Record 64-51. Pace: 90-72. Change on 2016: +16.
Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Diamondbacks, in front of a rabid, partisan crowd at Chase Field tonight. Not least that the crowd were rabidly partisan for the Cubs. [If they love Chicago so much, I have to wonder: why the hell are they living here? It’s not even as if it’s winter] But it probably didn’t help that any enthusiastic Diamondbacks fans would have had that enthusiasm sucked out of them, by the long, slow death which was Taijuan Walker’s opening inning.
After getting two outs around an infield single, a bloop single was followed by two walks - the second, on four pitches and with the bases loaded, to give the Cubs a lead they would never relinquish. It was most un-Walkerlike. For in the majority (10 of 18) of his starts this year, Walker hadn’t even allowed two walks all game - never mind in the same inning, to consecutive batters. There was then a cross-up between him and catcher Chris Herrmann, the ball skittered to the back-stop and another Cub crossed home-plate. Finally, after 33 pitches, the top of the first came to an end.
There was some hope in the bottom half, because it was clear that John Lackey’s strike-zone GPS was in need of a firmware update. He walked two of the first three batters he faced, in David Peralta and Jake Lamb, then took the Cubs’ Twitter accounts info to heart, walking Paul Goldschmidt on four straight balls. That brought up J.D. Martinez with the bases loaded and only one ou... What? Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot this was yet another edition of “Let’s screw the Diamondbacks”, brought to you by your boys in blue.
What was actually ball four and the bases loaded for J.D, instead became strike one - and on a full-count, Goldschmidt then hit into an inning-ending double play. I know this may be seeming like a broken record, but it seems like every pivotal call goes against the D-backs. In this case, a decent chance of us getting those early runs back was yanked away, simply because of umpire incompetence. Given the way the team has been struggling with big hits, we could really do without the umps putting their thumbs on the scale as well, accidentally or otherwise.
Walker did at least settle down somewhat thereafter. He allowed an RBI single with two outs in the second, then nothing else of note through five innings. The D-backs, having been largely shut down the first time through, save for a Herrmann single, then got on the board in the bottom of fifth. Herrmann picked up his second hit of the night - suck it, haterz! - and Peralta sent a Lackey pitch out of the park with mustard. Statcast tracked it at 113 mph, making it the hardest-hit home run by a Diamondbacks hitter this year. As a result, we went into the sixth inning, just down 3-2, and with renewed interest.
That lasted nine pitches. Largely due to that hyper-extended first, Walker was already at 100 pitches after five. But given the quick hook given to Banda the night before, Torey Lovullo was almost forced to squeeze another inning out of him, even though the Cubs had three left-handed batters coming up. That backfired spectacularly, as both the first pair went deep off Walker. His night ended, in another version of how it began. For only once this year had Walker even allowed two home-runs in the same game - never mind in the same inning, to consecutive batters. He was done, charged with five runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks, with two K’s.
Arizona got one of those long balls back in the bottom half, as Paul Goldschmidt launched his 27th home-run of the ear, going opposite field. Martinez then walked, but Daniel Descalso, representing the tying run, hit into another twin killing. We did even better in the seventh, as Ketel Marte walked, and one batter later, Brandon Drury came off the bench with a single, to put the tying run on base, with one out. But a fielder’s choice from Peralta and a fly-ball off the bat of A.J. Pollock send the D-backs back, empty-handed. And that was it, as the last eight Arizona hitters were retired in order.
On the other side, the recent struggles of T.J. McFarland continued, as he allowed three runs on four hits in the eighth. Through his first 20 appearances and 25.1 innings, to just shy of the All-Star break, he had a 1.78 ERA. But since then? Fourteen earned runs over 18 innings (7.00 ERA), and McFarland has hardly been fooling anyone, with a K:BB of 6:6. He has gone from solid seventh inning guy to mop-up man. At least he did work two innings here, which saved the bullpen from a bit of punishment. 39,131 in attendance, which is the highest Friday crowd this year, surpassing the July 21 crowd of 37,858 against the Nationals.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Five on a Treasure Island: David Peralta, +13.1%
Noddy: Taijuan Walker, -29.0%
Big Ears: Pollock, -15.6%; McFarland, -11.9%
Present in the Gameday Thread were: Anachronistic1, BigSmarty, Cumulus Choir, DORRITO, DbacKid, Dbackfangrrrl, DeadManG, Diamondhacks, ElCooCooi, Gilbertsportsfan, GuruB, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, LamparT, Makakilo, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, PaulGoldsmith, Sprankton, asteroid, cheese1213, coldblueAZ, edbigghead, hotclaws, onedotfive, since_98, smartplays, soco and winger49. Comment of the night, by a landslide, to hotclaws, for informing us about the Cubs’ song:
Second game of this series is tomorrow, with a 5:10pm start, and Patrick Corbin toeing the rubber for the Diamondbacks. Nice to see we got a kinda shout-out from the booth tonight, in the shape of tonight’s key to the game...