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Diamondbacks 1, Houston 2: Not Quite Yet

With a win tonight, we’d be in the postseason. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Yet.

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Well. I have to say, I was very excited about maybe recapping, as my last recap of the regular season, the game that punched our ticket to the Wild Card round. If we’d won, we’d be in. If the Reds and the #TinyBears had both lost, we’d be in. Sadly, we didn’t win. Neither did the #TinyBears, but Cincinnati was playing St. Louis, and destroyed them to the tune of a 19-2 victory. So yeah. We’re still waiting.

So. Our ace (or #1 starter, make up your own mind), Zac Gallen, took the mound against Ty France Jose Urquidy tonight, which seemed like a deeply favorable matchup. Urquidy has bounced back and forth this year between Houston’s rotation and bullpen, and has most recently been pitching out of the ‘pen, with an ERA over 5 going into tonight. Zac, meanwhile, came into the night with an ERA in the 3.50 range, and a record of 17-8, a hopeful contrast to Urquidy’s 2-3. I know, I know, wins are a meaningless stat for pitchers, etc, etc. Except when we win, in which case they’re not. But we didn’t win, like I said. So.

Anyway. This was basically a pitchers’ duel until the top of the sixth, with both pitchers trading zeroes. Frankly, and disappointingly, Urquidy looked more like the ace than Zac did, but the zeroes were still getting put up. Gallen allowed back-to-back one-out singles in the first, and a two-out double in the second, but no damage was done. After a perfectly clean third, he walked two in a row with one out in the top of the fourth, but got out of it thanks to a nifty Marte-to-Walker lineout double play. He recorded another clean inning in the fifth, sitting down the bottom of the Houston lineup in order.

Meanwhile, we were doing, well, mostly nothing, against Urquidy. Corbin Carroll drew a leadoff walk to begin the bottom of the first, and one out later Tommy Pham walked as well. A Christian Walker popout to shallow center and a three-pitch strikeout by Alek Thomas finished that without incident, though. Jace Peterson drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the second, stole second base to put himself in scoring position, but was left standing there when Gerlado Perdomo, batting ninth, where I think he’s most comfortable, couldn’t get him home.

We got our first hit (!!) with Corbin Carroll led off the bottom of the third with a ground-ball double to right. He wound up stealing third, which was nice for padding his SB stats, but he, too, was left standing as Marte, Pham, and Walker each sat down quietly.

Nothing good happened in the next couple of innings, as Urquidy, who was getting disturbingly quick outs, sat us down in order in the bottom of the fourth, the bottom of the fifth, and the bottom of the sixth. At this point, he was looking, like lots of not-good pitchers for other teams have looked when pitching against the Diamondbacks the last couple of years, kinda like the second coming of Cy Young, with 6 innings of shutout ball and only 70 pitches thrown.

Meanwhile, Gallen was laboring somewhat more, and it finally caught up with him in the top of the sixth. The Astros’ lineup had turned over for the third time, and he struck out Jose Altuve for the second time in a row to start things off, before surrendering an Alex Bregman single to center. After another strikeout (Zac wound up with 7 on the night, for all the good it did), he gave up another single, this one to right and this one off the bat of Houston right fielder Kyle Turner. So up came Jose Abreu, who sent the first pitch he saw to pretty much straightaway center, where it went well over Alek Thomas’s head and hit right on the yellow stripe on the wall that indicates a home run. It was called a dinger on the field, but upon review it was overturned—apparently part of the ball has to hit a part of the wall above the yellow part, which apparently this ball didn’t—so it was ruled a two-run double. Zac recorded the final out with no further drama, but blood had finally drawn, and we were the ones bleeding. 2-0 Houston

Gallen came out to start the top of the seventh, gave up a leadoff single to Houston center fielder Chas McCormick, before getting the next guy to line out to Alek Thomas in center, which ended his night with 613 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, and 104 pitches thrown. Ryan Thompson finished the frame, Andrew Saalfrank pitched a scoreless eighth, and Kevin Ginkel a scoreless ninth, so the game remained close throughout. Which, I suppose, per tonight’s Comment of the Game, is something.

But the offense continued to fail to do the business, or to do enough business. Ketel Marte managed our second hit against Urquidy to lead off the bottom of the sixth with a leadoff single to center, but was erased four pitches later on a Tommy Pham double play grounder to third. Urquidy’s night was done after six, so some dude named Phil Maton set us down in order in the bottom of the seventh, and some dude named Hector Neris (okay, you may know that name, I think I do) pitched around some traffic (a Jace Peterson single, another Corbin Carroll SB after a fielder’s choice, a Ketel Marte walk) in the bottom of the eighth for another zero. We finally managed a run in the bottom of the ninth against Houston closer Ryan Pressly, as Alek Thomas reached on an error by Altuve, and then was driven in one out later by a Gaby Moreno double into the gap in left center that just missed clearing the wall and tying the game:

Sometimes baseball is a game of inches. Jace Peterson grounded out to end the ballgame. Boo.

2-1 Houston FINAL

Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs

Yeah, that trajectory says it all. But, as I often note, the WPA thing is an interesting bit of interrelated calculations, which tonight produces the fact that, aside from Corbin Carroll (+7.8% WPA), our starter who gave up the two-run double to the yellow line is the next best player in terms of his contribution to our win probability. The full table under the graph tells the story: this one is entirely on the offense. So.

Doing His Job: Zac Gallen (pitching line above, +3.9% WPA)
Not So Much: Tommy Pham (3 AB, 0 H, 1 BB, -26.4% WPA), Christian Walker (4 AB, 0 H, -14.8% WPA), Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (4 AB, 0 H, -13.2% WPA), Geraldo Perdomo (3 AB, 0 H, -12.5% WPA)

So, yeah.

The Gameday Thread started out pretty lively, with nearly fifty comments before the game had even started, thanks to a whole lot of scoreboard-watching that many of us were doing and discussing while we waited for first pitch in our ballgame. It kinda fell off after that, as we did pretty much nothing to support a decent Gallen start until the bottom of the ninth, so that is frankly understandable, even (or perhaps especially) given the stakes tonight. We would up with 177 comments at time of writing, with no comments one comment besides one of mine going Sedona Red. So the third-to-last CotG of the regular season goes to Zerostomia, for this very reasonable and clear-eyed assessment of this game:

Fair enough. Winning tonight would have finished the postseason deal, but it was not to be, so we still have work to do against a very tough team and a much tougher (ostensibly, anyway) pitching matchup. TBA takes the mound for us, which probably means Merrill Kelly pitching on normal rest, versus the one and only Justin Verlander, ageless wonder, for the other guys. Yikes. Anyway. TheRealRamona and I are driving up to Phoenix in the morning and we’re gonna be at the game in person, so I hope you can join us, in person or for the broadcast. First pitch is 5:10pm.

This is most likely my last recap for 2023, so one last time, thank you all so much for reading, as always. And as always, go Diamondbacks!