I guess it had to happen eventually!
Record: 21-53. Pace: 46-116. Change on 2004: -6.
It has been a rough couple of weeks to be a Diamondbacks’ fan. The team saw the previous franchise record of 14 consecutive losses obliterated, as they piled up 17 defeats in a row. They lost in every way imaginable. Blowouts? Check, four of the defeats being by six or more runs. One-run losses? Check. Five of those. Bad pitching? Check, for sure, with a team ERA of 6.88 during the streak. Lack of offense? Check: three shutouts, and another game where the D-backs managed one hit [we get to see that starter, Freddy Peralta, tomorrow night]. But this evening, the team finally managed to get their ducks in a row. The best start in a month, a solid bullpen performance and clutch hits when they needed them. The streak is over, folks!
It perhaps did not seem that this would be the day in the first inning, because Merrill Kelly’s day got off to a bit of a rough start. He gave up a lead-off double, which was almost a lead-off home-run, clanking off the outfield fence in right. The batter still scored, coming home on a two-out single which gave the Brewers an early 1-0 lead. Arizona failed to trouble the scorers in the bottom of the inning. Kelly was then able to escape a two on, one out jam, as Brewers’ starting pitcher Brett Anderson, butcher boy’d his way into an inning-ending double-play after faking a bunt. That seemed to turn the tide of the entire contest, as the Diamondbacks would quickly take the lead, and never look back.
When the first seven batters of the inning all reach base, it somehow feels like a wasted opportunity for a team only to score three runs. But that’s just what the Diamondbacks did in the bottom of the second. Part of the problem was that nobody went more than one base, the batters getting on base through six singles and a walk. Though the base on balls was to Kelly, a career .013 hitter, who was actively attempting to give himself up. Another part of the problem was Pavin Smith getting himself thrown out at home, trying to score from second on a single. Josh Rojas and Asdrubal Cabrera both struck out with the bases loaded, though Arizona had a 3-1 lead.
The Brewers’ game-plan was also disrupted, as starter Anderson had to leave after only four outs. He seemed to injure himself covering first on one of the singles, subsequently limping into foul ground. That forced Milwaukee manager, and beloved former D-back, Craig Counsell into his bullpen early. Though the Diamondbacks were not able to take much advantage of that in the second or third innings, they did in the fourth. A favorable ball four call put Stephen Vogt on base, and he eventually scored after a Ketel Marte single and a Rojas double to left. A Cabrera ground-out added another run, after the Milwaukee fielder fumbled the ball, ending any chance of getting Marte at home. Arizona had tacos, with a 5-1 lead after four.
Tonight was the first game of the new sticky substance regime, with umpires turned into TSA agents for the duration. This meant they had to check both starting pitchers and relievers, which appeared to mean examining their caps, gloves and the inside of their belts, as well as asking if they were importing any fruits or vegetables. Ok, I may have made that last bit up. But as Bob Brenly pointed out on the broadcast, that level of scrutiny would appear to leave quite a lot of… um, unexplored territory where a pitcher could be hiding his substance of choice. I’ve seen pro wrestling referees conduct more intensive checks for foreign objects. And speaking of which: Josh Reddick using Rick Flair’s entrance music? WOOO!
After that bumpy opening, Merrill Kelly continued to settle in. When he got the first out in the seventh, he had retired fifteen of the last sixteen batters Kelly had faced. Remember when Torey Lovullo used to talk about wanting 21 outs from his starters? Coming in to this evening, Arizona starters were just 5-for-73 in that department. They had failed to get through seven innings for 28 consecutive games and more than a month, the last time also being Kelly, on May 20 against the Dodgers. It looked dodgy for a bit here, as he allowed a one-out single, and went 3-1 on the next batter. But Merrill recovered to strike the hitter out and finish the seventh. He allowed one run on five hits and a walk, with five Ks.
That meant it was time for – ulp! – the Diamondbacks’ bullpen. We’ve seen bigger leads than four innings evaporate with disturbing rapidity this season, so collective breaths were being held. Noe Ramirez was first out, and worked around a two-out walk to put up a zero in the eighth. I think we could all have done with more runs, just to be safe. But the home bats had gone a bit cold after providing tacos in the fourth inning. That included five strikeouts in the sixth and seventh against Jake Cousins, who was making his major-league debut. Still over the 11 games since firing the hitting coaches, Arizona has scored 51 runs, an average of 4.64 per game. Up until the firings, the average was 4.17 runs per game. Great. Now do the pitching…
Speaking of which, here comes Joakim Soria for the ninth. This wasn’t technically a save situation, but it certainly felt like it. The first pitch was lined to Pavin Smith in left for the first out. A bouncer over the mound to a roaming Nick Ahmed provided the second out. And a fly ball to Marte in center completed a nice, entirely drama-free ninth inning. I get to boot up the happy techno, for my first winning recap since a 5-2 win over the Marlins on May 10, as the losing streak was consigned to the history books. Mind you, we said the same about the 13-game losing streak last month… But for tonight, I think I can even forgive the team a TikTok celebration. Just one. For the baseball gods clearly have no interest in seeing it again.
Speaking after the game, Torey said he never considered pulling Kelly before the Bradley at-bat. He was mostly concerned with letting Kelly face the top of the order for a fourtth time, so that’s why he had Mantiply up. Merrill talked about how the team felt it in the dugout, and there was no way they were going to let this one slip away. Here’s audio from both men [or link], via Jack.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying: Merrill Kelly, +19.6%
And I’m losing control: Asdrubal Cabrera, -4.7%
Just shy of three hundred comments in a Gameday Thread which had more in common with Disneyland than most of the others over the past three weeks. Present were: AzCutter, AzDbackfanInDc, DORRITO, Diamondhacks, Dschumac, EdTheRed99, GuruB, Jack Sommers, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, Justin27, Makakilo, NikT77, Oldenschoole, Preston Salisbury, Rockkstarr12, Smurf-1000, Snacks&Dbacks, Snake_Bitten, gzimmerm, kilnborn and since_98. Rockkstarr12 wins comment of the night:
Great. Now do Arizona. 🙂 With the losing streak out of the way, we turn to tomorrow and see if the team can win consecutive games for the first time since [/checks notes] May 11. Zac Gallen starts for the D-backs, and will hopefully do better than his first (rushed?) start back off the Injured List. But for now, let’s just revel in this unusual thing which I am relably informed is called a “Win”.