Record: 71-56. Pace: 90-72. Change on 2017: +2.
Tonight was one of those games where nearly nothing went wrong for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Clay Buchholz took the start, and continues to make a strong argument to win Comeback Player of the Year. He had the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (in Southern California, Orange County, close to Disneyland, next to a crappy Shell gas station) looking absolutely silly over 7 scoreless innings. He threw first pitch strikes to 19 out of the 23 batters he faced, allowed only 4 hits, and no walks. 5 of his 7 strikeouts he caught the opposing batter looking. Some of those called third strikes were a tad bit outside to borderline, more on that to come, but regardless the Angels never looked quite comfortable against him. Clay appeared as if he could have thrown his second straight complete game, but Torey Lovullo opted to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the 7th. That ended his night after only 86 pitches thrown total.
Say what you want about Clay perhaps getting a bit lucky at times, or benefiting greatly from an elite defense behind him. What Buchholz has done this season for the D’backs, after failing to secure a Major League contract in the offseason, has been nothing short of phenomenal. If Patrick Corbin is to depart in free agency this winter, it might be prudent to bring Clay back on a one year, incentive laden deal. Speaking of elite defense, Nick Ahmed had it going again at shortstop. He snagged a 104+ MPH ground ball off the bat of Albert Pujols that most defenders wouldn’t have even had a chance at.
One bit of analysis I would be remiss to not mention in this game would be the art of pitch framing. Alex Avila was Clay’s battery mate tonight, and Rene Rivera was behind the dish for the Angels. Plenty of fans question the validity of the metric, rightfully so, but tonight perfectly demonstrated the value of the skill. Avila is one of the better pitch framers in the league per Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA metric and Statcorner’s catcher report. Meanwhile, Rivera is one of the worst in the league when it comes to stealing strikes. Tonight was a prime example of the numbers confirming what the eye can see. Avila was very “quiet” with his glove behind the plate resulting in a few favorable called strikes. Which leads me to...
That's 7 strikeouts for Buchholz through 7 shutout innings. He's allowed just 1 run in his last 16 innings. pic.twitter.com/8yKgZ322ao— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) August 23, 2018
What you see above is an at bat featuring Buchholz against Rivera in the top of the 7th. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz rung up Rivera looking at what should have been ball 4. In my opinion, this call was setup because even though Clay missed his spot on the black by a few inches, Avila was not dramatic in his motion chasing the pitch. The same could not be said for Rivera who was catching for Angels starter Odrisamer Despaigne. He was “stabbing” at nearly every pitch that missed its location, and quite dramatically too, resulting in less favorable calls for the Angels. What is ironic about this is that Rivera had a few choice words for umpire Laz Diaz when he was rung up, and I can likely paraphrase that he said the Angels should be getting similar calls. I was watching this unfold almost the entire game, and it reminded me of an article at Inside the Zona roughly two years ago when the D’backs front office changed their philosophy behind the plate. Unfortunately, I’m having difficulty locating the piece, but tonight’s contest behind the plate was essentially a real life version of it.
Anyways, my apologies for getting sidetracked. Paul Goldschmidt broke a tie with Luis Gonzalez for the most career home runs hit at Chase Field/Bank One Ball Park tonight. Goldy’s 96th career home run in the Valley came in the bottom of the 1st with two outs. After falling behind 0-2, he pulled a Goldy eventually working the count full. Despaigne then left an 88 mph cutter middle high which Paul promptly crushed to left field giving Arizona an early 2-0 lead, his 29th homer on the season.
The hits for Arizona after that were non-existent until the next time Goldy’s number came up in the order in the bottom of the 4th. He slapped a line drive single to center for his second full count base hit of the game leading off that inning. Daniel Descalso advanced Goldy to second with a swinging bunt to third base putting runners on first and second with no outs. After Steven Souza Jr. advanced Goldy to third on a long flyout to right field, Nick Ahmed singled to left field driving the score to 3-0 in favor of Arizona.
Goldy came only a triple shy of the cycle tonight, hitting a ground rule double in the 5th inning to the deepest part of the ballpark. He had David Peralta on base at first in front of him in that at bat, so the Freight Train was forced to stop at third. During a break in the action, you could hilariously see Goldy signaling to David that he should have ran faster during his single so he could have scored. It’s the little things, folks. Paul reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances and is now knocking on the doorstep of a .300 batting average. Truly remarkable given his two month slump at the beginning of the season.
Not to be outdone in the race for National League Player of the Month in August by Goldy, David Peralta tacked on a pair of runs in the 7th with his 9th home run in the month. He was quickly ahead 3-0 in the count and took a called strike one, but absolutely obliterated the next pitch for his 25th home run on the season. It’s a two man race between Peralta and Goldy for the monthly honor, and must watch T.V. seeing those two slug it out each night.
Arizona has now won 6 of their last 7 games. The bad news is that they didn’t gain any ground in the division over the Colorado Rockies who defeated the San Diego Padres tonight at Coors Field. The good news is that Arizona is now 4.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the standings who lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. Closer Kenley Jansen served up a 2 run home run to Paul Dejong in the 9th, and the Dodgers smoldering defeat never smelled so sweet.
Three Stars: Clay Buchholz +37.8% WPA, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 ER
Two Stars: Paul Goldschmidt +19.9% WPA, 3-for-3, 96th career HR at Chase
One Star: David Peralta +1.5% WPA, 2-for-4, 9th home run in August
Total comments: 263
Total commenters: 24
Commenter list: AZDovs11, AzDbackfanInDc, DORRITO, Fangdango, GuruB, Imstillhungry95, Jack Sommers, Jackwriter, Jim McLennan, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, PaulGoldsmith, Renin, Rockkstarr12, ShirtOffYourBack, Smurf1000, SongBird, TucsonTim, asteroid, kilnborn, pyroman168, smartplays, suroeste
I share ISH sentiment from last night, although he was gifted a Sedona Red CoTN, which I’m also being told went viral on Arizona Sports Radio earlier today. Enjoy the off day tomorrow everyone!