Quirky ninth allows D-backs to walk off Angels on Pollock’s sac-bunt
PHOENIX — Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo saw A.J. Pollock’s glances.
Arizona’s bullpen had blown a two-run lead over the Los Angeles Angels two innings earlier and entered the bottom of the ninth Tuesday tied 4-4. D-backs pinch-hitter Jon Jay got hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth, and catcher John Ryan Murphy put runners on first and second with no outs with a textbook bunt down the first base line.
So Pollock approached the plate open to anything decisive on his manager’s part.
“When they kind of ask you what you want to do, I’d kind of rather — if you want me to bunt, I like that. If you want me to swing, I like that,” the center fielder said.
And though he laid down a subpar bunt after reading a sign from Lovullo, it was good enough.
Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian fielded Pollock’s sac-bunt and threw it out of the reach of third baseman Taylor Ward, allowing Jay to slide into third, get up and jog home for a 5-4 D-backs victory at Chase Field.
“I feel like we stole one on that particular play, but I feel like we were bound to score a run with those first two guys getting on the way they did,” Lovullo said after the win, which put Arizona 1.5 games ahead of the Colorado Rockies and 3.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West.
“We got to throw off the spray charts every once in awhile and just mix things up.”
Fortunate or not, the Diamondbacks could’ve played better.
Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin had thrown 61 pitches in his first three innings but managed to stretch himself to 6.0 innings and 95 pitches; the D-backs led 4-2 by that point. He allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out eight while walking two.
Arizona’s top bullpen arms weren’t at their best either. Angels manager Mike Scioscia teased a matchup of Japanese stars Shohei Ohtani of Los Angeles and Yoshihisa Hirano of Arizona in the top of the seventh frame but at the last minute swapped in Jefry Marte, who smacked a solo shot off Hirano to cut the D-backs’ lead to 4-3.
The Angels’ Kole Calhoun then singled with a grounder that struck D-backs reliever Andrew Chafin, but after Chafin was pulled for Archie Bradley, it was Bradley who allowed a David Fletcher RBI triple to far right field that knotted the game.
“We got nicked up in some key situations but those things are going to happen,” Lovullo said, adding he wasn’t worried about the earned runs allowed by Hirano and Chafin, nor Bradley’s blown save.
The Diamondbacks, however, got early production from David Peralta, who went 3-for-3 with a home run, double, single, plus a walk.
He looped a hooking fly ball to left field off Angels starter Felix Pena to give Arizona a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning before the Angels broke through in the third. Fletcher followed Calhoun’s one-out double with an RBI grounder up the middle, bringing Los Angeles to within a run before Albert Pujols walked and Andrelton Simmons’ single scored Fletcher from second, tying the game, 2-2.
Peralta struck again with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning, scoring Pollock, before Paul Goldschmidt put runners on the corners with a single. A bloop, two-out single by Steven Souza Jr. then put Arizona ahead, 4-2.
Lovullo admitted to scoreboard watching the Rockies’ loss to the Padres during the game, and Arizona players were taking in the Dodgers defeat against the Cardinals in the locker room afterward. The significance of the quirky win on this particular night wasn’t lost on the D-backs.
“Our team really doesn’t bunt that much. It’s kind of an identity — we swing the bat. I wouldn’t say it’s a no-brainer (to bunt),” Pollock said.
“Whatever way you can win the game. It wasn’t the best bunt but it won the game.”
– Murphy’s bunt in the ninth inning to set up Pollock’s game-winner was his first hit since July 6.
– Pena took a swing in the fourth inning but lost control of the bat and flung it into the D-backs’ dugout, prompting Lovullo to leave the dugout and speak with umpire Manny Gonzalez. Lovullo said afterward he was getting clarification on a previous ball-strike call and his reaction wasn’t about the bat.
– A crowd of 30,420 took in the game at Chase Field.
Right-hander Clay Buchholz (2.47 ERA, 6-2) will start on the mound for the D-backs to face off against fill-in starter Odrisamer Despaigne (6.29, 2-1).
First pitch is set for 6:40 p.m. and can be heard on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, including pregame beginning 40 minutes before the game.