Diamondbacks 6, Pirates 4
PHOENIX, Aug. 9 — Rookie left-hander Tommy Henry pitched seven scoreless innings in his first home start, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 6–4 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night. First baseman Christian Walker went 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored, and left fielder Jake McCarthy went 2-for-4 with three RBI to lead the offensive charge for the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks took an early 1–0 lead, taking advantage of a leadoff double by third baseman Josh Rojas off Pirates starter Zach Thompson. After center fielder Alek Thomas walked, second baseman Ketel Marte grounded into a 3–6 force play. A hit-and-run single to right by Walker scored Rojas and advanced Marte to third. The score, however, stayed at 1–0 through the end of the inning, as right fielder Daulton Varsho and McCarthy popped and grounded to short, respectively.
The lead became 2–0 in the third. Walker doubled with one out and advanced to third on a follow-up fly to right by Varsho. An infield single by the speedy McCarthy plated Walker before designated hitter Seth Beer lined to short for the third out.
Henry Frustrates Pirates as Diamondbacks Build Lead
Meanwhile, Henry put up zeroes in each of the first five innings. In each of the first three, he only allowed one baserunner — all with two out. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes singled in the first. Designated hitter Oneil Cruz singled in the second, and center fielder Bryan Reynolds walked in the third. In the fourth, Henry allowed two baserunners — again with two out. Second baseman Rodolfo Castro walked and advanced to third on a single by Cruz. In an odd, humorous moment, Castro’s mobile phone popped out of his back pocket as he dove into third. Third base umpire Adam Hamari chuckled as he pointed to the phone lying near the base. Rojas said he and Hamari both felt like Castro simply forgot he had it in his pocket. Left fielder Greg Allen, up next, grounded to third, getting Henry out of the jam.
The scoreless streak ended for Henry in the sixth — with two outs, of course — on a deep drive to left-center by first baseman Michael Chavis. It bounced off the top off the wall and landed in the bleachers for a paint-scraping solo home run. Henry responded, however, with a 1–2–3 top of the seventh.
Blowing It Open
The Diamondbacks blew the game open in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Duane Underwood Jr. Consecutive singles by shortstop Geraldo Perdomo and Rojas led off the frame. An unassisted groundout to first by Thomas advanced the runners to second and third. Both scored on a follow-up single by Marte. A single by Walker — his third hit of the game — and a walk by Varsho loaded the bases for McCarthy. With the infield in, McCarthy stroked a single up the middle. This brought in both Marte and Walker, making the score 6–1 as Varsho took third.
Exit stage left for Underwood. In came Yohan Ramirez to clean up the mess. After Emmanuel Rivera, who replaced Beer as the DH in the bottom of the sixth, popped to Chavis near the mound, catcher Carson Kelly — the ninth hitter of the inning — bounced to third, ending the four-run inning.
Chris Devenski took the mound for the Diamondbacks in the top of the eighth. He retired shortstop Kevin Newman and Reynolds on grounders to short and second, respectively. Hayes kept the two-out pattern going, singling on a sharp grounder to the right side. That brought up right fielder Ben Gamel, who ripped a liner to right-center. Varsho, on his horse, tracked the ball and dove but couldn’t quite reach it. Hayes scored all the way from first to get the Pirates on the board as Gamel coasted into second with a double. Chavis brought in Gamel with a 424-foot two-run homer to the left-field bleachers — his second dinger of the game — making the score 6–4. It remained that way for the rest of the game, as Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 16th save of the season.
“A great day for Tommy,” manager Torey Lovullo beamed afterward. “It’s not a secret recipe. When we get good starting pitching, we give ourselves a very good chance to win a baseball game, and Tommy was fantastic today. We saw more of a relaxed type of result. He was landing that secondary stuff. Minus all the anxiety and excitement of making his first major league start, he did a really good job following a game plan and pitching through seven innings. I made a decision, three times around the lineup at 88 pitches, taking him out of the game. Just felt like it was the right time for him.”
Henry added, “I felt like I could breathe a little bit today, settle in a little bit…. Felt a little more calm and able to get into a groove.” Every runner who reached base against him did so with two out, something Henry said helped him relax. “If you’re gonna have a runner on, you’d like it to be with two outs. So yeah, I’d say so. You’re just continuing to try and find a groove (and) stay in the groove. The flip side of that, though, is you’re so close to finishing an inning. (You’re) a little sloppy with the third hitter of the inning, (when) you could have been out of there with nobody on. There are areas to improve, but yeah, that helped a lot tonight.”
All three of Christian Walker’s hits went to the opposite field, something the Pirates — who shifted him to pull — certainly did not expect. Walker explained his approach. “I took a couple of (big) swings early off Thompson, really trying to drive the ball. Maybe trying to do a little too much with hitting the ball hard or trying to split a gap or something. I felt like he had enough movement with the cutter and the sinker that made it difficult to take a max-effort swing.
“So I took a couple of big swings early and realized (I should) do a little bit less. Focus on hitting the ball hard, not trying to really hit it in the air or trying to put it in the gap or anything like that. It was just about trying to shorten up a little bit, still trying to hit a ball hard and smash a baseball but taking a little bit of pressure off and not trying to do too much.”
The Pirates pitchers kept attacking him with cutters, mostly over the outer part of the plate. “A lot of outer third spin,” he said. “The second hit — the double down the right-field line — was a cutter, but it backed up a little bit on him. It ended up, actually, up and in. That one I caught a little deep but kind of by accident. The others were spin away.
“Off Underwood, same thing. Cutter, outer lane. It’s tough to pull that pitch in the air, a good cutter, especially outer third, moving away from a righty. So to be able to let it travel a little bit and slap it the other way felt good. I wasn’t necessarily aiming to right field today. That’s just how it happened to go.”
Defense, Once Again
The best fielding first baseman in the majors added yet another highlight-reel play to his resume Tuesday night. It made for the second out of the ninth. Allen, a switch hitter batting left-handed against the right-handed Melancon, ripped a liner toward the hole on the right side. It was destined for shallow right, but Walker had other ideas.
“With a lefty, chances are if they hit a ball towards me, it’s going to be hooked. It’s going to be moving towards the line. So off the bat, it felt like it was going to be in the four hole. It doesn’t hurt anything —there’s not really much of a risk there to dive and just throw a glove out there. It had enough of a hook on it that it ended up working back to me and just barely stayed in with a little bit of a snow cone.”
Walker landed and rolled on his back to complete the catch, holding the glove up to both let the umpires see that he caught it but to also allow the ball to fall more securely into the glove on its own.
Henry (1–1) earned the first win of his major league career, while Thompson (3–9) took the loss. The Diamondbacks (50–59) and Pirates (44–66) play again Wednesday in the third game of their four-game set. Madison Bumgarner (6–10, 3.96 ERA, 95 ERA-minus) and Mitch Keller (3–8, 4.21 ERA, 104 ERA-minus) will start for the Diamondbacks and Pirates, respectively, in a lefty-righty matchup. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.
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Tommy Henry, Christian Walker, Jake McCarthy, Josh Rojas, Zach Thompson, Alek Thomas, Ketel Marte, Daulton Varsho, Seth Beer, Oneil Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Greg Allen, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Michael Chavis, Duane Underwood Jr., Geraldo Perdomo, Yohan Ramirez, Emmanuel Rivera, Carson Kelly, Chris Devenski, Kevin Newman, Ben Gamel, Mark Melancon, Torey Lovullo, Madison Bumgarner, Mitch Keller