PHOENIX — Monday, his manager called him an elite player and someone — who regardless of whether he was tired or nicked up — he’d want on his lineup card over just about anyone else in the league.
Tuesday, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt backed up Kirk Gibson’s public vote of confidence in heroic fashion.
With the D-backs down to their final three outs against baseball’s saves leader, Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson, Goldschmidt — as he’s done throughout the season in late-game situations — literally put the team on his back.
On a 3-1 count, Johnson left a fastball up over the inner third of the plate and Goldschmidt made him pay, sending the 95 MPH heater over the Chase sign in left field for a game-tying solo shot.
For Goldschmidt, it was his league-leading fifth home run in the ninth inning, but he wasn’t done there.
After two innings of scoreless relief from Brad Ziegler and Heath Bell, Goldschmidt came up again to lead off the 11th inning.
Different pitcher, same result.
Unwillingly to learn from his teammate’s error in the ninth, Baltimore reliever T.J. McFarland served up a 89 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate on the first pitch of the at-bat, and Arizona’s All-Star first baseman didn’t miss it.
Goldschmidt’s extra-inning blast — this one 374 feet over the right field fence — sent the D-backs home walk-off winners for the second consecutive night and third time in five days by a final of 4-3.
“It was the same thing as the ninth-inning home run,” said Goldschmidt, who now has 29 long balls on the season. “I was looking for something over the middle of the plate that I could hit hard. I honestly told myself, ‘Just try to get on and let Hilly drive me in.’ It was the same thought both times. Fortunately I was able to hit a line drive, the second one being right down the line helped.”
Monday, his manager was pressed about whether it was time to give him some rest.
Tuesday, he left Chase Field with a Double Bubble hat and chants of ‘MVP! MVP! MVP!’
Just another chapter in what’s been nothing short of a brilliant 2013 campaign for Paul Goldschmidt.
“It’s fun every time,” said Goldschmidt. “You just try to go out there and get a win, obviously walk-offs are a little bit more exciting. But it’s fun to win.”
Goldschmidt’s heroics are the headline story, but the D-backs bullpen (Eury De La Rosa, Will Harris, Ziegler, Bell) was fantastic over the final four frames. The quartet of relievers combined to throw four scoreless innings, while allowing just one hit.
Home run balls aside, Randall Delgado was also very impressive.
Rebounding from arguably his two worst starts of the season, the D-backs’ right-hander allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings. Most importantly, he was efficient (86 pitches) and gave the team a chance to win against a quality opponent.
Since his four-game stint on the bench, Gerardo Parra has looked much more comfortable at the plate. The D-backs’ right fielder has six hits in his last four games, including a solo shot in the seventh inning and a double off the center field wall in the ninth Tuesday.
Interleague play has a funny way of creating teaching moments in a hurry.
Through the first 3.1 innings Tuesday night, Delgado had no problem pumping in fastball after fastball against Baltimore Orioles hitters.
But the second time through Baltimore’s lineup, the 24-year-old starter received a quick lesson on the importance of location and variety.
After issuing a five-pitch walk to Nick Markakis followed by a wild pitch in the top of the fourth inning, Delgado tried to go back to his bread-and-butter with a runner in scoring position.
Adam Jones was happy to oblige, grounding out to third without advancing Markakis. But the MLB home run leader, Chris Davis, wasn’t as considerate.
After throwing a first-pitch ball, Delgado tried to jam the Orioles’ power-hitting first baseman with a 91 MPH fastball on the inner half of the plate. Unfortunately it caught enough of the plate, as Davis roped the 1-0 offering into the right field bleachers for a tie-breaking two-run shot.
“It was a mistake pitch to Davis,” Kirk Gibson said. “It’s not where you want to throw him, but he’s done it to a lot of people.”
Delgado is just the latest. Lesson learned.
He Said It:
“We just need to focus on what we need to do,” said Goldschmidt. “We need to keep playing hard. Whatever happens ahead of us, behind us or any of that is out of our control. If we just show up and play our game, hopefully it’ll be good enough for us to have a chance near the end of the year.”
-The D-backs and Orioles played in the sixth MLB game to go to extra innings Tuesday night — the most since June 2010.
-De La Rosa continues to impress in limited action. The left-handed reliever threw a scoreless eighth inning and has yet to allow a run in his brief career (3.2 innings).
-With his fourth-inning shot off Delgado, Davis has hit a home run against every team he’s faced in 2013.
-Aaron Hill’s seventh-inning triple extended Arizona’s home extra-base hit streak to 54 games.
-Parra’s home run was his eighth of the season and his first since June 22. He had previously gone 157 straight at-bats without a long ball.
The D-backs, winners of five of their last seven games, will look to sweep their interleague series with the Orioles, as All-Star Patrick Corbin (12-3, 2.36 ERA) takes the mound in a matinee affair at Chase Field. Despite allowing a combined six earned runs, Corbin is 0-2 in his last three starts. Baltimore will counter with right-hander Chris Tillman (14-3, 3.73 ERA). Tillman will be making his first career appearance against Arizona. First pitch is at 12:40 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.