Diamondbacks Slug Their Way Out of Early Hole to Top Royals

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Diamondbacks 9, Royals 5

PHOENIX, May 23 — Down 4–0 after a half-inning, the Arizona Diamondbacks clubbed 10 hits en route to a come-from-behind 9–5 victory over the Kansas City Royals Monday night. This came in the return of starting pitcher Zack Greinke to Chase Field for the first time since the Diamondbacks traded him at the trade deadline in 2019.

Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zach Davies had a nightmare top of the first. Right fielder Whit Merrifield sent the first pitch of the game into the left-field bleachers, giving the Royals a 1–0 lead as the press box announcer reported the weather conditions for the first pitch. After a deep fly to the track in center by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, the Royals made the score 3–0 on back-to-back dingers by shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and first baseman Hunter Dozier. A walk by catcher MJ Melendez and single by designated hitter Carlos Santana put runners on the corners for third baseman Emmanuel Rivera. Davies drilled him, loading the bases. Center fielder Kyle Isbel hit into a diving 6–4 force play, scoring Melendez to make it 4–0. A fly to left by second baseman Nicky Lopez, the ninth hitter of the half-inning, finally stopped the bleeding.

The Diamondbacks responded swiftly in the bottom half against Greinke. Designated hitter Daulton Varsho doubled to the corner and scored on a Ruthian blast to right-center by right fielder Pavin Smith. Two batters later, first baseman Christian Walker cracked his 11th homer of the season, tying Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso for the NL lead. The next two hitters struck out, giving the Royals a 4–3 lead at the end of the first.

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Royals Extend Lead, Diamondbacks Tie It Up

A comedy of errors made the score 5–3 in the top of the second. Merrifield beat out an infield single and stole second. The lefty overshift was on, given that Benintendi was at the plate. Diamondbacks catcher Grayson Greiner’s throw to second softly skipped away from shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, who was covering the bag. With third base uncovered, the speedy Merrifield bolted for third. Davies — whose responsibility, manager Torey Lovullo said after the game, was to cover third on this play — raced late to cover third, as did third baseman Drew Ellis. Perdomo lobbed the ball, trying to lead Davies into the tag. That throw went wild, hitting the fence in front of the Diamondbacks dugout. Merrifield sprinted home as Ellis made a desperation throw to the plate. An on-target throw would have had Merrifield, but the throw went wide to the first-base side, allowing him to score.

The Diamondbacks tied the game in the bottom of the third. Consecutive walks by Smith and second baseman Ketel Marte put runners on first and second with nobody out. After an atom-ball liner to third by Walker, left fielder David Peralta singled to right, scoring Smith. Marte took third on the play, and Peralta wisely took second when Merrifield tried to throw Marte out. That heads-up play by Peralta removed the double play possibility. This led to a run on the next play, as McCarthy’s grounder to second, which could have been an inning-ending double play, instead turned into a game-tying RBI groundout.

A Scary Sight, but Disaster Averted

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Davies did not survive the top of the fourth, but that was not due to more runs scoring. With Lopez on second and Benintendi on first, a 112-mph rocket off the bat of Witt hit Davies directly in the shin, sending him to the ground in pain. He walked off the field under his own power but with a noticeable limp. In came right-hander J.B. Wendelken, who retired Dozier — and retired the side — on a bases-loaded liner to right.

The Diamondbacks took the lead with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. A one-out single by Greiner, 5-6 fielder’s-choice grounder by Varsho, and walk by Smith put two on with one out. Out came Royals manager Mike Matheny with the hook for Greinke. In came Joel Payamps, who promptly served up a double to the left-field corner by Marte. Both Varsho and Smith scored, giving the Diamondbacks a 7–5 lead.

The Diamondbacks padded their lead in the bottom of the seventh. Marte led off with a single and, after Walker flied to right, advanced to second on a passed ball. Peralta drove him in with a single. A single by Perdomo advanced Peralta to second. Jake Hager, who replaced Ellis at third in the top of the third, brought Peralta in with a single, finalizing the score.

Postgame Reflections

Manager Torey Lovullo announced after the game that Davies suffered a “right lower leg contusion.” X-rays were negative, and Davies will have a follow-up CT scan Tuesday. Ellis left the game with “right trunk discomfort” and will have imaging done on Tuesday to get further details.

Lovullo also praised his team for picking up Davies on a day where he was not at his best. “Zach was missing in the middle of the zone,” he said. “And he paid for it. He gave up three home runs in the first inning. And he started to make some pitches. He settled in a little bit. Unfortunately, he got banged up and turned it over the bullpen, who did an exceptional job matching up and getting the job done. We were a little bit thin down there, were trying to stay away from some guys. But all in all, they gutted it out and did a tremendous job.”

Lovullo went on to point out that “a key part of the game was closing that gap immediately. In the bottom of the first inning, Pavin had the big two-run home run that immediately put us right back where we needed to be. Then (Walker) followed that up with a solo home run. So 4–0 suddenly turns into 4–3. I thought our guys, offensively, did a fantastic job. But all the way around, it was a (strong) day. We started chipping away later in the game, had a number of base hits. David had a big base hit that gave us an extra run. Just a nice day overall. Good game to win, especially when you fall behind as quickly as we did with three home runs in the top of the first inning.”

Defeating a Familiar Face

Greinke, the former Diamondbacks ace, “came out with a bit more velocity than we thought.” Lovullo theorized that Greinke was “a little bit excited to be pitching back here.” But he also praised the coaching staff for having “a good game plan to push him out over the plate, get the ball up out over the zone. We knew what his strengths were; we knew the areas that he was going to be comfortable throwing to, and our guys did a good job of attacking that area.”

The team’s patience forced four walks, the same amount that Greinke had walked all season in 44 innings prior to Monday night. Lovullo said that the team “talked about being patient. It’s uncharacteristic for Zack to walk batters. He can place the baseball, basically, anywhere he wants to. So our offense did a really good job today, especially being flatlined there in the top of the first inning. To come out and make a statement the way they did stood out for me today.”

Pavin Smith said the key to success against Greinke Monday was “laying off some of his off-speed pitches, his changeups that look like strikes, strike to ball. Being able to lay off those, kept you in hitter’s counts.” About the home run, Smith said, “I had two strikes and definitely wasn’t trying to hit a home run. I was ready for his best fastball, and that’s what he threw, a little cutter.”

The Relief Unit

Relievers J.B. Wendelken, Caleb Smith, Noe Ramirez, Joe Mantiply, Sean Poppen, and Luis Frias combined to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings. A proud Lovullo declared, “They went on lockdown. And that’s what they do. They pick one another up. Each guy left with some traffic out there, and the next guy didn’t let those runs score. It’s about execution, walking into an (uncomfortable) situation, and throwing the pitches where you want to. Our bullpen did a great job today. Without them, obviously, we wouldn’t have been able to win this baseball game.”

As a relief unit, Lovullo ranked Monday night’s performance “right up there” with any other from the 2022 season. “They locked it down and closed it up. For me to ask them to go out there with the gas they had in their tank…. I know that we’ve been we’ve been taxing our relievers. Nobody blinked an eye, and they went out there and did a great job. The lockdown for 5 1/3, and the extra grit they showed, stood out for me.”

Mantiply and Ramirez, by pitching Monday night, joined teammate Ian Kennedy and Cubs reliever Scott Effross as the NL co-leaders in appearances, with 20. When asked, Lovullo responded that he is “very concerned” about the workload. “I don’t want any of our guys to have 80 appearances this year,” he explained. “That’s way too many. We have played close games, we embrace close games, we need our we need our horses to go out there and protect those types of games when we’re ahead. So we’ll be mindful of it. We’re gonna make some adjustments along the way, I’m sure, as we always do, but I gotta make sure I don’t get anybody hurt. That’s my main concern.”

Picking Up the Starter

Davies appreciated the way his teammates picked him up after his rough first inning. “It’s a team that is not gonna give up. They’re gonna keep fighting. That was my attitude after that first inning. It was four runs, but that’s not out of this world. So try and keep it at that, limit the damage and eat the innings. I’d thrown 35 pitches or so in the first inning. That can’t happen with the starter, because you limit yourself for the rest of the game.”

To Walker, picking the starter up is simply what baseball teams are supposed to do. “You always want to have your teammate’s backs,” he said. “They’ve had our backs plenty this year and save our (backsides) in a lot of situations. So we want to be there to pay that back for him.” Walker is certain that there will be times later this season where the offense struggles in one of Davies’ starts. “It’s not going to be the last time. I’m glad he feels that way, but that’s a two-way street. We’re gonna need it from him, too.”

Coming Back from Early Deficits

Monday night’s victory was the 10th come-from-behind win for the Diamondbacks (22–22). Lovullo stated that it was because “we’ve got a lot of heart. We’ve got a lot of character on this team, got a lot of belief. And it’s not gonna help you win baseball games, but it’ll help you focus and prepare. Our guys go out there and get the job done because they want to win baseball games. That’s the bottom line, and that’s what it’s about every single day.

“Good teams have that characteristic that they’re just going to chip away. They’re not going to try and get it all back at once, and I think the discussion is just to score one — chip away, get in there and have quality at bats. And the bonus is when you get a little slug and get yourself right back into the game, like Pavin’s situation. So the vibe is very positive for nine innings in our dugout. That’s something that stands out to me.”

Looking Ahead

Wendelken (1–1) earned the win in relief, while Greinke (0–3) took the loss. The Diamondbacks and Royals (14–27) will conclude their two-game miniseries Tuesday evening at Chase Field. Righty Zac Gallen (3–0, 1.14 ERA) will take the hill for the Diamondbacks against Royals right-hander Jonathan Heasley (0–2, 4.32 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

Main Photo:

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Players/managers mentioned:

Zack Greinke, Zach Davies, Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi, Bobby Witt Jr, Hunter Dozier, MJ Melendez, Carlos Santana, Emmanuel Rivera, Kyle Isbel, Nicky Lopez, Daulton Varsho, Pavin Smith, Christian Walker, C.J. Cron, Pete Alonso, Grayson Greiner, Geraldo Perdomo, Torey Lovullo, Drew Ellis, Ketel Marte, David Peralta, J.B. Wendelken, Mike Matheny, Joel Payamps, Jake Hager, Caleb Smith, Noe Ramirez, Joe Mantiply, Sean Poppen, Luis Frias, Ian Kennedy, Scott Effross, Zac Gallen, Jonathan Heasley