Record 22-19. Pace: 87-75. Change on 2018: -2.
The concept of the “opener” is something which has been receiving a lot of attention in baseball of late. The pioneers in this area are the Tampa Rays, who adopted the approach at about this point last year. Rather than using a traditional starter, they’d begin the game with a pitcher who would go only once through the opposing order. They’d then typically use a long reliever for the middle innings, and then piece the late innings together depending on the situation. It seemed to work: their staff ERA improved from 22nd to 3rd in the majors after adopting the tactic, and people have wondered whether other teams would follow suit.
The D-backs were never expected to be one of them, but this afternoon proved otherwise. Though whether this was a one-off, a special for Zack Godley’s spot, or something on which the team will build going forward remains to be seen. For Godley, who had been moved to the bullpen after struggling with his mechanics and posting a 7.71 ERA over seven starts, became the opener this afternoon. He went two innings, allowing a run on an Ender Inciarte single in the second: Godley gave up four hits in total, with no walks and two strikeouts. Having done his job, he was pinch-hit for in the second by... Zack Greinke. Who promptly singled, because Greinke.
Rookie Jon Duplantier allowed the first run of his major-league career, after opening with nine scoreless innings across four relief appearances. Unfortunately, he also allowed the second and third runs, all in a three-run third. They all came with two outs, as Duplantier just wasn’t able to close things. Jon never did get the third out, Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers being thrown out by Adam Jones, trying to stretch a single into a double. However, he dd settle down, retiring six of the seven batters faced in the fourth and fifth, with the only exception a squibby infield single by Dansby Swanson which found no-man’s land in the triangle between the pitcher, third base and the shortstop.
With the Braves jumping out to a 4-0 lead by the middle of the third, you wondered whether the D-backs had it in them to come back, considering they hadn’t scored five runs in a game for a week. Early signs were not promising. Arizona got the bases loaded with one out their first time up, on singles by Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar, followed by a walk to David Peralta. But the D-backs struggles with runners in scoring position continued. First, Christian Walker struck out, swinging at a pitch well inside, and Wilmer Flores grounded out. Walker did perhaps worse still in the third. Coming up with the runners on the corners and one out, he hit into an inning-ending double-play.
Arizona did get back into the game in the third. With one out, Nick Ahmed legged out a hustle double on a ball to left-center. Carson Kelly then brought him home with a floater which dropped just over second baseman Ozzie Albies. Duplantier wasn’t able to get the bunt down, but Adam Jones rendered it moot, depositing a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left, for his eighth home-run of the season. Arizona got the lead-off man aboard in the sixth, as Ahmed got an infield single, but Kelly hit into another double-play. If it feels like there have been a lot of them lately, that’s because there have been. Over the last five games, dating back to the finale in Tampa, the D-backs have grounded into seven twin killings.
The seventh inning was... interesting. T.J. McFarland had worked a clean sixth, but back-to-back singles had Atlanta in business. A floater to left center had Ketel Marte fooled, but he was able to recover and made a nice sliding catch which helped turn the Braves away. The Diamondbacks responded in the bottom half with singles from Jones and Marte. Eduardo Escobar flew out to shallow right, but the throw in went over the cut-off man, and Marte alertly advanced to second. Peralta grounded hard to short, and the Braves came home, but the throw short-hopped the catcher, allowing Jones to scramble back to third and Peralta to reach. In 7 pitches, Arizona had loaded the bases with one out for... Christian Walker.
Baseball is a game that seems to do that. When you mess up, it seems inevitable you get a chance for redemption - or, to dig yourself a deeper hole. Unfortunately, Walker chose the latter approach, striking out, once again on a pitch out of the zone after going ahead in the count 2-1. Flores wasn’t able to get the runs home either, though he was unlucky, being robbed of two RBI by a stellar diving play from Gold Glover Nick Markakis. There was a rather depressing stat announced on the broadcast shortly after. Since April 27th, the Diamondbacks have had 14 plate appearances with the bases loaded. They have gone 0-for-13 with one sacrifice fly.
McFarland came out for his third inning of work, and allowed a run, extending the Braves’ edge to 5-3, with Yoan Lopez getting the final out. Arizona didn’t leave the bases loaded in their half... But a Kelly single and Jones double, allowed Marte to ground out on the first pitch, stranding two more men in scoring position. If you’re playing along at home, that’s eleven men stranded this afternoon, with the team 5-for-37 with runners in scoring position this series. Lopez got through the top of the ninth, but the D-backs went down meekly in their last turn, dropping the four-game series despite outhitting Atlanta overall by a 14-12 margin. That was the most hits for Arizona since April 24 in Pittsburgh.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Mother Love: Adam Jones, +30.2%
Mother country: Ketel Marte, +10.6%
Melon farmer: Christian Walker, -31.5%
Mother of tears: Flores, -28.0%; Duplantier, -15.5%; Escobar -12.3%
Present in the Gameday Thread - with or without their mothers - were AZDovs11, AzDbackfanInDc, DBacksEurope, DeadManG, Diamondhacks, EphBoston, GuruB, Jack Sommers, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, NikT77, Rockkstarr12, Samburt, The-Icon, dbrowell, edbigghead, onedotfive, ponus, preston.salisbury and suroeste. Comment of the Thread, in a landslide, to ‘hacks:
#Truth. The D-backs will now go visit their mothers, pausing only to buy a bouquet of flowers from a garage forecourt, and await the arrival of the Pirates for a series which begins tomorrow night. Robbie Ray starts the opener, with a 6:40 pm first pitch. I’m off to celebrate Mothers’ Day by watching the ultimate Mothers’ battle, in Game of Thrones...