The 5: Defining moments in the D-backs’ 2017 season
Falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an NLDS sweep wasn’t the most fitting end to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season.
By the end of it, they felt they could beat any team in baseball, after all.
In many instances, they proved that by winning the season series against the MLB-pacing Dodgers and turning a 69-win team a year prior into a 93-win version under new managerial leadership and a new front office.
The 2017 season, now that it’s over, is viewed as a foundation for future success. But how did Arizona build that foundation?
These are five key moments for the D-backs that defined the year that laid the groundwork for how the Mike Hazen-led front office continues on.
A sign of things to come
A few more might’ve believed the Diamondbacks were about to do something special.
But on Opening Day, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner had slugged two home runs while striking out 11 D-backs in 7.0 frames. After San Francisco took a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth off new D-backs closer Fernando Rodney, Giants offseason addition Mark Melancon was sent to the mound to lock up the win.
Arizona fans could have feared the blown tie was a sign of bad things to come.
It turned out that the bottom of the ninth became quite the opposite. It became a story about how different players — stars and role players — stepped up to help their team find success.
Arizona veteran Daniel Descalso singled to score Jeremy Hazelbaker to tie the game, 5-5, and shortstop Chris Owings hit a two-out, walk-off single to begin the year with a 6-5 win on April 2.
Finding a face
Archie Bradley: “This is our house! Let’s go!” pic.twitter.com/MLSVQg6Fgu
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) August 9, 2017
For a team led by talented but subdued personalities in Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke and J.D. Martinez, the 2017 season helped the team’s clubhouse leader let his personality come out.
Archie Bradley’s most publicized moment came in a win over the Dodgers on Aug. 8. While it was in the midst of what would become the worst stretch of baseball for the D-backs, a 6-3 win over the Dodgers was defined not by Jake Lamb’s grand slam so much as Bradley’s follow-up inning, his emotional showing and his postgame comments about the visiting L.A. fans.
From that moment on, the bearded reliever who began spring fighting for a starting pitching role became the public face of the D-backs.
Stopping the bleeding
The last game of that stretch began with a nine-run first inning as Arizona needed spot-starter T.J. McFarland and then Braden Shipley to get out of trouble. At one point before Arizona scored, Minnesota had scored 25 unanswered runs on the D-backs over the series.
By the end of the game, Lovullo had been ejected and later said what was arguably his strongest postgame comment of the entire season. In summary, he wanted the Diamondbacks to remember they were a good baseball team.
That subtle message worked. The D-backs responded by winning 15 of their next 16 games to give them enough breathing room to comfortably wrap up hosting an NL Wild Card spot.
J.D. and Robbie dominate Dodgers
Martinez hit four home runs and recorded six RBI against the D-backs’ NL West rival on Sept. 4, becoming just the 18th player to record four dingers in a single game. It was a nice summary of the impact the front office’s trade for the former Detroit slugger had on the team in the second half of the year.
Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray said it best: “It’s more rare than a perfect game.”
Of course, that explains why Ray’s own outing became the second most important storyline. He recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts that same day, finishing with the most since Randy Johnson struck out 15 in 2004.
A Wild Card Champagne shower
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) October 5, 2017
Facing an explosive opponent much like themselves and not getting the most ace-like pitching performance from Zack Greinke, the D-backs needed a lot to take the NL Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies.
The eventual 11-8 win on Oct. 4 included four triples — including the first in the postseason by a reliever, Bradley — and help from pitcher Robbie Ray in relief.
The end result led to a booze shower in the Diamondbacks’ locker room, a celebration of all that was accomplished in the first year of Lovullo and the Mike Hazen-led front office.
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