I was not looking forward to a Zach Davies start. I was not looking forward to another iteration of our quasi-vaunted “right-handed lineup” that we bring out to play when we’re facing a lefthander starter like Cole Irvin. I wound up being very pleasantly surprised. Welcome to September baseball, everyone!
Okay. So tonight was Zach Davies versus Baltimore lefty Cole Irvin, a matchup of bottom-of-the-rotation starters for both teams. And sure enough, Davies did not-unexpected Davies things in the top of the first, giving up a run on two weakish singles, and throwing 21 pitches. He only faced five batters, which was nice. Typically since we’ve had Davies, he’s been a five-inning, 2ER or 3ER starter at best, so this seemed par for the course for Davies on a good night. 1-0 Baltimore
Ketel Marte led off for us in the bottom of the first, because “right-handed lineup,” and hit the first pitch he saw from Irvin under the glove of the Orioles’ Gold-Glove third baseman Ramon Urias for what sure looked to me like an error but was scored an infield single. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., batting second, was a bit more patient, seeing three pitches before launching the fourth over the wall in left-center:
The Answersbacks have arrived early tonight! pic.twitter.com/mpJXxVlH2I— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 2, 2023
Tommy Pham lined out to deep center for the first out of the inning, Christian Walker blooped a single into shallow right-center, but Evan Longoria struck out on three pitches, and Corbin Carroll, batting in the six-hole tonight, grounded to first to end things. Yay lead, though. 2-1 D-BACKS
And then, wouldn’t you know it, it kinda turned into a pitchers’ duel. Davies sat the bottom of Baltimore’s lineup down in order for a clean top of the second, avoided any damage from a leadoff walk and a hit batsman to put up another zero in the third, pitched around a one-out single in the fourth, and another one-out single in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Irvin did more or less the same sort of thing to us, avoiding damage from a two-out infield single by Alek Thomas in the bottom of the second, sitting us down in order in the bottom of the third. Irvin then escaped what looked like it might be big trouble in the bottom of the fourth after back-to-back one-out singles by Corbin Carroll and Gaby Moreno, thanks to Nick Ahmed (cf. “right-handed lineup”) popping out to Orioles’ shortstop and AL ROY candidate Gunnar Henderson, who made the catch in shallow left with his back turned to the infield, and then turned and fired a perfect throw to the plate to cut down Carroll, who was trying to tag and score. Irvin then recorded his first clean inning in the fifth, sitting us down in order.
Remarkably, Davies was only at 76 pitches after five, so he came out to pitch the sixth inning as well, and recorded his second clean inning of the night, retiring the heart of Baltimore’s order on only nine more pitches. It was a remarkable performance from a Diamondbacks starter who, to be honest, has sucked pretty much all year up until now.
Nevertheless, I had no belief that a 2-1 lead would hold up for us against the best team in the American League, with Davies on the mound and our bullpen waiting in the wings, but happily, that turned out not to be an issue. Tommy Pham led off the bottom of the sixth with a double into the gap in left center, and in something of a repeat of the bottom of the first, Christian Walker launched a bomb into the left field seats:
When you look up the definition of "moonshot" you should find this C-Walk blast. pic.twitter.com/SMzA2SzEfJ— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 2, 2023
Evan Longoria then walked, Carroll grounded into a double play, Irvin got pulled for some guy named Joey Krehbiel who apparently made his MLB debut in two games in 2018 when he came out of our bullpen. Krehbiel promptly surrendered a fly-ball double down the line to Moreno, before Ahmed struck out to keep us from getting more. 4-1 D-BACKS
I actually thought that, with only 85 pitches thrown, Davies might come out to start the seventh, but no, that was not to be, and it was probably just as well. He finished his night with an impressive pitching line of 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP. Somewhere around the third or fourth inning, I found myself thinking “Davies doesn’t have his best stuff”—he wasn’t throwing many first-pitch strikes, he was pitching around traffic, and so forth, but then I caught myself and thought, “Have I ever seen his ‘best stuff’? Dude has a fastball that tops out at maybe 89mph. He’s getting relatively quick outs, he’s inducing weak contact, he’s doing his job, and doing it well for the second start in a row. Maybe what we’re seeing is his best stuff.” And that’s fine. I’ll take it.
Anyway. Kyle Nelson took the ball instead, pitched around a one-out single, got pulled for Kevin Ginkel after getting the first two outs. Ginkel recorded the final out without undue drama, and then pitched the top of the eighth, giving up a run on a couple of doubles, but for what it’s worth he didn’t let it get out of hand. 4-2 D-BACKS
Our offense put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but left them there. Paul Sewald came out for the ninth, gave up a leadoff single (possibly to remind us of the Andrew Chafin experience, in case any of us were feeling nostalgic), and then shut the door.
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
Bladerunner: Director’s Cut (1992): Zach Davies (pitching line above, +26.8% WPA)
Bladerunner: The Final Cut (2007, the one with the unicorn dream sequence): Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (3 AB, 1 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, +13.4% WPA), Christian Walker (4 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, + 11.7% WPA)
Bladerunner 2049 (2017): Nick Ahmed (3 AB, 1 K, 1 weird double play induced, -13.7% WPA)
It was a good and pleasant Gameday Thread tonight, especially after the demoralizing sweep we experienced earlier this week at the hands of FTD. 213 comments is the final count at time of writing, and while folks were somewhat stingy with their rec’s, we do have this one from Jack Sommers that came in a lengthy subthread involving WW2, but which gives much-deserved love to Justin, so that’s good enough for me:
We go again tomorrow against the Birds of Baltimore, with Slade Cecconi on the mound for us and one Kyle Bradish going for them, and a chance to secure the series win with one game to go. First pitch is 5:10pm AZ time. Hope you can join us!
As always, thanks for reading, and as always, go Diamondbacks!