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D-backs’ A.J. Pollock, Matt Koch deliver for series win over Astros

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Matt Koch throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Give Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Matt Koch credit. For the second time in as many starts, he held his own against one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball.

In fact, he did more than hold his own on Sunday. He won.

Koch and the D-backs bested Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros, winning the game, 3-1, and the series, 2-1, in front of announced crowd of 35,632 at Chase Field.

The D-backs still have not lost a series this season. They finished the homestand 4-3.

Koch, who faced Clayton Kershaw in his last start, matched Verlander pitch for pitch during the six innings the two shared the field.

Other than giving up a second-inning solo home run by Alex Bregman, Koch was outstanding. Twice he retired the side in order and three times he stranded runners in scoring position, before being removed from the game in the seventh inning having thrown just 77 pitches.

Overall, Koch (2-0) struck out three and scattered six hits in a career-high 6.1 innings. He did not walk a batter.

Verlander was just as good, if not better. He had a shutout going until the sixth, when the D-backs scored a pair of runs on a triple and an error.

Verlander (4-1) went six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. He had never lost to the D-backs in three previous starts and had an 11-game regular season winning streak snapped.

For Koch, it was a historic outing as he became the first pitcher to face different MVPs in back-to-back starts since the White Sox’s Ed Lopat in 1947.

THE GOOD

One of the few D-backs batters to have good numbers against Verlander, Daniel Descalso (2-for-3 with one strikeout) showed why in each of his first two at-bats. He singled in the first and then doubled in the fourth inning; both hits were to center field. They were also the first D-backs hits first of the game. Descalso finished 2-for-3 with a walk and is now batting .371 (13-for-35) in his last 14 games.

With runners on the corners and no outs in the sixth inning, Koch made like Houdini and escaped trouble. He struck out Josh Reddick and then got Bregman to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, thus keeping the score 1-0. The inning began with Jose Altuve, celebrating his 28th birthday, tripling to right field and then Carlos Correa getting plunked on his left arm, just above the elbow.

Credit A.J. Pollock with a Little League inside-the-park two-run home run in the sixth inning. He tripled to center field, scoring Descalso who had led off with a walk, and then scored himself after home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz ruled obstruction on Bregman, feeling Bregman prevented Pollock from advancing after the relay throw bounced past third base towards the D-backs dugout.

It was another big day at the plate for Pollock. In addition to the RBI triple, he had a RBI single in the eighth inning to put the D-backs ahead 3-1. Pollock ripped the first-pitch he saw from Joe Smith and lined the ball into left field, scoring David Peralta who had led off with a single. Pollock finished 2-for-3 with a walk and is now batting .368 (21-for-57) with two triples and 15 RBI in his last 15 games.

THE BAD

With one out in the second inning, Koch left a 3-1 fastball—clocked at 92.4 mph—up in the zone that Bregman hit into the pool area behind the fence in right field for a solo home run. It was Bregman’s second homer of the season and third given up by Koch in four starts. By the way, Bregman has now recorded at least one hit in eight straight road games.

Through three innings, Verlander had faced one batter over the minimum. He retired eight straight, four via strikeout, after Descalso’s single to center with one out in the first inning. How good was Verlander? Not once did he reach a 3-ball count to any of the first 10 batters. Verlander needed just 36 pitches, 27 of which were strikes, to complete three innings.

In both the fourth and fifth innings, the D-backs failed to deliver with a runner in scoring position. Descalso was left stranded after a leadoff double in the fourth, while Alex Avila advanced as far as third base after a leadoff walk in the fifth. In those two innings, the D-backs went a combined 0-for-4 with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

STAT OF THE GAME/SERIES

28-12: The D-backs were out-hit 28-12 (and outscored 12-7) in the series yet still won two of the three games

HE SAID IT

“It’s awesome. It’s exciting to go up against the best,” Koch said, referring to his last two starts. “Our team has been playing amazing right now so it’s been fun.”

NOTED

Koch threw a first-pitch strike to 14-of-25 batters faced; in addition, he reached a 3-ball count two times

Brad Boxberger pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 11th save in as many chances to start the season

Archie Bradley pitched a scoreless eighth inning, extending his scoreless outings streak to nine in a row

Paul Goldschmidt went 0-for-4, finishing the homestand 1-for-25 (.040) with four walks and 11 strikeouts

At 23-11, the D-backs tied their second-best 34-game start in franchise history (also: 24-10 back in 2000)

With a first-pitch temperature of 101 degrees, the game was played with both the roof and panels closed

Before the game, Jake Lamb (10-day disabled list: sprained left AC joint) resumed all baseball activities

UP NEXT

A day off.

Actually, it’s a travel day as the D-backs make the quick trip to Los Angeles. It will be a quick stay as well.

The D-backs and Dodgers will play only two games, with the series opener on Tuesday, May 8. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

The D-backs were expected to see Kershaw for what would’ve been the fourth time this season. Kershaw, however, was placed on the disabled list Sunday due to biceps tendinitis. Another left-hander, Rich Hill (1-1), will now make the start in Game 1. Zack Godley will throw for the D-backs.

Godley (4-2) was beaten by the Dodgers in his most recent start. He pitched well, though, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings. Prior to that May 2 outing, Godley had a 6.91 ERA (11 ER in 14.1 IP) and a .339 opponent average in three previous starts.

Overall, Godley’s four wins are tied with teammate Patrick Corbin and seven others for the second-most in the league.

The D-backs are 7-3 versus the Dodgers this season.