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Diamondbacks sweep Marlins behind Matt Koch and hitting heat

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Koch throws in the first inning during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

For the first time since the beginning of April, the Arizona Diamondbacks are on the winning side of a sweep.

They defeated the Miami Marlins 6-1 and increased their record to 31-27.

Sure, the Marlins have the worst record in the National League. Sure, they traded away their best players in the offseason.

But in taking five of six games from the Marlins and Reds, the D-backs proved they’re not the bottom-feeders that their May record suggested.

“A big league team is always very potent and able to do special things,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I don’t want to take the mindset of ‘beating up on teams you’re supposed to happen,’ that’s a very dangerous mindset.”

Two things stand out from Sunday’s game: starting pitcher Matt Koch rediscovered his form, and the team managed to hit some fastballs.

After impressing by going toe-to-toe against former MVP-winning pitchers at the beginning of May, Koch cooled down, allowing eight runs on May 16 and five runs two starts later.

He only got out of the sixth inning twice in six starts last month.

But against the Marlins on Sunday, Koch threw seven scoreless innings on only 84 pitches.

“Everything was pretty sharp today,” he said. “My fastball command was good, the cutter was probably the best it’s been all year.”

He struck out six, a career-high, which is more than his last three appearances combined.

When runners did get on, Koch did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground. After a lead-off single in the first, he coaxed two grounders, the latter of which resulted in a double play.

The Marlins doubled to begin the second inning, but he forced two more ground outs and then struck out shortstop Miguel Rojas to keep Miami off the scoreboard.

Koch wouldn’t give up another hit until the fifth inning. After a lead-off single, he struck out a batter and then forced Rojas to ground into a double play.

That was it.

“He fought me on coming out of the game, which I think is a great quality, I don’t want any starting pitcher to want to come out of a game,” Lovullo said.

The manager won. Second baseman Ketel Marte pinch-hit for Koch, which ended up providing Arizona with some insurance.

Marte stepped to the plate against Marlins pitcher Adam Conley, who threw almost exclusively four-seam fastballs. The D-backs have struggled against high velocity over the last month, and Conley reached 97 mph on Sunday.

On the first pitch, Marte got a 93-mph-fastball and drove it to right-center field. Center fielder Jarrod Dyson advanced to third, Marte got to second, and a batter later, they both scored on an error when second baseman Daniel Descalso hit a deep fly ball to center field.

In the eighth inning, left fielder David Peralta hit an opposite-field home run off a 98 mph fastball.

He has now hit a home run in three consecutive games.

“That’s kind of my approach, go left-center field, try to let the ball get deep,” he said. “Try to not cheat too much and pull the ball.”

Not to be outdone, Marte struck a 99 mph fastball to left field for an RBI triple four batters later.

He’s been working with a hard-throwing hitting machine lately.

“Ninety (miles-per-hour) is easy now,” he said with a laugh.

The three-run eighth inning gave the D-backs a six-run advantage heading into the final frame. After not getting a hit until the fourth inning, they road out an easy victory against Miami.

It’s been as good a start to June as Arizona could hope for.

They re-gained the lead in the NL West before two series against division foes San Francisco and Colorado.

They’ll hope the flip of the calendar really does represent the flip of the team.

“We had a really rough May, and we just grabbed May, we throw it to the trash,” Peralta said. “So we just decided to start … from zero.”

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