Profar, Alfaro Slug Padres to Victory over Diamondbacks

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Padres 10, Diamondbacks 5

PHOENIX, Apr. 10 — San Diego Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar and catcher Jorge Alfaro crushed back-to-back homers in a five-run second inning, with the former being a grand slam, to lead the Padres to a 10–5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday afternoon.

Diamondbacks starter Caleb Smith had a strong first inning, striking out two in a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. However, a disastrous second inning gave him an early exit. He did not retire any of the six hitters he faced, although, to be fair, the leadoff man reached on an error. That was small solace, as Smith walked the next two hitters. This loaded the bases for Profar, who belted a hanging slider 418 feet for his second career grand slam. The 4–0 lead became 5–0 six pitches later, when Alfaro launched a 423-foot bomb of his own, also on a hanging slider. When Smith walked the next hitter, shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, out came the hook. Corbin Martin finished the inning without any further damage.

The Padres added to their lead in the fourth thanks to a leadoff triple by Kim and a one-out sacrifice fly. It went from 6–0 to 8–0 in the top of the fifth thanks to a throwing error by shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, a walk by first baseman Luke Voit, a fly to right by Wil Myers that was deep enough for the runners to tag, and two consecutive wild pitches. In the sixth, it became a 10–0 game. New pitcher Humberto Castellanos drilled the first man he faced, Kim. Two hitters later, DH Austin Nola singled. Kim scored on a double by third baseman Manny Machado. Nola reached third on the double and scored when the next hitter, Cronenworth, flied to center.

Diamondbacks Score but Can’t Catch Padres

Christian Walker put the Diamondbacks on the board in the bottom of the sixth by turning on a 98-mph fastball by Robert Suarez. It landed in the left-center-field bleachers for a solo home run. The Diamondbacks made the score more respectable in the bottom of the ninth against Javy Guerra. A one-out walk by Perdomo started the rally. He reached third on a single by right fielder Jake McCarthy, who made his first start of the season Sunday. Perdomo scored when third baseman Drew Ellis singled to center for his first hit of the season.

This brought up Cooper Hummel, who switched from DH to catcher when starting catcher Carson Kelly position-pitched the top of the ninth. Hummel, a rookie, bombed a deep fly to right-center. It landed in the picnic overhang in right-center for his first major league hit, a three-run homer that finalized the score at 10–5.

Postgame Reflections

A stern-faced Torey Lovullo, manager of the Diamondbacks, said after the game that it was “nice to see us pop the top off in the ninth inning there by scoring four runs and taking some quality at bats. It was nice to see (Hummel) get his first major league hit. He’s gonna go into select company, (since) it was a home run. So he’ll get to celebrate that tonight.

“But let’s not be mistaken. Let’s rewind this day a little bit and talk about some of the things that put us in that situation. I think we can pitch the ball better. We can pick the ball up better, and we can eliminate runs that are being scored by just not playing the type of defense that I expect us to play.” (Author’s note: Lovullo’s voice became slower and more emphatic on the italicized words.)

“Unacceptable”

Lovullo continued, “Three unearned runs is unacceptable. That game should have been a lot closer than it was. You pick up the baseball, make plays, and do it the way you’re supposed to, it goes hand-in-hand with the pitching. Maybe we would have (had) better pitching out of Caleb, I don’t know. The things that he can control, putting the ball on the plate, he wasn’t able to do. So we gotta we got to take care of the little things that we can control. I know that picking up the baseball on defense is hard. But I have high expectations of this group.”

Given Lovullo’s philosophy of strong defense, this is frustrating. But the emphasis they put on defense in spring training made this even more frustrating for him. “We’re gonna pitch and play defense this year,” he said. “That’s going to be the common denominator. It’s gonna help us stay in and win baseball games. When they don’t work together, this is what happens. It is very bothersome to me, because we’re better than that.”

Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith said afterwards, “I came into the game feeling good, pounding the strike zone in the first inning. In the second inning, I lost feel for my pitches and lost command in the strike zone. I couldn’t regain it before things started getting a little out of control. So I’ve got to be better about minimizing and getting right back in there.”

Smith had a good spring training, which is why he gained this spot in the rotation. But Smith is keeping it in perspective. “I had a good spring training — but it’s spring training. You’re gonna walk guys. It’s just how you handle it and how you bounce back from that. I wasn’t able to make the adjustment that I needed to before it got out of control.”

Corbin Martin

Corbin Martin felt that “the fastball location was pretty good today, and I feel like I could throw off of that. (I was) trying to make some different pitches, give them different looks at different times. Getting ahead was the key today. I lost some batters in those two walks, but other than that, (I was) trying to let our defense work and throw the ball over the plate.”

It was “really nice” for him to have something to build off of. “I feel healthy and feel like I’m back to the pitcher that I know I’m capable of being. (Now I will) slowly build off of this outing and go from there.” He said he is not creating a goal of getting back in the rotation. “Wherever they put me is where I’m going to pitch. I’m not going to sit here and beg for a spot. Wherever there’s a spot for me, I’m gonna throw in that that situation. In any game situation — early, late — we always want our starters to do well. We never wish bad (things) for anybody. Caleb is gonna go back out there his next outing and shove it. He’s in there for a reason. We have to trust the guys. They know we have their backs after a start.”

Lovullo added, “Corbin Martin did a really nice job. He let us get grounded a little bit and catch our breath. We could have done a lot better job of preventing a couple of the runs that were scored off him.”

Hitting

The Diamondbacks hitting woes continued Sunday, as they only had five hits. Until the ninth, they had more errors than hits, however. They were drawing walks very well but typically weren’t getting hits after drawing those walks. About that, Lovullo said, “(Christian Walker) hit a big home run today, which was nice to see, but that was a solo home run. We’re looking to slug with guys on base and put up some crooked numbers. But we’ve got to do it at the right time and have the right guy step up and collect those RBI.

“I like the patient approach. Today was a little different outcome for me. We looked like we staggered through the day offensively, taking a little while to get going. But I like our approach, like what we’ve been doing offensively. We’ve been grinding some at-bats and trying to do our best to see pitches and get on base. I’ve been pleased with that.”

Christian Walker

Christian Walker likes that the offense got going late in the game but would like to see it going earlier on. “It’s hard to say” why it isn’t yet, but “it’s the first handful of games of the season.” Plus, the Diamondbacks were “facing a really good staff.” He added, “Baseball’s funny. You think you have a plan — even today, we felt good going against (Blake) Snell, and then all of a sudden had to switch up the game plan.” (Author’s Note: The left-handed Snell suffered an injury during warmups, forcing righty Nabil Crismatt to make an emergency start.)

About having to face a righty with a lineup tailored to a lefty, Walker said, “That’s not an excuse or anything like that. But you know, it’s too early to hit any panic buttons. To be honest, I like to think that there is no panic button. It’s just a matter of making adjustments and moving forward.

“But it’s great to see a spark, even though it’s late in the game, and put a good ending together, put up a bunch of runs, and throw up a crooked number. Regardless of the score at the time, it’s still good to see that out of the offense for sure.”

Cooper Hummel

As mentioned earlier, Cooper Hummel reached a career milestone Sunday, getting both his first career hit and his first career home run on the same play. A beaming Hummel said, “Getting the first one out of the way is nice, both the hit and the home run. When I say ‘getting it out of the way,’ now I don’t have to think about it anymore.”

It wasn’t necessarily on his mind, but “you always know that it’s going to be your first. I was just trying to put together good at-bats, and if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, it didn’t. I’ve been having good at-bats, so I wasn’t too worried it was gonna come eventually.”

Hummel got the ball, which is now in a case that is marked with a commemorative sticker. He did not have to do any negotiating. He has thought about how “cool it would have been for my first hit to be a home run, so it’s more surreal than when I visualized it.” The home run came after Hummel switched from being the designated hitter to being the catcher. But don’t count on him lobbying Lovullo to catch more. “I’m gonna leave that up to Torey and the coaches,” he laughed. “That’s not my place. I did enjoy it, though. Oregon connection right there, so that was fun.”

Carson Kelly

The “Oregon Connection” Hummel referred to is between him and Kelly, both of whom attended high school in metropolitan Portland. Kelly position-pitched for the second time in his career Sunday. When Kelly position-pitches, his main goal is twofold: “Throw strikes and don’t get hurt.” He expounded upon that, saying, “Go out there and do my job. Throw strikes, try to get through it to help the guys out in the bullpen so we can go on to the next game.”

Pitching is not new for Kelly, who pitched in high school, and pitching with Hummel catching “was cool,” Kelly said. Kelly is not fully sure, but he believes that he faced Hummel in their high school days. He added that Hummel “getting his first career homer was awesome.”

But Kelly is keeping everything in perspective. “Obviously, at the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done today. So we’re gonna come back again. We’ll take the off day (Monday) and then come back and get ready to go.”

Looking Ahead

Austin Adams (1–0) earned the win in relief for the Padres (3–1), while Smith (0–1) took the loss for the Diamondbacks (1–3). The Padres head straight to San Francisco for a three-game set with the Giants. First pitch Monday night is 6:45 Pacific, with Padres righty Nick Martinez set to face Giants lefty Alex Wood. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, have Monday off before playing a two-game interleague series at home against the defending American League champion Houston Astros. Zac Gallen is scheduled to pitch for the Diamondbacks against Luis Garcia in a battle of right-handers. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona time.

Main Photo:

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Players mentioned:

Jurickson Profar, Jorge Alfaro, Caleb Smith, Ha-Seong Kim, Corbin Martin, Geraldo Perdomo, Luke Voit, Wil Myers, Humberto Castellanos, Austin Nola, Manny Machado, Christian Walker, Robert Suarez, Javy Guerra, Jake McCarthy, Drew Ellis, Cooper Hummel, Carson Kelly, Torey Lovullo, Nabil Crismatt, Austin Adams, Nick Martinez, Alex Wood, Zac Gallen, Luis Garcia