D-backs jump on Orioles early, upend Baltimore in series opener
PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said it best following a series to forget against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’ve got to earn things every single day so I want us to make statements, I want us to be ready to play baseball in the first inning today,” Lovullo said ahead of Monday’s matchup, knowing a strong start to the series against the Baltimore Orioles was a crucial piece for a team trying to stay afloat in the NL Wild Card race.
Message received loud and clear.
The D-backs wasted little time, attacking the Orioles from the opening frame as Arizona took down Baltimore 6-3 at Chase Field, snapping a two-game losing streak in front of 19,192 fans.
While Jarrod Dyson represented a quick out to start the game, the rest of the first inning was anything but.
The D-backs went after Orioles starting pitcher Aaron Brooks, manufacturing three runs on five hits.
Ketel Marte represented the first hit of the evening, reaching base on a soft single. He wouldn’t wait long to round the bases, however, as Eduardo Escobar needed just two pitches to bring in the outfielder on an RBI triple.
One pitch later, Escobar was crossing home plate off of a Christian Walker RBI single. The run marked the fourth consecutive game with an RBI for the first baseman.
Adam Jones, who is facing his former team for the first time in his career, added another single before Nick Ahmed added a third run to the inning with a single of his own, bringing in Walker.
“For us to come out the way we did and make a statement early in the game in the first inning continues to show the toughness of this team,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after the win. “They find a way everyday to make sure they’re prepped and ready to give their best effort.
“And scoring those three early runs got us playing the type of baseball that we’re used to playing, that every team wants to play.”
The scoring continued in the third inning, starting with a heads-up play from Jones.
Looking at an 0-2 count, Jones hit a pop up near first base. Instead of watching the ball land in the first baseman’s glove, Jones hustled down the line. His effort paid off as Renato Nunez couldn’t make a play on the ball. Jones, who was already on another gear as the ball hit the ground, dug in and made it to second for the leadoff double.
The offense turned from one double to the next as third baseman Jake Lamb drove in the outfielder in the next at-bat, hitting a sharp liner to center field. Carson Kelly added another run with a groundout to extend the lead to 5-1.
It was a big night for Jones, who added an RBI single in the fourth, pushing the lead even further. The outfielder went 3-for-4, recording an RBI and a run scored.
“Offensively, it’s Adam Jones’ day, right?” Lovullo said. “He continues to be very, very impressive in big moments and today he steps up and does a great job getting the three hits.”
But for Jones, a win always outweighs the stats.
“We got a W, which is most important,” Jones said of his night. “I could have had three hits and had a loss. The most important thing is we got a W. The next week is the most important for our team … We grinded it out and got the W. Tomorrow, let’s handle business again.”
And with the offense rolling from the start, Robbie Ray could focus in on keeping the lead.
The starting pitcher went 6.0 innings (100 pitches/69 strikes), allowing three earned runs on eight hits. Ray struck out 10 batters and had a wild pitch on his way to his ninth win.
“He’s just in a very good rhytmn, you can tell when he’s standing on the mound that he’s going to get the job done,” Lovullo said of his starter. “Here’s an example of his mindset. I told him before he went out in the sixth that he had three more hitters left, and it was non-negotiable, those are your three hitters, go get them.
“And you could tell, by the swagger walking out to the mound and the pitches he was making, he knew what he was trying to get to and he executed a great gameplay. He’s a tough man.”
He now sits at 9-6 and has won all four of his starts in July. Last season, the pitcher went 0-2 in the month.
“I felt good, physically, coming into the game,” Ray said of his outing. “I felt good, I felt like I attacked guys … obviously getting the early runs is huge and pitching with the lead is a lot easier than pitching behind so the bats came out tonight and some really good plays behind me too. Overall it was a really good game.”
It’s a much-needed bounce back for a team sitting just outside the two NL Wild Card spots.
“The next week for seven teams are very, very important,” Jones said of the playoff race. “A couple are going to fall out of it, a couple are going to stay in it.
“We just need to be one of the teams that stay in it because we got a good team, and we want to play some meaningful baseball come August/September.”
The D-backs will look to make it two wins in a row when take on the Orioles on Tuesday. Merrill Kelly is on the bump for Arizona. He’ll face off against Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy.
Catch all the action live at 6:40 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.