Diamondbacks Play Long Ball, Defeat Pirates

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Diamondbacks 4, Pirates 2

PHOENIX, July 19 — Caleb Smith scattered six hits across 6 2/3 innings while the Arizona Diamondbacks smashed three home runs to nip the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4–2, Monday evening.

Caleb Smith pitched himself out of a jam in the top of the second. One-out singles by catcher Jacob Stallings and second baseman Wilmer Difo preceded a walk by right fielder Phillip Evans. That loaded the bases for pitcher Chase De Jong — who struck out — and shortstop Kevin Newman, who ended the half-inning with a grounder to short.

Diamondbacks Take Lead over Pirates

The Diamondbacks took the lead in the bottom of the second. With one out, center fielder Pavin Smith and second baseman Josh VanMeter launched back-to-back no-doubt home runs into the right field bleachers to give the home nine a 2–0 lead. They could have scored more, however. Catcher Bryan Holaday followed with a double to the left-field corner. After Caleb Smith struck out, shortstop Josh Rojas walked. Right fielder Kole Calhoun could not capitalize, as he flied to the warning track in left to end the inning.

A leadoff triple in the bottom of the third went for naught. It came off the bat of All-Star third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who smacked a towering fly off the face of the home run porch in right-center. First baseman Christian Walker bounced to third for the first out before left fielder David Peralta smoked a comebacker. It went off the calf of DeJong and trickled toward the first-base line. DeJong scooped it up, whiffed on the tag, and threw to first. John Nogowski tagged Peralta on the elbow less than a step before he hit the bag, making the second out. A Pavin Smith strikeout ended the inning.

More scoring came in the fifth. It began with a one-out walk by Calhoun, who scored when Escobar followed with a home run. Two batters later, Peralta hit a one-out triple off the fence in right-center. A called strikeout by Pavin Smith followed, ending the inning with the Diamondbacks holding a 4–0 lead.

Dugout Drama

Caleb Smith continued mowing through the Pirates lineup but got into another jam in the seventh. Two singles followed a leadoff strikeout. That brought up shortstop Kevin Newman, who hit a chopper to third. Escobar stepped on the bag and threw off-balance to first but pulled Walker off the bag, preventing the double play.

Out came manager Torey Lovullo to give him the hook. As Lovullo started out of the dugout, Smith pointed at him and yelled. Lovullo paused before continuing to the mound to take the ball from Smith. Smith turned his back as his skipper arrived, turned around long enough to hand him the ball before quietly heading to the dugout. In came Brett de Geus, who promptly coughed up two consecutive RBI singles. Smith, livid, slammed a water bottle to the floor of the dugout after the first one. After the second, he headed into the tunnel for a moment before returning to the dugout railing. Meanwhile, de Geus walked the third batter he faced, loading the bases. In came Joe Mantiply to face pinch-hitter Adam Frazier in a lefty-lefty matchup. Mantiply struck the All-Star out, ending the frame with the bases juiced.

Finishing It Off

Chasen Shreve faced four hitters in a scoreless bottom of the seventh, with a two-out double by Peralta as the only blemish. Noe Ramirez pitched a 1-2-3 top of the eighth. After Kyle Keller pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Joakim Soria took the hill, trying for his second save in as many games. Jared Oliva led off with a single before Newman fanned. Hayes singled, advancing Oliva to second. Reynolds smoked a liner, but it went directly to Calhoun in right, bringing up pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco as the last hope for the Pirates. He struck out, ending the 4–2 Diamondbacks victory.

Fantastic Job

Caleb Smith did a “fantastic, fantastic job,” according to Lovullo. “It was a great mixture of pitches — quick, early outs.” He was throwing a “quality changeup, swing and miss, in and out of the zone.” About the outburst on the mound, Lovullo said, “I don’t think any pitcher in that situation wants to come out of that game.” He added that he has no problem with pitchers showing emotion when being pulled from a game, saying, “I know that (pitchers) are in the moment and never want to come out of the game.”

Caleb Smith said about his performance, “I thought I threw the ball well. Me and Bryan Holaday went in with a game plan, and we executed the game plan. We stuck with it. The defense played great behind us. We scored runs — got ahead early. It was nice.”

Three Check Marks

This start was a bounce-back for Smith. In his last start, the Dodgers scored nine runs off him, and he left the game with nobody out in the second. “I had a lot of time in-between my outings to think about that last one,” Smith said. “People tell you to forget about it, but I’m the type of person that doesn’t forget. I let it burn inside and fuel me to do better, because that’s embarrassing. Nobody wants to go out there and give it up like that…. I just go to the fire and let it drive me.”

This start was also a longevity milestone for him. For the first time since July 29, 2019, he lasted into or beyond the seventh inning in a start. “That was huge. I haven’t been able to make it into the seventh inning in a long time, so it was nice to be able to do that. If I start something, I like to finish it. Every time I step on the mound, I want to go nine innings. That’s my goal. I haven’t achieved that goal yet, but I’m hoping to achieve it pretty soon.”

As a side note, Smith also stole a base in the fifth inning. This made him the first Diamondbacks pitcher to do so since May 15, 2019, when Zack Greinke did so against these same Pirates. Smith said after the game that the last time he stole a base in a competitive game was high school.

Passionate Emotions

About Smith’s reactions in the dugout, Lovullo said he was “not really” okay with it. “We ask our guys to be situationally aware (and) know that the camera is on them. I know that he’s frustrated. He had to sit there and watch a couple of his earned runs cross home plate, and he wasn’t even on the field. But that’s what we have teammates for.”

Smith said later, “I could have handled that better. My intentions are never to show a manager up or anybody up, especially Torey. He’s a great person and an even better manager. I just let my emotions get the better of me, and I need to keep that in check.” He also said that he and de Geus spoke in the clubhouse after the game, and that they are fine. “I told him not to worry about (allowing the inherited runners to score). He said I gotcha next time and it won’t happen again.”

Escobar and Peralta

After Escobar did not score on the Peralta comebacker in the bottom of the third, the two had a brief yet passionate discussion in the dugout. The coaching staff got between them quickly. Peralta said after the game, “No creo que haya un problema,” which translates to “I don’t think there was a problem.” He later explained in English, “I think it was a misunderstanding. When the inning was over, he came into the dugout to see what was going on. We talked really quick. [sic] …I don’t think it was a big deal. It looked like it was a big deal (chuckle), but no. It was part of the moment of the game.”

Peralta later confirmed that he was upset at the situation. He had finally hit a ball hard with a runner in scoring position, but the team had nothing to show for it because it hit the pitcher. After the discussion, Escobar had a two-run homer and Peralta had a triple and a double. Peralta joked that he and Escobar need to have animated discussions in the dugout again if that is going to be the result, even if it means putting on an acting job.

Looking Ahead

The Diamondbacks (28–68) and Pirates (36–57) face off again Tuesday night. Their respective starting pitchers will be Taylor Widener (1–0, 2.54 ERA) and Tyler Anderson (5–8, 4.35 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

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Players/managers mentioned:

Caleb Smith, Jacob Stallings, Wilmer Difo, Phillip Evans, Chase De Jong, Kevin Newman, Pavin Smith, Josh VanMeter, Bryan Holaday, Josh Rojas, Kole Calhoun, Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker, David Peralta, John Nogowski, Torey Lovullo, Brett de Geus, Joe Mantiply, Adam Frazier, Chasen Shreve, Noe Ramirez, Kyle Keller, Joakim Soria, Jared Oliva, Gregory Polanco, Zack Greinke, Taylor Widener, Tyler Anderson