April 4, 2013
What You Need to Know
The Wednesday Takeaway
The scoring began with a first-inning solo home run by Gerardo Parra and ended with a walk-off single by Cliff Pennington. The Cardinals led on three occasions, including a 4-1 advantage in the third, a 7-5 edge in the sixth, an 8-7 margin in the eighth, and a 9-8 lead in the 12th. Each time, the Diamondbacks—who countered with a four-spot in the fifth, two runs in the sixth, and one each in the eighth and 12th—crawled back, forcing both managers to empty their bullpens, until only Heath Bell remained in Arizona’s. Along the way, the staffs combined to throw 513 pitches, of which relievers delivered 346.
For the first dozen innings, Parra—who finished 3-for-7 and a double shy of the year’s first cycle—seemed destined to be the hero if the Diamondbacks were to prevail. In addition to going deep in the opening frame, the center fielder sparked Arizona’s fifth-inning comeback with a leadoff triple and catalyzed its eighth-inning rally with an infield single. In the 12th inning, Parra’s sacrifice bunt advanced Pennington, who began that frame with a single, and Eric Chavez, who was hit by a Mitchell Boggs pitch and later left the game, to second and third, before Martin Prado’s sacrifice fly squared the run totals at nine apiece.
Parra’s contributions in the rubber match came on the heels of his 5-for-9 effort in the first two games of the series, putting his batting average through the opening set at an even .500. And although he failed to produce a double in extra innings to complete the cycle, he already had three two-baggers to his credit entering Wednesday’s game, so five of his eight hits to date have gone for extra bases. Not bad for a player whose role, only weeks ago, was uncertain and diminishing.
A 3.4 WARP player in 2011, thanks in large part to his defensive acumen, Parra was less valuable in 2012, but he still compiled a .276/.345/.430 triple-slash line during the first half, before sliding into a .269/.323/.345 slump after the All-Star break. The 25-year-old, who was ranked by Kevin Goldstein as the third-best prospect in Arizona’s farm system ahead of his 2009 debut, was mentioned in trade rumors at the outset of the offseason, before general manager Kevin Towers exported Chris Young and Justin Upton. Unfortunately, the emergence of Adam Eaton and Towers’ decision to add free agent Cody Ross while retaining Jason Kubel threatened Parra’s opportunity to regain the starting role he ceded last year.
Then, a spate of spring injuries revived it. Ross went down with a calf strain. Eaton suffered a more serious elbow ailment. And utility man Willie Bloomquist was placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique.
As those players make their way back in the coming days, weeks, and—in Eaton’s case—potentially months, manager Kirk Gibson will have a plethora of pieces to arrange. If Parra continues to pave the way for the Diamondbacks’ offense, this time, he won’t be the one pushed aside.
Matchup of the Day
When Zimmermann has hit his spots, Stanton has seemed helpless. In their meeting on May 6, 2011, Zimmermann used the same sequence—slider away, slider away, fastball in—to coax a three-pitch strikeout and a double-play ball out of the 23-year-old slugger, whose discipline remains a work in progress. Since Stanton is one of the few legitimate threats (if not the only legitimate threat) in manager Mike Redmond’s order, Zimmermann would do well to test his patience and minimize the risk of making another costly location mistake.
The Nationals blanked the Marlins in each of the first two games of the three-game set, winning 2-0 behind Stephen Strasburg and 3-0 behind Gio Gonzalez. If Zimmermann is to maintain the shutout streak, now at 18 innings and counting, he’ll need to keep Stanton—who has gone 1-for-7 with a double and three strikeouts—at bay.
What to Watch for on Thursday