Diamondbacks 2, San Diego 5: What’s the Opposite of “Closer”? – AZ Snake Pit

So new Diamondback right-hander Zach Davies took the mound for the third game of this young, dewy-eyed season, facing off against the very large Padres righty Joe Musgrove. Musgrove was quite good, by the numbers anyway, in San DIego last year, while Davies kinda sucked for the Cubs in 2021, but looked pretty good in Spring Training outings since joining our squad.

Davies did his business in the top half of the first, retiring the first two batters he faced on weak grounders to the right side of the infield that Christian Walker fielded and Davies himself completed by covering first base. Davies then wasted seven pitches avoiding the strike zone for Manny Machado, who walked. Seriously, if you’re just gonna pitch around him, why not just IBB it? Anyway, no harm was done, as he got Jake Cronenberg to ground out to Geraldo Perdomo at short to end things. Sixteen pitches, but only nine to those Padres batter not named Manny Machado.

Musgrove certainly looked like he had some rust when he came out for the bottom of the first, not particularly hitting his spots and using a fair number of pitches as he got things underway. He induced a Daulton Varsho groundout to second to start things off, but then Ketel Marte recorded his first hit of the new season with a soft line-drive single to left. David Peralta and his newly revamped swing followed that with a rocket into left center that went over the head of the Friars’ Trent Grisham and bounced to the wall. Marte scored from first, and the Freight Train, who was credited with a double, steamed into third on the fruitless throw home. Sadly, Christian Walker then struck out and Pavin Smith flew out to deep center on the first pitch he saw, so we couldn’t get Peralta home to put up a crooked number. 1-0 D-BACKS

Fun fact: as Kilnborn observed early in the Gameday Thread, Walker’s AB was the first one of the year that was taken with the Diamondbacks actually holding a lead. Tra la.

Also, here’s the Peralta double:

Davies gave up his first hit in the bottom of the second, a two-out single to Padres catcher Austin Nola, but otherwise was efficient and continued to do his business, putting up another zero on the scoreboard. So, sadly, did Musgrove, who had clearly settled down after his slight rocky first inning, putting up his own zero despite surrendering a two-out double down the right field line off the bat of tonight’s third baseman, Sergio Alcantara.

The wheels sorta started to come off the Zach Davies bus in the third, sadly, though he recorded the first out on an easy flyout to left. He then walked Grisham on five pitches, which wasn’t great, but got San Diego left fielder Matt Beaty to bounce a weak grounder to Walker that caught Grisham in between first and second. If played properly, it could have been a viable double play, but Walker took a swipe at Grisham with his glove, missed, and then lobbed the ball to Marte at second for the force, allowing Beaty to reach on a fielder’s choice. Still, the lead runner was retired and there were now two outs, so it seemed like it was okay, until Davies’ pitch-to-contact style broke down a little bit. Manny Machado came to the plate and laced a double down into the left field corner, scoring Beaty from first. Cronenworth then grounded a single up the middle, scoring Machado. Davies then gave up a third consecutive hit, a single to Luke Voit, but that was all the damage. 2-1 San Diego

The next few innings were utterly quiet and uneventful, as Musgrove cruised through the third, fourth and fifth sitting down the Diamondbacks in order. Davies, meanwhile, faced the minimum in the fourth and fifth, despite a leadoff walk to Austin Nola to start the fourth, and exited with a respectable line of 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 2 K, with 75 pitches thrown. Joe Mantiply came on in relief and pitched around a two-out Eric Hosmer single to record his second clean inning of this young season, which was nice to see. No loaves have yet been Mantiplied this season.

The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, managed to tie up the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, once again thanks to the new and improved swing of David Peralta:

Nothing doing besides that, but at least we’d evened it up. 2-2 TIE

Noe Ramirez took the mound for us in the seventh, and despite surrendering a leadoff double to Padres right fielder Wil Myers, managed to record a couple of strikeouts sandwiching a groundout to put up another zero for us. We sat down quietly in the bottom half, though, despite Perdomo drawing a two-out walk, which brings us to the top of the eighth, and the inspiration for this recap’s title.

Top of the eighth: enter Ian P. Kennedy, who was once upon a time an Opening Day starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dude is 37 now, and no longer capable of starting, but he kind of reinvented himself the last couple of years as a closer-ish reliever for the Kansas City Royals and then the Texas Rangers. He wound up a free agent at the end of 2021, and we wound up signing him to a contract that actually pays him seven-figure money sometime in the last few weeks. He pitched kinda terribly during his spring training outings, but lots of veteran relievers do, because those games mean nothing, so no worries, right?

Manny Machado greeted Kennedy to lead off the inning and singled to right to start things off. He promptly stole second, and then advanced to third on a Kennedy curve ball that was spiked into the dirt for a wild pitch. Jake Cronenworth then lined out to Varsho in center, allowing Machado to tag and score. Kennedy then walked Luke Voit, who advanced to third on Eric Hosmer’s second single of the night, this one right through the infield off Marte’s glove, after which it dribbled into shallow center. Austin Nola then hit a fly ball to deepish right that allowed Voit to tag and score. Kennedy recorded the final out, thankfully, but, well, the broader results speak for themselves. 4-2 San Diego

We, meanwhile, were into the San Diego bullpen at this point, but the San Diego bullpen is much less problematic than ours, so we could do nothing in the bottom of the eighth, despite a one-out Varsho walk. The sad trombones were already starting to play, albeit in a relatively minor key. Then our other 37-year-old real cash money free agent back-of-the-bullpen acquisition, Mark Melancon, came in to pitch the top of the ninth.

Like IPK, Melancon had not performed well over his handful of spring training appearances. Like IPK, he did not perform well tonight, though in fairness, he was coming in as a reliever in what was very much a non-save situation, and closers (“closers”?) tend to perform more dismally in those circumstances. Anyway. He promptly surrendered a single to CJ Abrams, the highly touted Padres rookie SS, granting the kid his first hit in the big leagues. One passed ball later, Abrams was on second, and after a groundout and a single to a Padres sub whose name I didn’t bother to write down, Abrams also got to cross the plate for the first time in his big league career. That was all the damage, but it got us to our final score, as our boys sat down in order in the bottom of the ninth. 5-2 San Diego.

Seriously, though, these two dudes, Kennedy and Melancon, were signed to fix our closer problems, and these two dudes lost the game for us. True, it appears that David Peralta was the only position player who really remembered to bring his bat to work today, but Davies did his job and the team as a whole did its job, and our two relatively highly-paid offseason bullpen acquisitions failed to do their jobs, and here we are, in what seems like a place we’ve been before. SIGH.

Win Probability Added, courtesy of Fangraphs

chart

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville: David Peralta (4 AB, 2H, 1 R, 1 HR, +28% WPA)

Johannes Gutenberg: Zach Davies (5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 2 K, 75 pitches ,+8.7 WPA)

The Idiot Who Conceived of the Smartphone: Ian Kennedy (1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, -34% WPA)

It was a lovely and well-attended Gameday thread tonight, with 285 comments overall. Sadly, the new Vox Media comments thang broke the SBN Roll Call, so I can’t enumerate who all was present and accounted for, but “improvements” in technology always make things better, right? Anyway. Four comments went Sedona Red, but two of them were mine and only one of the remaining two was actually baseball-related and game-relevant, so tonight’s CotG goes to the always deserving Jack Sommers, who aptly and somewhat archly put the Freight Train’s exemplary performance tonight into broader context:

cotg

So we lost the chance at a series win this evening, but we still have a chance to salvage a split manana. Come by tomorrow to see if we can achieve that, as Caleb Smith faces off against Blake Snell in a battle of southpaws for the concluding game of the opening series. First pitch is 1:10pm, AZ time. I hope you can join us.

As always, thanks for reading. And as always, go D-Backs!

EDIT: The post-game interviews with Zach Davies and Torey Lovullo. It’s cool we have access to this stuff. Give a listen, should you feel so inclined.

Torey Lovullo postgame audio:

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/23379621/Chase_Field_85.mp3

Zach Davies postgame audio:

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/23379622/Chase_Field_86.mp3