[Generic headlines are very useful]
Arizona lost their season opener to San Diego, with Madison Bumgarner getting lit up by the Padres for the second consecutive season. However, the team did show considerable fight, coming back from 6-1 down to snatch a lead at the half-way point. While the bullpen couldn’t make it stand up, this game was considerably more entertaining than it looked like it was going to be at the end of the fourth!
The Diamondbacks strung together some hits to get on the board in the top of the first. Ketel Marte was able just to leg out a swinging bunt. Christian Walker then singled, and with two outs, Asdrubal Cabrera had his first hit and run driven in, with a line-drive to left field. Eduardo Escobar was almost able to add to the lead, and was robbed by a good play. Madison Bumgarner then quickly retired the Padres in order, needing just eight pitches. He struck out Tommy Pham – his fastball sitting at an acceptable 91 mph – then line drives to left from Fernando Tatis and right by Manny Machado, were nicely snagged by David Peralta and Pavin Smith.
The second inning may well end up as a trivia question: who had the first extra-base hit for the D-backs in 2021? The answer, of course, is… Madison Bumgarner, who made the case against the DH with a two out double off the base of the wall in left center (below). The way he slowly ambled out of the box, I suspect MadBum thought it was a home-run – which would have been an even better trivia question. In our pitcher’s defense, this was the hardest-hit ball of the game to that point, possessing an exit velocity of 101 mph. But Josh Rojas wasn’t then able to get Bumgarner home, striking out with a swing at what would have been ball four from Yu Darvish.
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— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 1, 2021
The second inning did not go so smoothly for our starter. After another K to start things off, the next three Padres reached, two singles sandwiching a walk, to load the bases with one out. Bumgarner got 0-2 ahead of the San Diego catcher, with the pitcher on deck. But he then left a cutter over the plate, which was fended off and blooped to right, scoring two runs and giving the Padres the lead. After striking out Darvish, Bumgarner marginally hit Pham on the foot, loading the bases again for Tatis. Insert “A bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ‘em” GIF here. But in this case it did, as Bumgarner struck out Tatis on three pitches, to keep the score at 2-1 after two innings.
That was a 32-pitch frame for Madison, though the quick first meant he was still behind Darvish, 43-40. A lead-off double in the third for Marte down the right-field line suggested this might be another extended inning. However, the D-backs’ struggles with runners in scoring position followed them from Salt River, as Marte was stranded on second base. By the middle of the third, Arizona were already 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. San Diego were then able to extend their lead, Eric Hosmer swatting a 3-1 pitch just out of the reach of Smith and over the wall in right. It was an 86 mph cutter, and wasn’t in a bad spot – right on the outside of the zone. Still, it’s results that count.
Worse followed, as Wil Myers also went deep, this cutter being…. insert Jack’s “Tee” meme here. He got the second out, then opted to pitch to the Padres’ catcher with first base open. That decision proved ill-advised, leading to another run for San Diego. Bumgarner through three had now thrown 75 pitches, with five hits and three walks, though had six strikeouts. It didn’t help that Bumgarner wasn’t getting any calls – even on some obvious strikes – and his body language suggested he was definitely not happy. Ted Barrett, behind the plate, seemed to be infected by Angel Hernandez at first. Look at this at-bat, on which Escobar “struck” out in the fourth. #3 and #8 were both called strikes.
I know there are kinks to work out in automated strike calls. But it’s hard to imagine any prototype system worse than Ted Barrett’s performance, documented above. Aggravating though it was, it’s made worse by the suspicion Barrett’s incompetence could have been a deciding factor in the one-run game which followed. It seemed unlikely at the time, as the Padres added another run on a two-out hit from Hosmer to make it 6-1 after four. But Ketel Marte continued his perfect start to the season, getting his third hit in five innings, this one leaving Petco Park. One out and a Walker walk later, Asdrubal Cabrera had his first home-run as a Diamondback, and chased Darvish with the score now 6-4 to the Padres.
A throwing error by Tatis – but… but… greatest player in baseball? – let the inning continue. With a left-hander on the mount, Smith was pinch-hit for, and Tim Locastro came up instead. Hey, if he was hit by a pitch, he’d put the tying run on base! Timmeh snorted derisively, and instead hit his first-ever pinch-hit homer, a two-run shot to tie the game. Stephen Vogt then added Arizona’s fourth home-run of the inning, a solo bomb to give the Diamondbacks a thoroughly unexpected lead. They plated six runs before PH Wyatt Mathisen struck out, PHing for Bumgarner, and according to SportsRadar, the D-backs are the first team in baseball history to hit four homers in one inning on Opening Day.
So, the D-backs bullpen had been staked to a one-run lead, and just had to preserve it for 15 outs. It didn’t start well, Kevin Ginkel walking his first batter of 2021 on four straight balls. A double-play took care of that. After Marte got his fourth hit of the day (yawn…), Stefan Crichton adopted the Ginkel approach, walking his first batter. He then allowed a hit, but got Tatis (y’know, the greatest baseball player ever…) with a beautiful curve for strike three. Machado popped out, and Alex Young replaced Crichton to face “Arizona Killer” Hosmer. That continued to be the case, as a broken-bat grounder squeezed past Escobar for a game-tying RBI single.
The Arizona bullpen’s struggles with first batter efficiency continued in the seventh. Young gave up a lead-off triple, which came home on a sacrifice fly to give San Diego back the lead. That proved the winning run, with Arizona managing a Carson Kelly single in the eighth, but nothing in the ninth. In the end, they lost by the odd run in fifteen, with the teams combining for six home-runs. Wait, weren’t there supposed to be deader baseballs this season? Marte led the charge, with four hits, the third D-back to have a 4-hit game on Opening Day, after Gerardo Parra in 2013 and Steve Finley in 2000. Cabrera had a pair, and Christian Walker got a hit and a walk.
All told, I was pleased by the team showing a great deal of fight, and the offense looked considerably better than I feeled it might be. Madison Bumgarner’s contract doesn’t look any better tonight, than it did this morning, and we probably want our starting pitchers to go longer than four innings most nights. Oh, well. One down, 161 to go…
Torey Lovullo post-game audio [or link]
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Carey Mahoney: Tim Locastro, +21.7%
Moses Hightower: Asdrubal Cabrera, +10.2%;
Thaddeus Harris: Madison Bumgarner, -36.0%
Carl Proctor: Young, -28.2%; Peralta, -18.3%; Rojas, -15.8%
An active Gameday Thread, particularly at some points. Present were: 4 Corners Fan, AzDbackfanInDc, DBacksEurope, Diamondhacks, GuruB, Hannibal4467, Imstillhungry95, Jack Sommers, James Attwood, Jim McLennan, JoeCB1991, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MikeMono, MrMrrbi, Oldenschoole, Schilling2001, SenSurround, Snake_Bitten, Steven Burt, bklapes32, gzimmerm, kilnborn, makattack71, redsedona, since_98 and sirbradford. First Comment of the Game in this new season goes to Jack:
Many more 0-for-5’s from Peralta and Rojas, and we may get Jack’s wish… Same two teams go at it tomorrow, with Merrill Kelly facing off against Blake Snell. A rather more civilized start time of 7:10 pm for that one.