8:10 PM EST – Money Line: Nationals -121, Run Line: 10.5
A potential Playoff Preview is on tap tonight from the Desert, as the Arizona Diamondbacks host the Washington Nationals in the entry of a three-game set from Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. If the first game of this series was any indication, then we could be in for quite the show, as the NL East-leading Nationals (57-38, 1st in NL East) came up on short in a thrilling 6-5 defeat. Typically, sending Cy Young frontrunner Max Sherzer (11-5, 2.01 ERA) to the bump is cause for confidence, but the five-time All-Star was uncharacteristically shaky in the early stages of Friday Night’s affair, serving up a home run to each of the first three batters that he faced. It was the first time in franchise history (which admittedly isn’t very long) that Washington yielded back-to-back-back shots in a game. For his part, Sherzer settled down after the four-run First Inning, permitting just one more run over the following four frames, ending his day with nine strikeouts in comparison to a pair of walks. Upon his exit, Dusty Baker would see his charges finally wake up at the plate, scoring five runs between the Fourth and Eighth to tie the game entering the bottom of the Ninth; Daniel Murphy (.342 BA, 16 HR, 72 RBI) got things started with a Double driving home Bryce Harper (.337 BA, 24 HR, 73 RBI), followed by a Brian Goodwin (.231 BA, 8 HR, 22 RBI) sacrifice groundout brining home Matt Wieters (.250 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBI), succeeded immediately by a Ryan Rayburn (.266 BA, 2 HR, 6 RBI) Single that sored Wilmer Difo (.250 BA, 1 HR, 10 RBI). The Shortstop drove home each of his team’s final two runs in the Sixth and Eighth, as the visiting side completed the comeback. With that said, their effort would ultimately prove unsuccessful, as Reliever Enny Romero (2-4, 3.77 ERA) loaded the bases before giving away the go-ahead Single to end the contest. Taking the mound tonight for Baker and Co. is Tanner Roark (7-6, 4.98 ERA), wo will be looking to create some momentum for himself after earning his first victory in seven attempts. Last Sunday’s 14-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds was a bit of a mixed bag for the 30-year old, who lasted a full six innings for just the third time in his last seven starts; five out of his six frames were scoreless, with the exception of a rough third stanza in which the Righthander yielded three runs, though none of them were charged to him, with one scoring on an error. Apart from that, Roark permitted three runs on four hits, with five strikeouts in comparison to three walks. It was a solid sign for a Rotation that is very much top-heavy with the likes of aforementioned Sherzer and Stephen Strasburg (10-3, 3.31 ERA) leading the way, but could still use some quality depth on the backside. The fifth-year veteran has struggled with command this campaign, averaging 3.3 Walks per Nine Innings, while logging an unimpressive 2.18 K/BB Ratio, which ranks last among the Nationals’ Starters. This represents a pretty steep decline for a guy who just last term went 16-10 with an ERA of 2.83, and a WHIP of 1.171. Perhaps facing the Diamondbacks will light the proverbial fuse, for Roark has experienced some success against tonight’s opponent throughout his young career; in six appearances against Arizona (three starts) he has compiled a 1-1 record with a sound 3.32 ERA allowing eight runs on twenty hits over the course of 21.2 innings of labor, with eighteen strikeouts and eight walks. However, he has been prone to giving up the long ball, getting tagged for a quartet of home runs in those instances, which again, has been an issue this season, having yielded thirteen homers already and 1.1 per Nine Innings.
Meanwhile, with their victory over the Nationals last night, the Diamondbacks (56-40, 2nd in NL West) have now jumped the Colorado Rockies in the highly-competitive NL West for the first Wild Card. Torrey Lovullo’s charges had struggled of late, losing twelve out of seventeen contests before last night’s affair with the Nats. However, things couldn’t have gotten off to a smoldering start Friday, as the hosts began the game by pelting three consecutive home runs off of Max Scherzer, becoming the first team to do so off the same pitcher since the Orioles did it back in 2012. David Peralta (.325 BA, 10 HR, 32 RBI), AJ Pollock (.294 BA, 4 HR, 14 RBI), Jake Lamb (.278 BA, 23 HR, 78 RBI) went one, two, three in the First Inning, as the Diamondbacks scored four runs in the opening stanza, before adding one more to take an early 5-0 lead in the Second. However, Washington would come back strong, rallying to tie the game five runs apiece in the Eighth, setting up a decisive Ninth where the home side would flash some dramatic walk-off magic. Pollock struck again with a Triple off of Romero, who immediately placed both Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt (.310 BA, 21 HR, 72 RBI) on base intentionally before getting Gregor Blanco to fly out. stepping to the plate next was Brandon’s Drury (.278 BA, 8 HR, 42 RBI), who calmly ended the night with a walk-off Single to Leftfield, bringing home Pollock for the victory. Taking the mound tonight for Lovullo and Co. is Zack Godley (3-4, 3.09 ERA), who after bringing the Diamondbacks good fortune for much of the first half of the campaign, has struggled of late, going winless in each of his last three outings. One of the many young, quality arms on the Pitching Staff, the 27-year old has performed well in his first full season as a Starter, logging the top WHIP (0.991) amongst his teammates in the Rotation, along with a solid Strikeout per Nine Innings (8.8) and K/BB Ratio (3.36). With that said, he was banged around in his last appearance, a 7-1 loss at woeful Atlanta; the young Righthander was tagged for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, including a pair of home runs in six innings of work. He did however, manage to strike out a career-high nine Braves, while walking just one before being pulled heading into the Seventh frame. With fellow Starter Taijuan Walker (6-4, 3.61 ERA) on the 40-Day Disabled List, Arizona explored adding to their Staff, with Free Agent Doug Fister being the most prominent name associated with their efforts, though the team recently ended those talks, which may be a sign in their faith in Godley.