Today was one of those games that makes you want to go out and buy Rogaine in bulk to fill in the bald spots you’ve suddenly developed after pulling hair out by the handfuls. On paper this looked like an easy Diamondbacks victory.
Dan Haren with is miniscule ERA was on the mound to face the team with the worst batting average in Major League Baseball. You would think this would have win written all over it. But if this season has taught me anything it has taught me that no opponent is too bad and no lead is too big that the Diamondbacks can’t find a way to lose.
For the second time during this road trip Dan Haren pitched an amazing game. He completely dominated the San Diego Padres for 7 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 5. His ERA is now an amazing 2.33. As he left the game the Diamondbacks led 6-1.
For the second time during this road trip the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen came in and blew a 5 run lead in the final 2 innings leaving Haren with yet another no decision. Dan has to be wondering what he has to do to get a win this season.
For most of the season he has gotten little or no run support from the Diamondbacks offense. Finally in the last two games he has gotten what for him was a sizeable lead only to see the bullpen blow it leaving him outside looking in.
The frustrating part with the bullpen is it isn’t the same pitchers causing the problem. It’s like they draw straws during warm-ups to see who gets to implode that day. Today it was Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls who before today had been two of the more reliable relievers this season.
With 2 outs in the ninth inning and the Padres sending up little David Eckstein the last thing anyone expected was for him to hit one out of Petco Park. The image of that ball clearing the left field fence will be with me for a very long time.
The latest implosion by the Diamondbacks bullpen is only half the story. As bad as Gutierrez and Qualls looked in the eighth and ninth inning; it was the pitching by Jon Rauch, Esmerling Vasquez, Clay Zavada, and Leo Rosales that was the real story. With the exception of Zavada all of these relievers have had their share of bad luck this season.
From the tenth inning on, the Arizona bullpen looked spectacular. In fact these four relievers combined to through 9-innings of shut-out baseball. Not just shut out but no-hit baseball. The only base runners they allowed were 3 walks by Clay Zavada in his 2.2 innings of work.
So technically; the Diamondbacks bullpen threw an equivalent of a complete game no hitter. Given the struggles this bullpen has had this year I never would have imagined the bullpen would be so dominating.
The problem was, the San Diego Padres bullpen was likewise very stingy keeping the Diamondbacks from plating a run despite giving up 5 hits and walking 4 over the same 9 inning stretch.
It somehow seemed inevitable that the game’s outcome would come down to an inning being pitched by former Arizona Diamondback back-up shortstop Josh Wilson. Wilson while with the Diamondbacks pitched an inning of a blowout game and did not allow a run. Today he was not so fortunate.
Wilson allowed 3 runs on 3 hits the biggest being a home run by Mark Reynolds who to that point was 0-6 with 4 strikeouts. The game ended 5 hours and 45 minutes after it started. Eighteen pitchers were used (8 by the Diamondbacks and 10 by the Padres). It was the longest game this year in the major leagues and was the longest game in franchise history.
I guess AJ Hinch can add another notch to his experience belt. He successfully managed an 18-inning game and even had his pitching identified through 22 innings before he would have to turn to a position player. San Diego Padres manager Bud Black wasn’t as fortunate and took a loss.
Hopefully tomorrow’s starter Jon Garland can go deep in the game. I’m not sure there is anyone left in the bullpen that can come in as relief.