Record: 14-11. Pace: 90-72. Change on 2018: -4.
Score early. Score often. The D’backs wasted no time setting off the fireworks tonight jumping ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning. Former Padres and Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles took the start for Pittsburgh this evening, and his poor track record against Arizona continued tonight. Coming into this contest he’d started against Arizona nine times previously carrying a 7.23 ERA and 2-6 record over 61 innings (this is inclusive of relief appearances against AZ as well). Might have been wise to push him back to the next series, but that’s not our problem tonight!
Eduardo Escobar was the first man to reach scoring position for Arizona knocking a line drive triple to center field in the first with one out. David Peralta immediately drove him in on the very next pitch, a single to center field. For all the talk of Christian Walker scorching the baseball lately, he followed Peralta with a swinging bunt back to Lyles at the mound. Lyles rushed his throw in attempt to cut Walker down at first resulting in an error advancing Walker to second and Peralta to third. Wilmer Flores proceeded to hit a sacrifice fly bringing in Peralta giving Arizona an early 2-0 lead.
Arizona tacked on an additional two runs in the second inning on a leadoff solo home run from Nick Ahmed to left center, his second of the season. Caleb Joseph followed with a loud double off the center field wall. Merrill Kelly tried to push him to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Joseph got a poor jump and was caught in a pickle. Fortunately, he caused enough disruption allowing Kelly to essentially swap places with him at second base. Escobar brought him in with a two out double to center field, and before you knew it Arizona had a 4-0 lead by the end of the second with some scorching hits off of Lyles.
Merrill Kelly was Lyles’ opposing number on the mound and had a substantially better start than last Friday at Wrigley Field where he couldn’t even complete the fourth inning. Kelly recorded his first two outs on a quick six pitches, but then allowed the next two Pirates to reach on a five pitch single and four pitch walk. Kelly recorded the third out of the inning on a Francisco Cervelli full count strikeout.
The “big boppers” in the Pirates lineup were the only opposing players with any success against Merrill tonight. I’m referring to Josh Bell and Jung Ho Kang who were responsible for both Pirates runs tonight. Each man had a deep solo home run to center field, Bell in the fourth and Kang in the sixth, but that was all Pittsburgh could manage against Kelly and the D’backs. He completed the seventh inning with Matt Koch responsible for the eighth and ninth. There was speculation from the Fox Sports Arizona broadcast that Koch could take the start from Zack Greinke tomorrow with poor weather in the forecast for the matinee finale, but that definitely will not be the case now. The Koch-y monster needed only thirty pitches to complete his two frames, his second scoreless appearance this week. The efforts of both men have preserved the bullpen for tomorrow in the event of a significant rain delay.
Once again the Pirates bullpen struggled against Arizona in the late innings. Nick Kingham and Steven Brault each pitched a pair of innings, and both men allowed an additional three earned runs apiece to put this game well out of reach at the end. Ketel Marte homered from each side of the plate, the second time he has done that this season. His first was a solo shot from the left side to center field in the fifth inning. Marte then had a three run homer hitting right handed in the eighth, a line shot down the left field line. Peralta had a two RBI double in the seventh and was brought in himself on a double from Christian Walker off the right field wall resulting in a painless 11-2 victory. Arizona is now 7-2 on this road trip which concludes tomorrow morning, weather permitting.
I’d be remiss in failing to mention an interesting defensive play for Arizona in the eighth. Josh Bell was hustling for a double on a shot to left field. Blake Swihart had moved over from right field to left that inning. Swihart tried to throw out a hard running Bell at second, but his throw sailed into foul territory. Bell then tried to push it to third, and Christian Walker attempted an ill advised throw across the diamond while losing his balance. Except his throw was right on the button and Bell was cut down at third. I’d advise against trying that again in a closer contest, but it worked out for Arizona tonight. That’s the beauty of baseball.
Blowout Victory: Eduardo Escobar & Merrill Kelly- +13.2 WPA (excluding Kelly at the plate)
Comeback Victory: David Peralta- +10.5 WPA
Pitcher’s Duel: Christian Walk- +7.8% WPA
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