He had ditched the bubble gum bucket lid he wore during his on-field postgame interview but remnants of the celebration (dirt, mud, whatever else his teammates had concocted) remained on his forehead, under his left eye and all around the back of his neck.
If that’s what happens when you hit a walkoff home run, A.J. Pollock will take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
“Really cool feeling,” he said of the first pitch fastball he hit off of reliever Kevin Quakenbush.
“That’s what you do, you come in here every day. You put a lot of swings up in the cages and you work hard. It’s really cool when you actually get up there when the team needs you in late innings and to be able to win a game for a team. It’s really incredible.”
For Pollock, it was his first career walk-off homer and it sent the Arizona Diamondbacks home winners, 7-5, in the series opener against the San Diego Padres in front of 35,580 at Chase Field on Monday.
“Who cares who does it?” manager Kirk Gibson said laughing. “I mean it’s fun to see somebody to do it, yes. We were standing and we were saying, ‘let’s walk ’em off, let’s walk ’em off’. He crushed that ball. But overall, I thought we played a really good game.”
The Diamondbacks led 2-0 and 5-4 before the Padres scored a run in the seventh to tie the game.
It stayed that way until the ninth when, with two outs and a runner on first, Pollock smashed his sixth home run of the season. He finished 3-for-5 and is now hitting .348 (24-for-69) with four doubles, two triples, three homers and eight RBI in his last 18 games.
“It’s been a pretty decent approach I’ve had,” Pollock said. “Good or bad, just trying come to the ballpark the next day and wipe the day clean; just be competitive out there, put good at-bats together. There’s no really secret to it.”
The Diamondbacks scored first, plating two runs in the second inning. Cliff Pennington’s hard ground ball hit off of Chase Headley’s glove at third allowing Martin Prado to score. Alexi Amarista then had trouble fielding the ball in center, which let Cody Ross touch home plate. Amarista was charged with an error.
The Diamondbacks added three more runs in the sixth inning as they opened the frame with five straight hits, four singles and double. Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero singled to drive in runs, while Prado laced a double off the fence protecting the bullpen in leftfield to bring home the third run.
Prado saved a run with a diving stop and strong throw to first to retire Everth Cabrera to end the third inning. Prado extended his body fully to keep the ball from going into leftfield and leave Amarista, who had hit a one-out double and advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, stranded at third base.
Ross made a heads-up play in the fourth inning. Racing over to backup Pollock in centerfield, he fired the ball to Chris Owings who completed the relay to Prado in time to nail Seth Smith trying to stretch a leadoff double into a triple for the first out of the inning.
Another great relay in the eighth inning. Pollock hustled to field a ball hit towards the gap, threw to Owings who this time completed the relay to Pennington to nail Jed Gyorko trying to stretch a single into a double for the third out.
McCarthy’s first pitch of the fifth inning — moments after the roof opened — was deposited into the pool area over the rightfield fence by Yonder Alonso. Five batters later — again, the roof still open — Everth Cabrera smashed a two-out, three-run homer. McCarthy had pitched four scoreless innings, with the roof closed.
McCarthy’s two home runs allowed were the third and fourth in his past four starts and Nos. 10 and 11 on the season, putting him one ahead of fellow starter Wade Miley for team-high honors. The Diamondbacks entire pitching staff has allowed 61 homers, tied for the most in baseball.
Goldschmidt dropped Pennington’s throw from second, enabling Smith to reach base safely with one out in the first inning. It was Goldschmidt’s fifth error of the year, matching his total from all of last season’s 159 games he played.
STAT OF THE GAME
2: The number of Diamondbacks walk-off wins this season
HE SAID IT
“The ball doesn’t do the same thing,” McCarthy said of having the roof open midway through the game. “When it’s open from the beginning you kind of set your sightlines and you know your feel and what you’re trying to do. When it changes like that everything that you had been doing kind of goes out the window and you have to, I guess, make an adjustment off it. I mean you felt like you were pitching an indoor game and then all of a sudden, you open your eyes and it’s an outdoor game and everything looks completely different.”
• McCarthy, who continually got ahead of hitters, throwing first-pitch strikes to nine of the first 10 and 20 of the 27 batters he faced, extended his run of walking three batters or less to 92 straight starts, the second-longest active streak in baseball behind Cliff Lee (94)
• Aaron Hill was not in the lineup but was available to play, which he did pinch-hitting for McCarthy in the seventh (he flew out to center), a day after being removed for precautionary reasons after fouling a ball off his left ankle
• Diamondbacks and Padres combined for 5:13 of video reviews: Arizona challenged a safe call on a pickoff attempt in the eighth and lost, while San Diego challenged an out call in the fourth and lost
• Diamondbacks’ day-of-game ticket sales totaled 5,563, the most since August 30, 2008 against the Dodgers
A pair of left-handers take the mound for game two of the three-game series on Tuesday.
It will be Wade Miley getting the call for the Diamondbacks and Eric Stults for the Padres.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Miley (3-5, 4.85) lost his last start, a 4-2 decision at the Cardinals on May 22 in which he allowed three runs in 6.2 innings, the third time in four outings he’s recorded a quality start.
Meanwhile, Stults (2-5, 4.97) has allowed three runs or less in seven of his last nine starts despite pitching six or less innings seven times in that nine game span. He’s 5-4 in 11 career appearances, including nine starts, against the Diamondbacks.