D-backs starters benched, but offense comes through in win
PHOENIX — Fans on social media offered their jokes and complaints about the lineup the Diamondbacks revealed before their game on Wednesday. It was missing several key players, including Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta.
Manager Torey Lovullo even went as far as to say, during his pregame media availability, “I know when you look at the lineup today, you’re probably thinking like we’re throwing in the towel and I want to get a look at guys, [but] that’s not the case at all.”
The lineup change, he said, was because what he had done in recent days was not yielding results. Arizona entered Wednesday on a four-game losing streak, and he was trying something different.
It seemed to work out pretty well for them in a 9-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Patrick Kivlehan, who had one hit in three at bats this season coming into the game, hit two triples. Christian Walker, playing in place of Goldschmidt at first, hit a three-run home run. Chris Owings hit a two-run home run.
“What can you say? You get the understudies in the ballgame, they bring a certain energy to the start of the game and we end up playing downhill baseball with that big three-run home run by Walker,” Lovullo said. “I was really proud of the way they came out ready to perform today.
“Obviously it was very awkward sitting before [the media] before the game, telling you that we were going to rest some of our starters, but I felt like the time was right, it worked out well, and like I said: I was really, really proud of everybody’s effort today.”
And all of this is without mentioning the performance of Robbie Ray, the D-backs’ starting pitcher who tossed six shutout innings of one-hit ball. It was a complete team win at a most unlikely moment, avoiding a sweep from the Cubs at Chase Field.
“Robbie Ray was wonderful,” Lovullo said. “He had several pitches in that first inning that prevented him from working deeper into the game, but he gave us six quality innings and turned it over to the bullpen and we were able to get guys work that haven’t had a lot of work as of late.”
While not the only so-called “understudy” to have a big night on Wednesday, Kivlehan might have been the biggest surprise. He went 2-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch and two triples, becoming the eighth player in team history to hit multiple triples in a game.
“That’s lucky right there,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever done that twice in one game, but I’ll take it.”
It was Kivlehan’s first start with Arizona.
“We were just joking around, it was like the Reno Aces going out there or whatever,” Kivlehan said. “We just tried to keep it simple, not put too much pressure on ourselves. We knew we were facing Cole Hamels and they were playing all their guys.”
Owings, in his first start since being called up on Sept. 1 (he was sent to Reno near the beginning of August), went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run.
“I mean, basically going out there with nothing to lose,” he said of the lineup change. “Before the game, you saw the lineups, who would you have picked to probably win that game? Getting out there, getting off to a good start, Walker with the big homer and Robbie [Ray] basically closed the door from the first on.”
Lovullo alluded after the game to more of the reason why he benched the starters for Wednesday’s game, saying “this lineup was prepared and excited” to execute the game plan with energy.
“The starters that rested saw the entire piece of that puzzle form today,” Lovullo said. “And I think it will prepare them for a really good opening game against the Rockies.”
As for keeping with the “understudies” lineup going forward, Lovullo said the lineup will include the starters again on Friday.
The D-backs have Thursday off before playing the final nine games of their regular season. Arizona will host the Rockies and Dodgers for three games apiece before going to San Diego for the final three.