With 90 or so games left in the season, the Diamondbacks are playing for pride. And doing so pretty terribly.
Looking to get some revenge after Brewers starter Kyle Lohse hit Chris Owings in the helmet with a pitch in the sixth, Diamondbacks reliever Evan Marshall decided to throw at Ryan Braun with runners on second and third and one out in a 4-3 game in the seventh. He missed Braun the first time, throwing behind him. Instead of tossing Marshall for the clearly intentional pitch, umpire Ted Barrett merely issued warnings, giving Marshall another shot. The second time, Marshall hit Braun right in the butt with a 95-mph fastball, getting himself ejected and loading the bases. He also got high fives from the bloodthirsty Diamondbacks dugout, with manager Kirk Gibson being the very first to greet him.
What happened next was poetic justice. Jonathan Lucroy hit his second homer of the game off Brad Ziegler, a grand slam that gave the Brewers a 7-4 lead in a game they ended up winning 7-5.
The Diamondbacks’ response was a result of two pitches in the sixth. Lohse hit Didi Gregorius with a slider in the first, but the ball barely touched his knee. In the sixth, an 88-mph fastball got away from Lohse, hitting Owings in the helmet. Lohse immediately reacted by bending over and looking a little shaken himself. Lohse has very good command, of course, but it’s still hard to imagine the pitch was intentional, and Owings was fine, staying on his feet the whole time and remaining in the game. What happened afterwards may have been the bigger issue for the Diamondbacks: Lohse threw a curveball over opposing starter Mike Bolsinger’s head while the pitcher was trying to sacrifice. In that situation, Lohse was clearly trying to throw a high curve, preferably a bit outside, but he wasn’t trying to hit the pitcher in a close game, nor was he trying to send a message: he was just trying to throw a tough pitch to bunt and get an out.
The Diamondbacks, as it turned out, were less concerned with getting outs. Throwing at Braun to bring up the Brewers’ hottest hitter in a bases-loaded situation was asking for bad news. This is the second game of a four-game series; if Gibson and the Diamondbacks really needed to settle the score with the Brewers, they had plenty of time left to do it and not throw away a game in the process. But it seems proving the team’s grit and toughness matters more than wins and losses right now.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.