Another Late Rally Puts Diamondbacks Past Rockies

Diamondbacks Rockies

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 4

PHOENIX, Aug. 7 — It simply would not be Diamondbacks vs. Rockies if it weren’t close or a seesaw battle. Sunday afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks scored the tying run in the seventh and the two go-ahead runs in the eighth, defeating the Colorado Rockies, 6–4.

The Diamondbacks took an early 2–0 lead off Rockies starter Jose Ureña. Second baseman Ketel Marte cracked a two-out single and scored when first baseman Christian Walker followed with a monumental 431-foot home run to the left-field bleachers.

Diamondbacks starter Zach Davies, who escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the top of the first, faced four batters in the second and three in each of his other three innings pitched. He pitched around a leadoff double by first baseman Elehuris Montero and follow-up walk by left fielder Sam Hilliard in the second. After a called strikeout of shortstop Garrett Hampson, center fielder Yonathan Daza grounded into a side-retiring 3–6–1 double play.

Both the third and fourth were 1–2–3 innings. Davies’ streak of retired batters reached nine in the fifth. A one-out single by Hampson broke the streak, but a 4–6–3 double play rendered it moot.

Davies said about the double play, “Walker, luckily, being off the bag with a guy on second base made it nice, because that ball would have been a hit otherwise. Anything to the right side, for me, I break towards first base so I’m ready to try and field something.” Walker said that Davies is “really good” at fielding his position, comparing Davies’ fielding approach to that of perennial Gold Glover Zack Greinke. This allowed Walker to be “able to gather myself and not make a rushed throw, knowing that he’s going to be there” at first for the relay throw.

Rough Inning Gives Rockies the Lead

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Kevin Ginkel took over for Davies in the top of the sixth, walking the first hitter, third baseman Ryan McMahon. Second baseman Brendan Rodgers followed with a comebacker. It hit Ginkel in the shoe and floated over the shortstop’s head into shallow left. A hustling McMahon and Rodgers reached third and second, respectively. Designated hitter C.J. Cron followed with a double into the left-field corner, fair by inches. McMahon and Rodgers both scored, tying the game at two. A follow-up single by right fielder Randal Grichuk put runners on the corners, and a walk by catcher Elias Diaz loaded the bases. Montero singled Cron home, giving the Rockies a 3–2 lead.

This ended Ginkel’s day, giving him the dreaded outing of allowing runs without recording an out. In came Joe Mantiply with a bases-loaded mess on his hands. He struck out pinch-hitter Connor Joe before retiring Hampson on a sacrifice fly to right that plated Grichuk. Diaz, the ninth hitter of the inning, grounded to short, ending the frame with the Rockies leading, 4–2.

Diamondbacks Fight Back, Put Rockies Away

Recently acquired Diamondbacks third baseman Emmanuel Rivera narrowed the gap to 4–3 with a two-out solo home run off Ureña in the bottom of the sixth. The Diamondbacks tied the game in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Robert Stephenson. Shortstop Sergio Alcantara led off with a walk. A sacrifice bunt attempt by catcher Jose Herrera failed, resulting instead in a pop out to the pitcher.

Second baseman Josh Rojas ripped a deep drive to left-center. Joe, who had taken over in left, tracked it back toward the wall. He leapt with his back to the wall, narrowly missing the ball and somersaulting backwards. The ball one-hopped the wall and rebounded back toward the infield. With Joe lying on his stomach, Daza picked the ball up on one hop. He fired to Hampson, who relayed the ball home. However, the speedy Alcantara dove in slightly before Diaz got the tag down, tying the game.

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Alex Colome came into the game in the bottom of the eighth. Walker welcomed him with a hard liner to left, but Atom Ball Syndrome struck again, and it went straight to Joe for the first out. Right fielder Daulton Varsho followed with a smash to left-center for a double. Walks of Rivera and left fielder Jordan Luplow loaded the bases for Alcantara. Colome balked in the go-ahead run, also advancing Rivera and Luplow to third and second, respectively. Alcantara ultimately plated Rivera with a sacrifice fly, advancing Luplow to third. A grounder to second ended the inning with the Diamondbacks protecting a 6–4 lead.

The Ninth

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Manager Torey Lovullo announced Friday that the Diamondbacks were going to Closer by Committee, using matchups in “a fluid situation” to determine whether Mantiply, Ian Kennedy, or Mark Melancon would close. Mantiply had already pitched, and Kennedy had pitched both Friday and Saturday. That meant that Melancon came in for the ninth.

Melancon struck out pinch-hitter Charlie Blackmon to lead the inning off. Daza, up next, fell behind, 1–2. He nearly chased a knuckle curve below the zone but checked his swing. Ball two. The same thing happened on the next pitch, running the count full. Another knuckle curve came below the zone, but Daza took it for ball four. On 2–2, McMahon blooped one off the fists at 76 mph into shallow left-center, bringing up Rodgers as the go-ahead run. He hit a grounder to first. Walker, with no chance to turn two, took the sure out at first, but the tying run was now in scoring position — second and third with two out.

With Cron coming to the plate, Diamondbacks pitching coach Brent Strom had a mound conference with Melancon, Herrera, and the infielders. They discussed whether they should pitch to the dangerous Cron or walk him. That would load the bases for Grichuk, who went 3-for-4 Friday night, 1-for-4 Saturday night, and was 2-for-3 with a walk thus far in this game. However, there would be a force at any base, making a ground ball to an infielder almost certainly end the game.

They decided to walk Cron. The first pitch to Grichuk missed way outside. Grichuk hit a two-hopper to short on the next pitch, ending the 6–4 game with a 6–4 force play. In the process, Melancon earned his 15th save of the season.

Postgame Reflections

Lovullo said, “It was a great finish to the game. We had some run-scoring opportunities early in the game that just didn’t go our way. Kept fighting, kept battling, and had an opportunity to break that game open late in the game, and we did. Some patient approaches, some clutch hitting, some really good approaches. Serge’s sacrifice fly to left-center field was a key moment. But overall, I was proud of the way we fought. We fought hard.”

He added, “Christian Walker, with the big homerun, gave us the early lead. Overall, it felt like it was a good win for us. …winning the third game of the series, we knew what we had to do. We went out there and executed, and I’m really proud of these guys.”

Zach Davies

Zach Davies, still severely limited in pitch count as he works his way back following injury, pitched five scoreless innings. Lovullo called his effort “fantastic.” Davies said, “It was a good building step for me, being able to go from 55–60 pitches to the 80-pitch mark. When you’re building up like that, outs are important, so being able to try and get through the lineup — trying to get as many innings as possible — those are the kind of things that land on your mind. At the same time, building yourself up and getting yourself back into a rhythm.”

Davies said about the 3–6–1 double play to end the second, “I saw I got on (Daza). With Walker, luckily, being off the bag at second base, it made it nice. That ball would have been a hit, otherwise. But anything to the right side for me, I break towards first base. So I’m ready to try and field something at first.” He felt great — completely painless — running over, a good sign for him, given the shin injury he suffered earlier this season after taking a 107-mph rocket off the bat of the Kansas City Royals’ Bobby Witt, Jr.

Lovullo praised Davies’ “great” fielding ability. “He’s very good. I think he probably played shortstop at one time. That’d be my guess…. Those are those little types of plays we talked about making and doing at a very high level.”

Mark Melancon

After the game, Melancon looked like he had a huge burden lifted off him. He was chatting with pitching strategist Dan Haren as the press corps entered the clubhouse. Afterwards, he was loose and smiling when he answered questions from reporters.

“It was just good to get a win,” he said. “When the nights don’t go your way, and you feel like — yesterday, (Merrill) Kelly pitched his tail off. The pitch Ian (Kennedy) made (to McMahon, who hit the winning home run late) was not a bad pitch. That’s kind of the way it seems like it’s gone for me. It’s just one pitch in there that you’re like, ‘Man, the tides just didn’t go our way.’ So today, it was good to get that to fall our way.”

A Student of the Game

He has made several adjustments through his struggles, something he said he’s always trying to do. “I’m always trying to stay ahead. I was just telling Dan Haren it’s kind of a nice in a crazy, weird way that I’m getting a lot more attention than I normally would. We’re honing in on a lot of things. It’s an opportunity for me to learn and use it going forward.

“I really like being a student of the game. Pitching, doing this my entire life, I can still get better. So it’s been that part of it, and coming to the field — the results haven’t been there, but not letting that get to you. Really honing in, focusing on analytic stuff, and working with the catchers. It’s been fun — as stupid and weird as that sounds — it’s been fun to really dig in. You have to dig deeper in those situations. This time — when it’s been a little bit rough, results haven’t gotten your way. A lot of times, once you let go of the ball, you can’t do much about it, so do everything you can up to that point. A 76 mile-an-hour batted ball lands in left field, what can you do? That’s the mentality that I have. I’m excited that this time is going to propel me to be better in the future.”

The Ending

When Rojas stepped on the bag at second to force Cron, who had just been walked intentionally, for the game-ending out, Melancon’s thought was, “We won!” He said there was a sense of relief, but that was no different than every other game ending. “Literally every out I get, there’s a sense of relief. It’s been like that my whole career. Every fly ball that goes up, my first thought is it’s a home run. So it’s just in my in my nature to kind of be pessimistic, I guess, not in a in a good healthy way. But yeah. Easy ground ball to the shortstop, that’s a good feeling.”

The decision to walk Cron came because “he’s the hottest guy in their lineup,” according to Melancon. “He goes to all fields. Good hitter. If he gets on first base — they pinch-ran — but to me, I don’t view that as a.” Melancon reset his thoughts and continued, “If he gets to first base, it doesn’t really matter in that situation. That’s not what you’re worried about. You don’t want a bloop fly ball to land and then two runs to score. Not that Grichuk’s a bad hitter or anything like that. Just going into the series, if you’re going to label one guy that you don’t want to beat you, it’s going to be Cron.”

“I’d Like to Think I Can Use My Brain”

Regardless of Cron’s tremendous season, the decision to walk him was “very difficult,” according to Lovullo, due to Grichuk’s performance in the series. Furthermore, before that at-bat, Grichuk was 5-for-7 off Melancon in his career. But the team had other information that made them ignore the 5-for-7. Regardless, the intentional walk came after “a conversation” between Melancon and Strom. Melancon joked, “Fortunately, I’d like to think I can use my brain out there. Sometimes it may not look like there’s a lot going through my thin head, so…” He grinned ear-to-ear and said, “Yeah.”

Looking Ahead

Chris Devenski (2–0) got the win in relief for the second time in the series — and in his second straight appearance. Colome (2–6) took the relief loss. The Diamondbacks (48–59) stay home for their next series, while the Rockies (48–63) head back to Denver to, after an off-day Monday, open a six-game homestand. They will face the St. Louis Cardinals in a three-game series, honoring retiring Cardinals Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols in a pregame ceremony Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks open a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday. Zac Gallen (6–2, 3.31 ERA) and Tyler Beede (1–1, 3.89 ERA) will start for the Diamondbacks and Rockies, respectively, in a battle of right-handers. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

Main Photo Credits:

PHOENIX, Aug. 7 — Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Josh Rojas digs in against Robert Stephenson of the Colorado Rockies in the bottom of the seventh inning at Chase Field. Rojas hit this very pitch for a game-tying double. The Diamondbacks ultimately won, 6–4. (Photo by Evan Thompson)

Players/managers/coaches mentioned:

Jose Ureña, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker, Zach Davies, Elehuris Montero, Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson, Yonathan Daza, Zack Greinke, Kevin Ginkel, Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Elias Diaz, Joe Mantiply, Connor Joe, Emmanuel Rivera, Robert Stephenson, Sergio Alcantara, Jose Herrera, Josh Rojas, Alex Colome, Daulton Varsho, Jordan Luplow, Torey Lovullo, Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Charlie Blackmon, Brent Strom, Bobby Witt, Jr, Dan Haren, Merrill Kelly, Chris Devenski, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Zac Gallen, Tyler Beede