Arizona Diamondbacks – walk-off win survives bullpen meltdown
By Mark Brown
With a fourth inning strikeout, Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks recorded his 2,000th career strike out
If there was ever a low point in this season, perhaps in recent memory, for the Arizona Diamondbacks, mark Wednesday August 24, 2016 on your history calendar.
This was the day which a significant weakness was duly exposed. The bullpen has been a source of contention all season, and on Wednesday, the meltdown seemed complete. Unable to hold a five run in the eighth, the bullpen surrendered a single run in the eight. Then, Enrique Burgos self-imploded and served as the principal catalyst for a four-run ninth from the visiting Atlanta Braves. That tied the score, but Brandan Drury’s sacrifice fly in the 11th scored Jake Lamb with the winning run in a 10-9 victory over Atlanta before 15,376 in Chase Field.
With Drury’s game-winning RBI, the Arizona Diamondbacks are now 5-4 this season in walk-off games. The victory was the fifth win by the Arizona Diamondbacks in six games against Atlanta.
Though a win usually soothes the soul, this one was difficult to handle. Just when manager Chip Hale and other decision-makers were ready to anoint Burgos as the closer of the future, his last few outings were experiences in self-destruction.
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With that four run lead in the ninth, Burgos allowed a lead-off homer to Adonis Garcia and then walked the next two hitters. After giving a run-producing single to Nick Markakis, Hale pulled the plug and sent Burgos to the showers. Facing those four hitters and retiring none, Burgos raised his season ERA to 4.45. That nearly equals the 4.44 ERA of Jake Barrett, considered the set-up reliever of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Burgos has to be do better, the whole bullpen has to do better,” Hale said after the game. “Maybe we’ll move Barrett and Burgos into less pressure situation and let them try and get their confidence back.”
If that happens, then Daniel Hudson could move into a closing role and lefties Steve Hathaway and Edwin Escobar could assume the set-up role. The latter scenario is not likely because Hale likes to use Escobar and Hathaway for only a few hitters at a time and in certain situations.
Though not strong, starter Zack Grienke gutted out six innings in this one, and left with a 6-4 lead. When he struck out Freddie Freeman to lead-off the fourth, Greinke recorded his 2,000th career strike out, and became the 78th pitcher in the history of the game to reach that mark.
Otherwise, this was not vintage Greinke. Laboring through a relatively high pitch count, Greinke finished six innings and walked away with a no-decision. Despite a four-run lead going into the sixth, Greinke made things interesting. He allowed three hits, two runs in the frame and came away dissatisfied.
“The strike out on Freeman was a pretty good pitch, but I didn’t make any good ones after that,” Greinke said. “Made bad pitches most of the game, and not the normal ones I throw.”
Cruising into the ninth with that four-run lead, the offense was powered by home runs from Jean Segura, Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt, and a three-RBI night from Welington Castillo. The 18 hits in this one tied a season high, and the five wins over the Braves this season is the most since 2006 against Atlanta.
In this game, the Arizona Diamondbacks hit two triples, both by Michael Bourn, and that set a franchise record for most triples (50) in a season. That broke the mark of 48 that was set last season. Since 1998, the only other team to record 48 or more triples in a back-to-back seasons was the 2009 (50) and 2010 Colorado Rockies (54).
With two steals in this game, the Arizona Diamondbacks swiped 32 bases in August, and that set a team mark for most steals during one month. Previously, they stole 30 bases in May, 1999.
The Braves’ series includes Thursday night. That’s when lefty Robbie Ray (7-12, 4.31) goes the Diamondbacks. The Braves starter is to be determined.
Next: weighing the Miller trade
Then, the Cincinnati Reds come in for a three-game, weekend set.