Over the years, there have been several descriptions of ball parks. Many are comfortable calling Wrigley Field “the friendly confines.” Others identified the old Yankee Stadium as “the House that Ruth Built,” and radio icon Ernie Harwell simply called old Tiger Stadium, “at the corner,”
In describing Chase Field earlier this season, Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale simply called this place, “unforgiving,” and reference was to the nature of the stadium tilted in clear favor of hitters. That dimension was clearly demonstrated Friday night when the visiting Colorado Rockies slammed four home runs in the span of one inning plus three batters, and dropped the Diamondbacks, 9-0 before 23,004.
The white-wash by three Colorado pitchers, starter and winner Tyler Chatwood plus relievers Gonzalez Germen, Justin Miller and Scott Oberg, was the first shut-out sustained by the Diamondbacks this season. Last season, Arizona was shut out seven times, and the first one was an 8-0 decision to the Pirates in Chase Field on April 26.
While control issues plagued Arizona starter Robbie Ray in the past, his location against the Rockies was unforgiving. Exhibiting poor location where lethal Colorado hitters can clearly see the ball, Ray was constantly behind hitters, and he paid the price. In the fourth frame, he surrendered single bombs to Ryan Raburn and Nick Hundley. In the fifth, he gave up back-to-back round trippers. First, Trevor Story connected on a two-run homer, and that was followed by a solo blast from Nolan Arenado. Exit, Ray for the night.
“I felt good, felt strong, but my command was not there,” Ray said, and his season ERA is now at an elevated 4.97. “I left a few pitches over the plate, and they hit it.”
So far this season, Chase Field became the premier National League launching pad. The Diamondbacks lead the majors in home runs with 36, and hit .292 on the current home stand.
Much of Hale’s pre-game conversations with the media so far this season dealt with Chase Field as a significant offensive arena. While Hale says, upon more than one occasion, it’s location by pitchers which remains the catalyst for a surge in numbers, the lack of wind and other physical conditions clearly play into hitters’ hands.
Yet, his proverbial response is pitchers have to make good pitchers. Because Chase Field is so unyielding and so strong a reputation as one of the top hitters’ parks in the majors, Hale emphasizes it is imperative for pitchers to keep the ball down. On Friday, Ray was the antithesis of that direction.
“He threw so many pitches, and that was his problem last season,” Hale said of Ray, who tossed 89 pitches in four innings plus three batters. “As a result, he was not locating his pitches low, and (the Rockies) like to swing the bat in this ball park.”
As far as the Diamondbacks offense in this one, there was not much. Still scoreless in the third, their biggest chance to break on top was a lead-off double by Chris Owings. However, he was wiped out at third when Ray grounded to Chatwood, and the pitcher’s throw to third beat Owings.
Down 2-0 in the fourth, Paul Goldschmidt led off with a walk and moved to second on single from David Peralta. Then, Yasmany Tomas grounded into double play and Welington Castillo struck out to end the inning. From that point, the Diamondbacks managed only four isolated base runners over the final five innings.
WHAT’S THE STORY
Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story clearly remembers his initial major league home runs. On April 4 in Chase Field and against Zack Grienke, the 23-year-old out of Irving, Tex. slammed a pair of home runs, and Story’s four round-trippers in his first four games to start a season tied a mark held by Chris Davis (2013), Nelson Cruz (2011), Mark McGuire (1998), and Willie Mays (1971).
During Friday night’s game with the Diamondbacks in Chase Field, Story slammed his 10th of the season in the fifth, and his 10 homers in April broke a record he held with Albert Pujols (2001) in the National League for most home runs in this month. Story is also the first player in history to hit home runs in each of his first four major league games, and the first player in history to hit seven homers over his first six major league games.
“He’s now on the radar screen of many pitchers,” sad Rockies’ manager Walt Weiss before Friday’s game with the Diamondbacks in Chase Field. “He’s putting together competitive at-bats, but he will not continue to this pace.”
Prior to the 2016 season, Story reached as high as AAA Albuquerque, and appeared in 61 games with a .277 batting average and four home runs. When Jose Reyes was placed on administrative leave following domestic dispute with this wife near the end of spring training, Story won the shortstop job.
After Story slammed his 10th of the season Friday night, he tied a major league mark. Story now joins George Scott as the fastest player in major league history to reach 10 home runs at the start of the season. Story did this through his first 21 games in the majors.
The Rockies series continues Saturday at 5:10 p.m. Zack Grienke (2-2, 6.16 ERA) makes his second start this season against Colorado, and opposes lefty Chris Rusin (1-0,2.45). In the series finale Sunday at 1:10 p.m., Shelby Miller (0-2, 6.58) gets the start for Arizona, and the Rox go with righty Chad Bettis (2-1, 3.77).