Diamondbacks Rally in Bottom of Ninth, Walk It Off versus Padres

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Diamondbacks 4, Padres 2

PHOENIX, Apr. 7 — Seth Beer belted a walk-off three-run home run — on National Beer Day, no less — to cap a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth and give the Arizona Diamondbacks a 4–2 Opening Day victory over the San Diego Padres Thursday night.

The first run of the game came in the third inning, when Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner walked the bases loaded before walking in a run. This was the first time Bumgarner had issued four walks in an inning since July 21, 2018, when he did so against the Oakland Athletics as a member of the San Francisco Giants. The 42-pitch inning sent him to an early shower.

In the fourth, the Padres added to their lead thanks to three singles off reliever Luke Weaver. That inning came to a strange end when Manny Machado, while running out an infield popup, collided with first baseman Christian Walker, who was setting up to make the catch. Machado was out for interference.

Padres starter Yu Darvish, meanwhile, was terrific, leaving after a taxing six innings (92 pitches) without allowing a hit. The Diamondbacks entered the hit column in the seventh, when right fielder Pavin Smith welcomed reliever Tim Hill to the game with a leadoff single to left. A double-play grounder by catcher Carson Kelly wiped the bases clean before Beer singled. New pitcher Pierce Johnson walked pinch-hitter and major league debutant Cooper Hummel before striking out shortstop Geraldo Perdomo to quell the rally.

The Bottom of the Ninth

Padres manager Bob Melvin told reporters before the game that Taylor Rogers, whom the Padres acquired in a Thursday morning trade with the Minnesota Twins, would be their closer. But when the bottom of the ninth rolled around, Robert Suarez took the mound instead. The fireballer, making his major league debut, faced first baseman Christian Walker, right fielder Pavin Smith, and Carson Kelly.

Suarez, who touched 100 mph, had control problems to say the least. He walked both Walker and Smith. The runners advanced to second and third when Suarez uncorked a wild pitch to Kelly. Two pitches later, he drilled Kelly in the back.

Exit stage left for Suarez. In came righty Craig Stammen to face the left-handed-hitting Beer with the bases loaded and nobody out. As Stammen warmed up, Beer walked to the dugout. The hitting coaches told him that Stammen, in the words of Beer, “was a two-seam guy (who would keep the) ball away from me as a left-handed hitter. So for me, that means I just want to stay through something and drive it and look over the plate. I hit a curveball. For me, in that situation I thought ‘Whatever I got, I got. I’m just gonna give (Stammen) the best effort I have.’ And I just kind of blacked out on those two pitches.”

The Beer At-bat

The first pitch was a curveball in the dirt. It squirted past catcher Austin Nola and went to the screen. The wild pitch plated Walker to make the score 2–1. It also advanced pinch-runner Jake McCarthy to third and Kelly to second. “Once that…happened,” Beer said, “(it) helped me get into a situation where there’s a lot less pressure for me as a hitter to get the job done.”

The second pitch was also a curveball that was “just a little higher,” Beer said. “I said (to myself), ‘This is something I can hit to the outfield,’ because the whole game plan for me was just to score the guy from third, tie this ballgame up, and give ourselves an opportunity and a chance to win the ballgame. And I saw it a little bit higher. I thought, ‘I can drive this. You’re gonna hit this deep,’ and once I connected with the ball, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I might do a little bit more than just that.’ “

He did more indeed. The ball sailed 386 feet, landing in the right-field bleachers for a dramatic walk-off home run. As Beer rounded third, he tossed his helmet in the air. “I was living a dream. I’m living a dream, playing Major League Baseball.” Beer made sure the helmet wouldn’t hit him on the head and proceeded to the mob of teammates waiting for him at the plate.

It was the first Opening Day walk-off hit for the Diamondbacks since 2017, manager Torey Lovullo’s first game at the helm. That game ended with a single to right by Chris Owings off Mark Melancon, who is now the Diamondbacks closer. It scored Daniel Descalso from third to give the Diamondbacks a 6–5 win.

Postgame Reflections on the Diamondbacks Victory over the Padres

Bumgarner, who watched the end of the game on a clubhouse TV, said the ending made him feel “pretty excited, for sure. Glad for the guys to pick me up. I made it pretty tough on the bullpen after that third, but I feel good about limiting the damage to a lineup like that. Different circumstance we’re in right now. So I’m just happy we got out of here with a win.”

Lovullo, after praising Beer and his approach, said, “But we got to remember what built that inning — some patient approaches. We got three runners on base by having some grinding at-bats. Then they passed it off to the next guy. We knew what we were trying to do, and it worked out as well as it possibly can.”

Lovullo also praised Sean Poppen, Oliver Perez, Noe Ramirez, and winning pitcher Joe Mantiply as a unit. Those four combined to pitch 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. “We wouldn’t have been able to get into that position if it hadn’t been for our bullpen today. Five and a third scoreless, a couple of scratch base runners via the walk. The back end for those last 5 1/3 were outstanding.”

Winning Pitcher Joe Mantiply

A beaming Mantiply, who earned the win in relief, said afterwards, “It’s hard to beat a walk-off at any time, but definitely Opening Day…. It’s my first Opening Day, so it’s definitely one to remember for sure.” He added that the only way to top this victory is to “get one tomorrow.” About his performance, he said, “I tried to do what I could to get us back in there and give us a chance to win. That’s my job coming out of the ‘pen. So I felt pretty good. It’s a really good start to the year, and I think it’s a really good sign of things to come.”

Mantiply said that in the dugout during the ninth inning “we could kind of feel it. Suarez was losing his command a little bit. So in those situations, the saying I love is, ‘Let’s load them (the bases) up and see what happens.’ Everybody seemed to be locked in and wanted to win the game. It was a good sign. Pretty much everybody stepped up and got it to the next guy. And we ended up with the walk-off, so that was pretty cool.”

Looking Ahead

Mantiply, as mentioned before, earned the victory in relief for the Diamondbacks (1–0) while Suarez took the loss for the Padres (0–1). This is the first time since September 1, 2018, that the Diamondbacks have been in first place in the NL West. The Diamondbacks will look to build on that success Friday evening when they send Merrill Kelly to the mound to face Padres lefty Sean Manaea. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona time.

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Players/managers mentioned:

Seth Beer, Madison Bumgarner, Luke Weaver, Manny MachadoChristian Walker, Yu Darvish, Pavin Smith, Tim Hill, Carson Kelly, Pierce Johnson, Cooper Hummel, Geraldo Perdomo, Bob Melvin, Taylor Rogers, Robert Suarez, Craig Stammen, Austin Nola, Jake McCarthy, Torey Lovullo, Chris Owings, Mark Melancon, Daniel Descalso, Sean Poppen, Oliver Perez, Noe Ramirez, Joe Mantiply, Merrill Kelly, Sean Manaea