Long story short: If we want to still be playing baseball a month from now, we needed to win this game, and likely sweep this series. Thanks to the best version of Brandon Pfaadt showing up, and Gurriel and Thomas doing their jobs, and the bullpen doing what it needed to (mostly), what we needed to do got done. So far.
Long story long: This one honestly looked like a no-doubter, in a good way, for most of the evening. Brandon Pfaadt took the mound against Chicago’s Northsiders, facing off against Tiny Bears’ lefty and possible NL Cy Young Award winner Justin Steele, and pitched brilliantly. He surrendered a fly-ball single to Matt Tauchman, Chicago’s center fielder, to lead off the ballgame, but then erased him one out later thanks to an inning-ending double play.
Steele, meanwhile, wasn’t so fortunate in the bottom of the frame: after Ketel Marte hit his own leadoff single and advanced to second on a Corbin Carroll sacrifice bunt (and then advanced to third on a slow Tommy Pham grounder back to the mound that got Marte to third, Steele’s command deserted him briefly as he walked Christian Walker on four pitches and then served up a first pitch meatball to Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. And guess what? Lourdes likes meatballs.
Two pitches after that, Evan Longoria grounded to short to end the first, but that’s fine, because Gurriel’s bomb had given us a lead that we would never (quite) surrender. 3-0 D-BACKS
After that, things got very, very quiet for quite some time. Pfaaft continued to deal, sitting down the Cubs as soon as they stepped to the plate for the most part. He pitched past a two-out single in the top of the third, a two-out walk in the top of the fourth, a one-out single in the top of the fifth, and a one-out single in the top of the sixth, but with none of those runners advancing past first base. Honestly, it might have been the best sustained pitching I’ve seen all season from young Brandon, who somewhat bizarrely (it seemed to me) was pulled after that last single, to Chicago second baseman and very fast person Nico Hoerner, even though he had only thrown 78 pitches at the time. Folk noted in the Gameday Thread that he was just getting into his third time through the Cubs’ batting order, a point where in the past Pfaadt has sometimes begun to run into trouble, so, okay, fair enough. His night ended with a pitching line of 51⁄3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB and 6 K, which, you have to admit, ain’t too shabby in these parts, especially given how most of the week has gone. Me, I’ll take that any day of the week. Andrew Saalfrank came on in relief, and got the last two outs of the inning on six pitches.
You know, it just occurred to me that the top of the sixth saw the Diamondbacks bring two pitchers to the mound whose last names each have the unusual double-a in their spelling (Pfaadt/Saalfrank). I wonder if that’s a first, for us. I wonder, actually, if that’s a first in MLB. Could be. Anyway.
Since the bottom of the first, meanwhile, our bats had fallen well and truly silent, like they sometimes do, so I gotta say I was getting a bit nervous. Despite a Gaby Moreno double to lead off the second and a follow-up single with two outs in the fourth, along with a two-out Corbin Carroll single in the fifth, Steele seemed to have settled in and was, himself, dealing. Happily, though, that stopped being the case in the bottom of the sixth, as Walker walked again to lead things off, advanced to second on a Gaby single to right after strikeouts by Gurriel and Longo, and came home on a timely Alek Thomas line drive that made it over the wall in right center:
Geraldo Perdomo grounded back to the mound after that to end the sixth. But that’s fine, because the Thomas bomb had doubled our lead. 6-0 D-BACKS
Nothing much to report after that, as our offense packed things up thereafter, clearly sensing that their work here was done. Ryan Thompson pitched a scoreless seventh for us, and Kevin Ginkel a scoreless eighth. Things got interesting in the top of the ninth, because of course they did, thanks to a bit of a Kyle Nelson meltdown involving a leadoff dinger, a walk, and then another dinger that brought Chicago within three and turned it into a save situation. Cue the Paul Sewald Experience, which tonight involved another solo dinger, and then, finally and thankfully, Sewald recording the final two outs to close things up.
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
Winner, Winner: Brandon Pfaadt (pitching line above, +22.7% WPA)
Chicken Dinner: Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (4 AB, 1 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, +21.5% WPA)
Good and lovely if somewhat sparsely populated Gameday Thread tonight, with 144 comments at time of writing. Given the repeated stompings we received from those self-bankrupting ruffians from Queens earlier this week, it’s understandable, I think. CotG goes to MrRBI17, for what is basically the extra-short story of this game, guest-starring an Orioles managerial great from days of yore:
With the first one out of the way, we can now aim for the series win tomorrow, as we send
September MVP Zach Davies up against Cubs righthander Kyle Hendricks, who we didn’t have to face last weekend. First pitch is 5:10pm AZ time. Hope you can join us!
Meanwhile, in tonight’s annals of scoreboard watching, the Marlins beat the Braves 9-6, the Reds beat the Mets 5-3, the Phillies beat St. Louis 5-4, and Colorado came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Giants 3-2, which means that we still are tied with Cincinnati for the third wild card spot, while San Francisco has dropped to one game back in the wild card race while Miami continues to hold their own at 1⁄2 game back. Meanwhile, we have closed the gap a bit with the Tiny Bears, who are now 11⁄2 games ahead of us for the second wild card spot. In other wild card news, Tampa beat Baltimore to move into a functional tie for the AL East division lead, so that’s fun. Both teams are going to the postseason, but who winds up on top is going to come right down to the wire, it seems. Meaningful baseball in September sure is fun! Anyway.
As always, thank you so much for reading. And as always, go Diamondbacks! #tinybears