By Mark Carlisle
The Diamondbacks threw everything they had at the Padres in their 16-inning game Sunday, but came up short, falling to the Padres 4-3.
D-backs catcher Jeff Mathis took the mound in the 16th and was nearly out of the inning when Padres slugger Wil Myers hit an opposite-field solo homer to break a 3-3 that last 10 innings.
“It’s a long way to go and not win a game, but our guys grinded and fought and did everything they possibly could,” said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo.
The D-backs look like they might tie it up again when Ketel Marte led off the bottom of the 16th with a double, but the next three D-backs were retired in order to strand the tying run on base.
The Snakes knew they might have to get creative when they put in their last reliever in the 11th inning. The Padres still had five unused arms in the bullpen at that point.
T.J. McFarland, who has experience both starting and pitching long relief but had thrown an inning the day before, gave the D-backs four scoreless innings. Starting pitcher Zack Godley then made an unplanned relief appearance after throwing six innings in a win Friday and pitched a scoreless 15th before handing it over to Mathis, who after retiring the first two batters, finally conceded a run on the homer to Myers.
Myers’ slugged three homers in Saturday, but it was not nearly enough in a 20-5 shellacking at the hands of the D-backs. However, his first hit in his eighth plate appearance Sunday was enough to give San Diego the win and split the four-game series.
MLB.com’s pitch tracker said the home-run pitch, which was high and outside, was a slider. Mathis corrected the record.
“It probably looked like a slider, but I didn’t throw one slider today. Just didn’t get the ball down,” he said.
Mathis said he threw mostly fastballs and mixed in some sliders. He was clocked as low as 76 mph and his fastest pitch, at 87 mph, was the home run.
Saturday night, the D-backs scored a team record 20 runs in a win over San Diego. But the Snakes couldn’t find a fourth run Sunday after scoring three in the first four innings.
By innings, the 16-inning marathon was the D-backs’ longest game this season, but it wasn’t the longest by time. Sunday’s five-hour and 31-minute contest fell short of the D-backs’ 8-7, 15-inning win April 2, which lasted five hours and 46 minutes — the longest game in Chase Field’s 21-year history.
Zack Greinke started the game but exited after 4 1/3 innings, ending a four-start win streak and putting more burden on the D-backs bullpen, which had no idea how much it would be leaned on Sunday. Greinke allowed two earned runs.
Clayton Richard started for the Padres and allowed three earned runs. He didn’t last much longer than Greinke, exiting after five innings.
Jose Pirela, who pinch hit for Richard in the sixth, hit an RBI single which sent the game into its 3-3 deadlock.
Godley’s unexpected outing came on the same day as his usual bullpen session between starts. Lovullo said he’s still on track to make his next start as scheduled.
Godley wasn’t the only starter ready to pitch in on the team effort. Lovullo said all of the starting pitchers put on cleats and started stretching, but three were not needed. The D-backs used 22 players in the game, tying a team record.
The D-backs did get some good news Sunday. Paul Goldschmidt, who went 3 for 6 with a double Sunday, and Patrick Corbin, one of three starting pitchers who didn’t play, were both named All-Stars. It’s Goldschmidt’s sixth straight selection and Corbin’s first since 2013, before his Tommy John surgery.
The Padres lone All-Star, closer Brad Hand, threw two scoreless innings in the 15th and 16th and earned the win.
Mathis, who earned the loss, did record his first career strikeout. He’d pitched in two games with the Blue Jays in 2012 when Toronto was trailing by double digits. Lovullo was the first base coach on that team.
After a “well-needed” day off, as Lovullo put it, on Monday, the D-backs will travel to Denver to start a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies Tuesday.
The D-backs kept pace with the Dodgers, who also lost Sunday, and remain one game ahead of LA in first. The Rockies are tied with the San Francisco Giants in third, four and a half games behind Arizona.
Goldschmidt wasn’t on track to land anywhere near the All-Star Game, especially in a crowded field at first base, in late May when his average dipped below .200. He hit .144 in the month, but has hit .381 since, earning the NL Player of the Month award for June and also a Player of the Week award.
Goldschmidt said that earlier in the year, he didn’t see himself making the NL roster.
“It’s been crazy for me individually to go from the worst month of my career and then come and have the best week of my career and then the best month and I think, you know, going to the All-Star Game for me was pretty much not an option, which is fine. There’s a lot of good players…but for it to happen for me it’s pretty incredible, something I didn’t expect at all,” he said.
Corbin was a first-time All-Star alongside Goldschmidt in 2013, Corbin’s second season. However, the lefty needed Tommy John surgery before the next season and missed all of 2014 and some of 2015.
“The journey I’ve gone through, being out for a year and half and being able to come back and get back to myself, it’s special,” Corbin said. “So, I’ll remember that, and I’m excited.”
This season, Corbin boasts a 3.05 ERA, 140 strikeouts in 112 innings and a one-hitter.
Greinke and D-backs setup man Archie Bradley also had a shot an All-Star selection but were left off the roster. Both would be candidates to be added if another pitcher needed to be replaced.
WHAT WAS PLAN Z?
Had the D-backs tied it and sent the game into the 17th Lovullo said he was considering sending Mathis out for another inning, but also had a plan for his next pitcher.
“I was going to do the old high school flip-flop. Alex Avila was going to pitch,” Lovullo said. The plan was to put Mathis back at catcher and send Avila, who entered the game to catch in Mathis’ stead in the 16th, to the mound to pitch.
Lovullo also considered pitching Mathis in the 15-inning win over the Dodgers in April. The plan was to send Mathis to the mound in the 16th, but the catcher instead used his bat to end the game with a walk-off single in the 15th.
Daniel Descalso is the team’s usual emergency pitcher, Lovullo said, but he had already pinch hit and exited the game earlier Sunday and was ineligible to return. The same happened during the 15-inning game in April.
Every D-back position player offered to pitch, Lovullo said. Nick Ahmed, who pitched four scoreless outings in college for Connecticut, Lovullo thought would have been most effective, but he was afraid of risking the shortstop’s health.
“Typically, when someone who’s pitched before goes on the mound, they ask their body to do a little too much and they wind up sore or banged up,” Lovullo said. “The catchers know the distance. They practice that distance. They’re throwing the ball back 125 times a game.”
The coaching staff also considered sending Godley out for a second inning, but also erred on the side of health.
“There’s no way I was going to put any health concerns ahead of winning this game,” Lovullo said.