PHOENIX — Ninth time almost the charm.
Vidal Nuno almost got that huge gorilla off his back since being traded from the New York Yankees for Brandon McCarthy. After going winless in his first eight starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Nuno was just four outs away from that first elusive win in the National League as the D-backs had to rally to beat the San Diego Padres 5-2.
While Nuno didn’t come away with the win, Didi Gregorius kept his team from suffering another loss in one of the left-hander’s starts. Gregorius smashed a line-drive three-run homer over the right field fence saving the game for the D-backs. It was just his third hit in the last 11 games.
“I would say it’s about time,” said a chuckling Gregorius after the game. “I’ve been working hard, getting better, going down into the batting cages everyday just trying to improve myself.”
Gregorius’ progress hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed, though it has lacked box score evidence.
“He’s really grinding it out and trying to take himself to the next level, and he got rewarded for it,” said manager Kirk Gibson
Nuno was pulled in the eighth inning after loading the bases only to see his two-run lead erased. Left-hander Oliver Perez was called upon to get the D-backs out of the jam and, after striking out the first batter he faced, the Padres’ Yangervis Solarte sent a high chopper over the head of Perez and into center field scoring two runs.
Despite the no-decision, Nuno was simply nails, retiring 20 of the first 22 batters he faced, only giving up two hits and two walks while striking out four. Gibson said Nuno had struggled with his mechanics after first joining the D-backs, but has made strides as of late.
“When he came over he got out of sorts with his mechanics, but he’s throwing the ball really well for us and overall he’s hitting his spots.”
Nuno knows he will get that win sooner or later.
“The outcome has been unlucky,” he said after the game. “But just keep on fighting and one day I’ll get it.”
Despite the eventual no-decision for the southpaw, the D-backs wasted no time getting Nuno some run support.
Ender Inciarte began the hitting parade with a double to right field in the first inning. Two-hole hitter Cliff Pennington followed that up with a single, scoring Inciarte.
Then, in the second inning Jake Lamb treated himself to his first big league homer. The third pitch in the at-bat from Padres starter Andrew Cashner landed on the steps of the pool. Lamb said after the game he would give the ball to his parents.
The media greeted him at his locker following the game, unlike his teammates, who gave him the “silent treatment” when he entered the dugout after the milestone homer.
“I knew they were going to do something,” Lamb recounted. “I went in there and I saw that nobody was around so I like to have fun and starting giving high-fives to nobody.”
Nuno was so locked in on Saturday night that in the fourth inning he was able to field his position with lumber flying at him. Padres catcher Rene Rivera hit a broken bat chopper back to the mound and Nuno didn’t even bat an eyelash with Rivera’s shattered bat tumbling past him. Nuno backhanded the grounder and threw Rivera out as if it was a routine grounder.
After batting a combined 0-for-8 on Friday night, Ender Inciarte and Cliff Pennington began the game with a double and RBI single, respectively.
Oliver Perez could not get out of the bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning, losing any shot Nuno had at getting his first winning result with the D-backs
The D-backs went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
STAT OF THE GAME:
1: Gregorius’ only hit of the game was the game-winning three-run homer in the eighth.
HE SAID IT:
Gregorius on his go-ahead home run in the 8th inning:
“I thought it was just a line-drive for a base hit but it went over and I’ll take that.”
· Aaron Hill was left out of the starting lineup again. The struggling second baseman is batting .159 with just three extra-base hits over his last 19 games.
· Just for the record: While Nuno’s record is now 0-3 in nine starts, McCarthy is rejuvenating his season with the Yankees with a record of 5-2 in eight starts and a 1.90 ERA.
· Nuno retired 20 of the first 22 batters he faced and did not allow an extra base hit.
· Despite owning the worst home record in the NL, at 27-39, the D-backs have won four of the last five games at Chase Field.
· For just the second time this month the D-backs have won back-to-back games.
Rookie Chase Anderson is getting the nod for the D-backs for the Sunday matinee. Anderson is coming off a rough outing against the Nationals, giving up six runs in just two innings. However, Anderson has been solid at home in his last four starts, going 2-0 and allowing less than two runs. He is 7-5 with an ERA of 3.71 this season.
The Padres will counter with Ian Kennedy, who also gave up six runs in his last outing, which came against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Kennedy’s lone start against the D-backs this season, he has allowed three runs on eleven hits.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM along with pregame coverage, which begins half an hour earlier.