Record: 48-40, Pace: 88-74. Change on 2017: -5.
Where the hell do I even begin with this one. I suppose I’ll start with the very strange Fox Sports Arizona broadcast. Hall of Famer Randy Johnson made his weekly appearance in the booth, as he has multiple times throughout the season. Randy typically provides interesting insight and has received praise from fans for his commentary in the past, but the broadcast spiraled out of control tonight. There is an obvious personality clash between Steve Berthiaume and Randy. That’s not unusual in its own right, we’re never going to get along with everyone we interact with, but it made for fairly awkward banter between the two at the end of the game.
Randy has very strong opinions regarding the evolution of the game and the development of pitchers. The opinions expressed tonight are not unlike some of those that have been discussed here and other forums time and again. Randy particularly makes issue of the expanded use of bullpens, starting pitchers’ inability to pitch deep into games, and the increased focus on pitch counts. My understanding of his opinion is that he seems to feel that teams are overprotecting pitchers and not developing them to pitch into the late innings of ballgames, to their own detriment.
I was relieved to hear, after Randy had departed the booth, Bob Brenly point out the other worldly talent level that the Big Unit possessed during his playing days. We would be so fortunate to see another pitcher of Randy Johnson’s talent level to ever grace the mound again. He was one of the most dominant pitchers of all time during one of the most hitter friendly environments of all time, the Steroid Era. His perception of what a starting pitcher should be able to go out and do might very well be skewed by what he was able to accomplish. Randy defied both his age and his competition during his time in Arizona. He is the exception, not the norm.
It is undeniably true that innings are being shifted from starting pitchers to bullpen arms as time progresses. Front offices and coaching staffs have changed their philosophies on the game drastically since the last time RJ stepped on to the field. Some see that as a threat to the game as they remember it while others embrace the evolution. There is nothing wrong with Randy’s philosophies on the game, and there is real value to the lens he sees it through. The dialogue between him and Bert, however awkward it may have been on television, is a great example of where the game currently stands. Randy understands the psychology it takes to succeed at the highest level. In my opinion, the best baseball brain trusts combine the best of both worlds, the “numbers” side and the “intangibles” side.
The conversation had between Steve and RJ would be tremendous as its own standalone segment, but it was distracting during the broadcast, for me at least. I’m not sure if others share that opinion, but I feel fairly confident when the producer tweets the following:
To say tonight has been a weird broadcast would be an understatement.— Brad Weimer (@bradweimer) July 6, 2018
Anyways, enough of my rambling. On to the recap. Shelby Miller was on the bump for his third start returning from Tommy John Surgery. Miller possessed better command of his cutter and curveball than he had in his previous two starts, but when the San Diego Padres made contact they hit him hard tonight. He allowed five hits in 5 1⁄3 innings tonight, four of those hits going for extra bases in the form of a double, two triples, and a home run. The first triple was surrendered to Carlos Asuaje in the 1st with one out. He was driven in during the next at bat by Wil Myers to give the Padres an early 1-0 lead.
Arizona looked to quickly correct the score and give Shelby some run support in their half of the 1st against soutpaw Eric Lauer. Jon Jay legged out his signature infield single to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a bloop single from Nick Ahmed to follow. That put multiple runners on with no outs to start an inning for the first of three times tonight, only to have nothing come of it. Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Steven Souza Jr. (making his return from the disabled list) all flew out failing to capitalize on any sort of rebuttal. The Diamondbacks repeated the effort in the 2nd inning on a leadoff double from Ketel Marte down the left field line. Jake Lamb singled up the middle to score Marte in what would be the Diamondbacks’ only hit with a runner in scoring position in 11 chances tonight. Score tied 1-1.
Those first two innings required roughly an hour to complete, but Miller and Padres’ starter Lauer settled down and zipped through the next pair of innings. Lauer faced the minimum in innings 3 and 4, Miller allowing only a walk in that timespan while striking out 4. Shelby caught Hunter Renfroe looking at a beautiful 97 mph fastball that painted the edge of the zone for strike three. He began the 5th inning with his 6th strikeout of the game, but gave up a solo home run to the very next batter, Austin Hedges, on a 2-0 fastball. 2-1 Padres.
Arizona had another blown opportunity with men in scoring position in their half of the 5th. Jon Jay was hit by a pitch and Nick Ahmed singled putting runners on the corners with two outs for Goldy, but Lauer was able to strike him out on four pitches and maintain the lead. Right about here is when Randy was getting up in the middle of the broadcast to walk between the booths of Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports San Diego. It was strange my dudes.
Carlos Asuaje worked an eleven pitch at bat to lead off the 6th with a walk, and that would be the beginning of the end for Shelby Miller. Wil Myers hit a deep fly ball to the corner in right center field. It appeared that A.J. Pollock was going to be in position to track the ball down and make a play, but the ball landed just in front of him off the wall allowing Myers to leg out a triple. Pollock may have lost the ball in the outfield overhang because it appeared that he could have at least put a glove on it. Miller induced a soft grounder to Ahmed off the bat Eric Hosmer in the next at bat. It’s a play that Ahmed should have made with his eyes closed, but he completely miffed on it allowing Myers to score and Hosmer to advance to second. Miller’s night was finished after striking out Hunter Renfroe again. The inning could have been much different had Pollock and Ahmed locked down those two plays. Pollock’s chance was certainly difficult, but Ahmed had no excuse to miss on his. Andrew Chafin came in from the bullpen in relief allowing a single to Freddy Galvis to score Hosmer. 5-1 Padres.
Pollock opened the Diamondbacks’ 6th with a double followed by a walk from Steven Souza Jr. That ended the outing for Eric Lauer who allowed 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts in his five innings of work. Andy Green turned to Matt Strahm out of the bullpen with runners in scoring position and no outs. Returning back to May form, Ketel Marte, Jake Lamb, and John Ryan Murphy failed to link together hits going 0-3 keeping San Diego in the lead. Not really much to speak of after that. The Padres managed a two out insurance run in the 7th. Arizona’s only response was a two run home run from Ketel Marte in the 8th.
Paul Goldschmidt went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. His counterpart, Eric Hosmer, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts of his own. Arizona out hit San Diego 11 to 8, but went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The defeat at the hands of the cellar dwelling Padres paired with an off day for the Los Angeles Dodgers means that Arizona and Los Angeles are now tied for the division lead.
Look, everything about this game was garbage. The WPA numbers aren’t particularly noteworthy or good, and the broadcast was weird to put it mildly. I’d much rather stop talking about it an just move on.
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