PHOENIX — Facing a Los Angeles Dodgers team that had gone 44-7 in its last 51 games and won 13 of 14 not only meant the Arizona Diamondbacks couldn’t make mistakes. They had to reap the benefits of every one of the Dodgers’ own miscues.
Twice, they didn’t.
The third time around, they did so by beating the odds.
The D-backs put runners in scoring position with no outs three times and went a combined 0-for-8 before, on the third attempt to make due, they found themselves with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.
Facing what appeared to be an ideal matchup for the Dodgers with left-handed reliever Tony Watson facing left-handed batter Jake Lamb, it was the D-backs’ third baseman uncorking a grand slam off the right-field foul pole to turn Arizona’s 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead that would become the final score.
“I didn’t think it was going to stay fair,” Lamb said. “So that’s why I didn’t — I don’t like showing a whole lot of emotion, but I definitely thought they would review that. Apparently it hit the foul pole. I didn’t see.”
How against the odds was it that the D-backs beat this Dodgers team with a single play that went against the recent trends, both team-wide and for Lamb, who is averaging .143 against lefties this year?
“It’s well-documented last year he didn’t do what he felt like he needed to do against left-handed pitching,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “All I know from that point forward is he has had tremendous awareness, has looked limitation square in the eye and has done everything he possibly can to improve.
“As of late — and that’s what I want to talk about — he’s had really good approaches against left-handed pitching. His OPS is well over .800, and those are the things that we’re focusing on where it’s about improving each and every day.”
It was Lamb’s second home run on the night. He’d hit a sixth-inning solo shot off Pedro Baez on his third pitch after starter Kenta Maeda was pulled for his first of five RBIs on the night.
Still, the Diamondbacks’ recent struggles with runners in scoring position kept with the trend.
Arizona’s first two batters of the game, David Peralta and A.J. Pollock, reached in the bottom of the first, but Lamb, Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez respectively lined out, popped up and struck out to leave two on base.
In the fifth with Arizona trailing 2-0, Maeda had retired seven in a row before D-backs catcher Chris Iannetta hit a leadoff home run — yet it could have been more. Marte followed with a single and was gifted third base with no outs when Maeda threw an errant pickoff attempt to first.
But D-backs pitcher Zack Godley struck out, Peralta grounded out and Pollock lined out as the Dodgers held the lead.
Then came the seventh.
Iannetta singled and Marte struck out with Chris Herrmann, who is hitting .063 since the All-Star break, up to pinch-hit. That’s when Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts swapped right-handed reliever Brandon Morrow for Watson.
Lovullo countered by pulling Herrmann off the on-deck circle and batting lefty-hitting specialist Adam Rosales, who was hit by a pitch. A ground-out advanced Iannetta and Rosales to third and second with two outs before Lamb snuck the Watson slider just inside the right-field foul pole for the grand slam.
“It’s that one key moment that just gets the ball rolling,” Lovullo said. “If it gets us kick-started in the right direction after some recent struggles, I can see why.”
Added Lamb: “Yeah, they’re playing great baseball, but we just need to win games. The fact that it’s against the Dodgers is great, but I’d be saying the same thing if this was a different team.”
Godley went 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits, three earned runs and two homers (both to Justin Turner) along with a walk and five strikeouts in the no-decision.
Archie Bradley followed Lamb’s game-changing hit in the eighth inning with an emotional full frame, allowing one hit but shutting down the Dodgers. Before that, David Hernandez recorded one quick strikeout to close the sixth, and closer Fernando Rodney allowed a leadoff walk before striking out two and wrapping the Arizona win.
Godley’s career-best scoreless streak coming into the day ended at 16.1 innings. Turner took an 0-1 pitch to left-center field for a solo homer to break a scoreless tie with one out in the fourth inning, and Cody Bellinger followed with a double to the same spot. Logan Forsythe singled Bellinger home on a grounder up the middle to put the Dodgers ahead, 2-0.
After Iannetta’s home run, the Dodgers again pushed the lead to two runs with a second Turner solo shot in the top of the sixth.
Maeda has allowed four runs over his last 27 frames. He only went five innings but held the D-backs to one earned run and four hits. Maeda had a walk and six strikeouts.
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig stole a J.D. Martinez home run in the sixth inning with Los Angeles leading 3-2 by leaping to snatch the ball that would have cleared the right field fence.
HE SAID IT
“We remember them. We’re still smarting from them,” Lovullo said of the D-backs’ sweep at the hand of the Dodgers at the end of the first half of 2017. “I think that it’s still motivating these guys.
“I think everybody has it as a natural feeling, a natural thought. It’s a nice win because it’s a win. It’s the L.A. Dodgers, we’re aware of that. They are the pace-setters, they are the best team in baseball. We got win No. 1 of a crucial series, and we’re very proud of that and we’ll enjoy it and get ready for tomorrow.”
STAT OF THE GAME
1-for-10: Arizona struggled with runners in scoring position, finishing 1-for-10 with the single hit being Lamb’s grand slam.
– Arizona has now beaten Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta and Maeda in three of the last four games Godley has started. They have combined 33-17 record.
– Attendance for the Tuesday night game came in at 24,810.
Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke (3.10 ERA, 13-4) takes the mound opposite Alex Wood (2.33 ERA, 13-1) on Wednesday in the second game of the series against the Dodgers.
Wood is 2-0 in three games against Arizona this season. He earned a win on April 15 despite lasting 3.1 innings without allowing a run against the D-backs, took a loss on April 21 by going 4.1 frames and allowing four hits, then went seven scoreless innings against Arizona on July 5.
The righty complained of fatigue in his last start but told reporters a mechanical tweak fixed a drop in his velocity that wasn’t related.
Greinke is coming off one of his worst performances of the season, allowing six runs in six frames in what became a 10-8 win over the Chicago Cubs.
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