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Nick Ahmed, D-backs defense helped keep score close against Nationals

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, left, tags out Washington Nationals Bryce Harper in a rundown between first and second base during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 12, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Though the Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Saturday, they hung around until the final batter.

This was in large part due to excellent defense that helped the D-backs get out of jams.

In the fourth inning, the bases were loaded with one out. Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, where Nick Ahmed made a diving play and got the force-out at second.

A runner scored, giving the Nationals a 2-1 lead, but if the ball had gone through it likely would have been a two-run single.

“Play after play out there, we do a good job of positioning guys,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “They trust the information they get, they pick up the baseball and they make great plays, they drive throws across the diamond.”

The D-backs’ starting pitcher, Troy Scribner, was pulled after that at-bat. He threw 98 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.

In the fifth inning, the Nationals did themselves no favors. With runners on the corners and one out, catcher Pedro Severino tried to bunt the runner home.

He’s hitting .273 this season and has at least one hit in six of the last nine games.

Severino was tagged out easily.

The next batter was pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The D-backs escaped the jam.

The Nationals threatened again in the sixth, putting runners on the corners with no outs.

However, pitcher T.J. McFarland caught outfielder Bryce Harper trying to steal second. The pick-off throw resulted in a pickle, and Harper was run down.

Rendon then hit another sharp ground ball to Ahmed, who was playing near the edge of the grass at shortstop. He fielded it cleanly and threw it home.

The runner was out.

The next batter, red-hot first baseman Matt Adams, hit a deep line drive to right field with Rendon on first base. Steven Souza chased it down at the warning track to end the inning.

The D-backs got through the seventh inning 1-2-3, where Ahmed made one more nice play.

In the eighth inning, second baseman Ketel Marte positioned himself to snag a pair of hard-hit line drives.

“I feel like if a play isn’t made by either of those guys in the middle, that it can’t be made,” Lovullo said about Marte and Ahmed. “They look like very complete defenders right now.”

The Nationals left 11 men on base.

Though Saturday resulted in the D-backs first series loss of the season, it was a respectable loss against a dominant starter in Strasburg.

Without the defense, it could have been ugly.

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