After Wednesday night’s 12-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks are leading the majors in extra-innings victories this season, with eight — more than the total number of extra-innings games the team played in last season (seven).
While extra-innings wins in and of themselves are not inherently more valuable than a nine-inning win, the Diamondbacks’ record in such contests may reflect their resolve in arduous, long-lasting games like Wednesday’s.
Without a doubt, general manager Kevin Towers built the 2013 Diamondbacks to compete in trying games, an objective that was well-documented and oft-scrutinized. Towers made “grittiness” and the ability to “grind” a prerequisite for any player who would see the roster, wanting his team to fight through adversity.
This quality can be traced back to the team’s third game of the season, which began on April 3 and finished the following day — a 16-inning battle with the St. Louis Cardinals which resulted in a win. The game was the longest ever at Chase Field, and the result elicited wonder of whether or not it served as a microcosm of something bigger.
”This is the kind of game you remember as the season goes,” Cliff Pennington, the hero of the night, said following the game.
Manager Kirk Gibson linked the Diamondbacks’ success in the win to the type of makeup that Towers sought over the offseason.
”The things we practiced on, just being tough mentally, they hung in there,” Gibson said. “It is just a great contribution. The guys were all there. We didn’t panic when we got behind. Just outstanding. Just a great win.”
Last season, the Diamondbacks were 3-4 in extras. Their franchise record is 116-95 after the ninth inning. This year, they’ve lost just two games in extra innings.
Additionally, the Diamondbacks have 19 come-from-behind wins on the season, a +36 run differential in the seventh inning and later, and a 6-1 record in extra innings games on the road. All of these, Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall says, are representative of the team’s makeup and winning attitude.
“When you win, and when you look at the division leaders over the last few years, that (the ability to win tight games) is usually what it is,” Hall said Thursday on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf show. “Are these teams winning games late? Are they winning one-run games? Are they coming from behind and winning? And we’ve done all that so far.
“If we can sustain it, I think that’s a sign of a very good team.”
Pennington, a Towers offseason acquisition, suspected that that early-season win over the Cardinals imbued and solidified the attitude in his team.
”Two weeks from now, if we find ourselves down by four in the sixth, it will be like we have done this before,” he said back in April.
It’s been more than two weeks, and the Diamondbacks have done that seven more times since their seemingly defining game versus the Cardinals on April 3.