-rate is almost in the worst 10% among pitchers with 70+ innings. It's not what you want from a guy whose average fastball has been in the eighties his whole career, and whose K-rate is in the bottom quarter. Tonight was another underwhelming outing.
It started reasonably enough, if in typically grinding fashion, beginning after a 72-minute delay due to some strong rain in New York. Davies allowed two hits in the first, but was helped out as the Mets lined into a double-play between them. Neither team got a man into scoring position through the first three innings, with Seby Zavala having the Diamondbacks' only hit; Evan Longoria drew a walk. He was also involved when Arizona got on the board with a two-run fourth. Tommy Pham got things going with a lead-off double, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. walked and Longoria singled Pham home down the left-field line. Gurriel took third, and scored on an Emmanuel Rivera sacrifice fly.
The Mets answered right back. Jeff McNeil ambushed the first pitch he saw, for a home-run that cut the lead in half. It seemed to scare Davies out of the strike zone, as he proceeded to walk the next two batters to come up. Both of them came in to score on a double to Pham in right. That was misplayed badly by the outfielder, first taking a questionable route to the ball, then overthrowing everyone in the infield, allowing the runner to reach third. Christian Walker ended up fielding the throw, between second and third, that's how bad it was. Davies was available to avoid further damage, but it took him a total of 36 pitches.
Arizona threatened to get the game even, on singles from Ketel Marte and Pham, but Christian Walker was denied an RBI single by a nice play from Francisco Lindor on a ball back up the middle. Turn about is fair play though. Kyle Nelson came in to replace Davies, and was helped by his own defense. Lindor was robbed of a hit on a 102.2 mph scorcher at the hot corner by Rivera, becoming the second out. Pham then defensively redeemed himself with an outfield assist to end the inning (videos of both Arizona plays below).
Bit of a scary moment in the bottom of the sixth, as Rivera seemed to tweak his shoulder trying to chase down a foul ball, running into the tarp. He stayed in the game, and on the replay, didn't appear to have hit anything especially hard. However, Jack mentioned in the GDT that the shoulder has been taped up for more than a week. Zavala got his second hit to lead off the seventh for Arizona, but Marte hit into a double-play. Ketel didn't seem to be trying to leg it out - even the Mets announcers commented on it, saying it looked like "about 85% effort." Something to keep an eye on for the rest of the series, perhaps.
Gerardo Perdomo had come in a replacement for Jordan Lawlar in the sixth, after Lawlar went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He is now 1-for-13 over four games. Not time to panic yet, obviously, but it has not been the immediate shot in the arm for which we hoped. Ironically, Perdomo also had one hit over his first four games in 2021, albeit with a much better BB:K ratio (3:2) than Lawlar (0:6). The Arizona offense was struggling, but the Tommy Pham 2023 Revenge Tour continued, as he got his third hit in the eighth, a game-tying home-run to right field (below). It was his sixth home-run in 34 games as a D-back.
Davies’s day had ended after a mediocre four innings, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts. But the bullpen continued their remarkable run of success by putting up five more scoreless innings. They have now thrown 45 innings in September, and have a sparkling 2.20 ERA. It’s startling, considering they had a 5.61 ERA in August and were worse still, at 6.04 in July. Has Brent Strom finally figured something out? Or is it still just the vagaries of a relatively small sample-size? Tonight, Nelson gave us two scoreless, then was followed by Luis Frias in the seventh, and Kevin Ginkel in the eighth, They combined for four innings of two-hit ball, with no walks and four strikeouts.
In the top of the ninth, Alek Thomas came off the bench and pinch-hit for Zavala, delivering a nice single to center. Marte than doubled into the left-field corner, though he initially had no idea of where the ball had gone. Thomas, however, had no such issues, and might well have scored from first anyone, even if the Mets’ left-fielder had not bobbled the ball. Arizona had taken the lead (below), and we were ready (for some loose definition of that word) for The Paul Sewald Experience. Which, as it inevitably does, involved him putting the lead-off man aboard, in a manner very reminscent of another D-backs reliever [Andrew Chafin has an 8.71 ERA for Milwaukee, incidentally]
According to Jack, “9 of 16 first batters faced have reached base against Paul Sewald since he joined the D-backs. .563 OBP . 5 hits and 4 walks” A bunt moved the runner to second, and he then stole third, representing the tying run with one out. Sewald got a big strikeout of the inter-galactic object known as Daniel Vogelbach, but then issued another walk. Enter old friend Tim Locastro! Yeah, I’d forgotten he was a Met. The D-backs didn’t even try to hold him on, and the Mets’ broadcasters eviscerated Torey Lovullo for allowing the winning run into scoring position. Maybe Lovullo was worried about a steal of home if they threw down to second, given the speedy runner on third?
However, it all worked out, as an easy fly-ball to center ended the game. It also made a winner out of Kevin Ginkel, improving his record to 9-0 on the season. That’s one off the franchise record for relief wins: it belong to Oscar Villarreal, who went 10-7 while appearing in 85 games during the 2003 season. But Ginkel’s nine wins without a loss is also remarkable. The last bullpen man to do that or better was future Diamondback Matt Herges, who had an 11-0 record in 2000 for the Dodgers as a reliever... but was 0-3 in four starts. Otherwise, the only relief pitcher to be better than 9-0 was Dennis Lamp of the 1985 Blue Jays, who also went 11-0.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Aguirre, The Wrath of God: Tommy Pham, +32.7%
Open Water: Marte, +20.1%; Sewald, +18.5%; Longoria, +10.6%; Ginkel +10.1%;
Waterworld: Zach Davies, -21.1%
Shark Tale: Walker, -14.3%; Carroll, -11.1%
Comment of the night to kilnborn for calling Ginkel’s victory.
Elsewhere, the Marlins got crushed by the Brewers, so our lead for the final wild-card spot is back up to a game and a half. However, the useless inhabitants of Clown Field couldn’t hold a ninth-inning lead, and the Cubs beat the Rockies to stay two games ahead of the D-backs. Same two teams tomorrow, hopefully without any weather interruptions, in which case the game will be a 4:10 pm start (Arizona time). Ryne Nelson will be the starter for the Diamondbacks, and here’s to securing at least another split.