Arizona Bullpen Snake-Bitten

The Narrative: Three homers from right-handers off Zach Greinke wasn’t enough to power the Arizona Diamondbacks past the Milwaukee Brewers, thanks in particular to an error-driven bullpen meltdown in the bottom of the sixth. Now the Snakes get on a plane back home needing three wins to save their season.

Milwaukee jumped out to a quick lead on a two-run shot from Ryan Braun in the first inning, and added two more in the third thanks to RBIs from Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, making it 4-1– Arizona’s run coming on a Paul Goldschmidt solo shot. But the Diamondbacks clawed back, thanks to towering blasts from Justin Upton and Chris Young.

For a couple innings the game had all the makings of a tense battle, until the wheels came off for the Diamondbacks in the sixth, when reliever Brad Ziegler entered the game.

Anatomy of the Floodgates Opening

With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning of a tie game Jerry Hairston hit a double that ended Daniel Hudson’s night after just 93 pitches. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson turned to right-hander Brad Ziegler out of the bullpen, and must have immediately had regrets.

In the midst of walking the atrocious Yuniesky Betancourt and his 2.7% walk rate on four straight pitches, Zeigler balked Hairston over to third. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy stepped to the plate and bunted back to the mound. Ziegler fielded the squeeze and attempted to throw Hairston out at the plate, throwing the ball away in the process. Hairston scored, Betancourt moved to second, and Lucroy found himself on third.

After pinch hitter Mark Kotsay was intentionally walked, it was back to the top of the order for Milwaukee, and the Brewers delivered. Three straight singles from Corey Hart, Nyjer “Tony Plush” Morgan and Ryan Braun made the score 9-4, ending Ziegler’s night and essentially the game.

Ziegler and his disaster of a performance could easily fit under the next two headings as well, but I’ll spare you the redundancy.

The Most Important Play of the Game

The obvious choice here would be the botched bunt mentioned above, but the game could have unfolded a whole lot differently had Diamondbacks third baseman Ryan Roberts not been picked off of second base by Greinke in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, Chris Young absolutely crushed a ball into the left field stands, making the score 4-2 Milwaukee. The next batter, Roberts, hit a hard grounder into the hole at short that Yuniesky Betancourt barely could get to. The shortstop spun and threw as hard as he could, sailing a ball past Prince Fielder, which allowed Roberts to take second. The Diamondbacks threat, however, quickly unraveled when Greinke caught Roberts flat-footed and too far off second base, stepping off the rubber and tossing to Rickie Weeks, starting a rundown that led to the inning’s second out. One pitch later and Gerardo Parra had struck out swinging, stopping a potentially big inning in its tracks.

The Biggest Disappointment of the Game

Miguel Montero was a 4 win catcher who got on base 35% of the time in 2011, but he was a black hole in the middle of the Diamondbacks’ order this evening, with a pointless two-out ninth inning walk being the only bright spot in his 0-for-4, two strikeout outing.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Ray Romano’s dog on Everybody Loves Raymond Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

He managed only one hit in five plate appearances, but Justin Upton’s game-tying two-run homer in the fifth inning was so vital to Arizona’s cause that his WPA exceeded three-for-four teammate Chris Young’s.

The Aggravating Thing Managers Did

Daniel Hudson didn’t look great tonight, and Ziegler has had a nice season, but since we have the privilege of hindsight here, clearly pulling his young left-hander after just 93 pitches for a reliever who single-handedly reduced the club’s chances of winning by 37.5% is one Kirk Gibson would like to have back.

In the non-hindsight division, how about “lead-off hitter Willie Bloomquist”? I think I just puked in my mouth a little.

Carefully Selected Quote Cliche of the Game

From Baseball Prospectus, tonight I’ll give Brad Ziegler a break and pick out some nice cliches for him:

My job is to go out there and get outs. I kind of got away from my game, I guess. It’s not frustrating, I just have to get better.

Stray Observations of the Game

Isn’t that adorable! The Brewers make some kind of an action with their hands whenever they get a hit. Never seen a thing like that before. So original!

The announcers for this one talked about Kirk Gibson’s gamble paying off when right-hander Paul Goldschmidt led off the second inning with a homer. Seriously? Expecting Lyle Overbay to not be absolutely terrible isn’t a gamble now?

Is the National League really this bad, or has Aaron Hill magically figured something out since arriving in the desert? I don’t get it, because to my eyes he looks the same, his swing looks the same, it’s just the results that don’t. What could possibly have sparked such a turnaround? The mind boggles.