The Arizona Diamondbacks got a very respectable performance from Ian Kennedy on Thursday night in the nation’s capital, but Bryce Harper’s 6th inning RBI double gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory in the rubber match of the three-game set between the squads. Kennedy gave up two runs over seven innings of work, but he was bested by Ross Detwiler, who pitched six and a third innings of one run ball. Aaron Hill drove in the lone run for the Diamondbacks, and Rick Ankiel had the other RBI for the Nationals.
Aside for the pitching performance turned in by Kennedy, there was an interesting trend that emerged in this game that hadn’t really reared itself before. One game obviously does not a trend make, but this game was a fascinating in that it directly contradicted the effort the team had made the previous two games against the Nationals.
In Tuesday’s victory, the Diamondbacks scored five runs, and only one of them was scored via an extra-base hit. This was a double by Miguel Montero, but the point was that they were doing a very good job of manufacturing runs in that one, and that cannot be overrated as the mark of a quality team that isn’t overly reliant on home runs for offense.
On Wednesday, they scored four runs, and two of them did come via extra-base hits, with a double and a home run providing some of the offense. Even still, the home run by Justin Upton was an absolute rocket line drive that wasn’t characteristic of someone trying to hit the ball out of the park, and that plate discipline may have only yielded four runs, but it was effective nonetheless.
Thursday, however, things changed. The Diamondbacks almost seemed to be trying to hit every single ball out of the park that they saw, and the result was only one run crossing the plate and 17 of their 27 outs coming via fly balls. Jayson Werth nearly tied an MLB record for most put-outs by a right fielder in a nine inning game, retiring 10 of the Arizona batters on his own. The record, set in 1982, was 11.
This kind of strategy may be an effective one generally at a park that surrendered the 9th highest total of home runs last year in baseball, but it didn’t prove to be a good method tonight. The nighttime air isn’t usually conducive to hitting the ball out of a park, as higher temperatures are usually a great aid to greater ball flight. The game time temperature at Nationals Park was 80 degrees, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the team needed to focus more on hitting the ball hard than trying to hit it out of the park.
It’s obviously impossible to see whether or not the Diamondbacks were pressing for home runs on a night when they were having difficulty scratching any runs across the plate, but it is worth keeping an eye on as the team moves forward to a series against the Mets beginning tomorrow afternoon in Flushing Meadows.
Player of the Game: Ian Kennedy
The Player of the Game honors can’t exactly be given to any of the team’s hitters for this one, simply because of the fact that no one had more than one hit in the contest. Sure, Hill drove in a run, but no one had a more direct impact on the game than Kennedy. He did coax a walk at the plate, and he was very efficient on the mound as well, only throwing 83 pitches in his seven innings of work. He only gave up four hits over that time span, and he struck out four batters while only walking one.
Granted, it was his balk that allowed the first run to score, but it was such a borderline call that it is hard to hold it against him.