D-backs’ bullpen tested, escapes calamity in win over Braves
PHOENIX — Patrick Corbin did exactly what the Diamondbacks (76-65) needed him to do on Friday.
He held the Braves (77-64) to one run, gave up only four hits and a walk, struck out nine hitters and pitched six full innings. Yoshi Hirano pitched a scoreless seventh, Archie Bradley and Brad Ziegler were credited with holds in the eighth, and Andrew Chafin and Brad Boxberger pitched the scoreless ninth for a 5-3 win.
If only the whole thing were as simple as it sounds.
A recently-struggling Bradley gave up two hits to begin his eighth inning and allowed a run to score, but it was still 4-2 D-backs. He followed that up with a clean ground ball out on the next batter. Then, another ground ball pulled Paul Goldschmidt off the bag at first while he was receiving the throw; the runner was safe. Then came a weak infield single.
The D-backs were in a bases-loaded jam. Bradley was removed from the game.
“When you look at the box score and the results tonight, it wasn’t good,” Bradley said. “But if you look at the pitch locations and the way they hit the ball — I mean outside the first two, which were hit hard, I thought I settled back in and made some good pitches, the ball just didn’t go my way tonight.”
Ziegler, a ground ball specialist, entered the game and rolled up a ground ball on the first batter for a potentially inning-ending double play. But everyone was safe, and Nick Ahmed was charged with an error. A run scored to make it 4-3.
Ziegler got the next two batters out, and the scare had ended.
“These first two games [in the series] have been crazy,” Ziegler said. “Last night was crazy, too. That’s a really good club — I saw a lot of them this year and last year [pitching for the Marlins], and they battle probably well as any team in baseball all the way to the last out.”
The slim margin and frustrating exit for Bradley were far from ideal for a pitcher who entered the game pitching to a 5.40 ERA since the start of August (season ERA: 3.52). But as he said, the results in the box score didn’t tell the story of ground balls and weak infield contact.
The box score said he gave up hits and failed to escape the inning.
“I’ve seen Archie be the best reliever in baseball at times, through stretches,” Ziegler said. “We know it’s just a matter of time and that switch is going to flip and he may be right back to that guy, the next outing.”
When asked if Bradley’s role could change to lower-leverage situations while he regains consistency, manager Torey Lovullo offered that it was a possibility. But when Bradley was alerted of the Lovullo’s comment, he seemed to brush off the notion that he was lacking confidence.
Bradley also credited Ziegler with an “unbelievable” performance to hold the lead.
Once past the perilous eighth inning, the D-backs had to get through a ninth inning with a two-run lead (Arizona scored a run in the bottom of the eighth). They did so successfully, but Lovullo called upon Chafin — not his closer, Boxberger — to get the first out. Boxberger came on to get the final two outs.
It was a unique management of the ninth inning, a deviation from the standard one inning of work for the closer. But the unique move came with Boxberger coming off back-to-back losses, and a stretch in which he had two losses and a blown save in his last six appearances.
On Friday, though, Boxberger suffered no such fate. Bradley, too, did get some bit of credit from the box score: HOLD, 32.
“My confidence is still high, and — At the end of the day right now, we’re trying to win games,” Bradley said. “And that’s what we did.”