D-backs’ bats come to life in blowout win over Nationals
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks hit well enough on Saturday to score two games worth of runs.
They were due for that since the team was one-hit on Friday night in the series opener against the Nationals as rookie pitcher Alex Young picked up the team’s only base hit. On Saturday, that was not the case.
Against Stephen Strasburg — the NL Pitcher of the Month for July — the D-backs scored nine runs on nine hits and two walks with three home runs and a triple. He managed to go 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts on 98 pitches.
Who would’ve thought that Strasburg’s nine runs would account for only half of those scored by the D-backs on the evening?
The D-backs won, 18-7, to even the series.
After the Nationals starter exited, the offensive outburst got silly. Two position players — Gerardo Parra and Brian Dozier — pitched for the Nationals in the eighth inning, which saw the D-backs score seven runs capped by a two-run home run from Eduardo Escobar. Nationals pitchers combined to issue 11 walks.
The nine-inning game lasted three hours and 46 minutes.
Manager Torey Lovullo said before Saturday’s game that he wasn’t sure what went so wrong on Friday night and, just a few hours later, was praising his team for their offensive turnaround.
“It’s a nice bounceback after a tough offensive game yesterday,” Lovullo said. “I thought we had a really good offensive approach and scored some early runs against a very good pitcher. Strasburg’s one of the best in the league and we were up for the challenge and did our job.”
Every D-backs hitter except the pitchers’ spot collected a base hit on Saturday, and seven different hitters collected at least one RBI. Escobar went 3-for-5 with a whopping seven RBIs and two home runs.
Escobar now has 24 home runs and 88 RBIs on the season, both new career-highs.
“Of course it means a lot to me, it’s important to me,” Escobar said through a translator. “But then again, my focus is on working hard every single day to keep improving every single day and to still have a great season as we go on this year.”
What’s more, Arizona’s offense came alive in response to a 2-0 deficit going into the bottom of the first inning and a one-run lead (5-4) going into what became a five-run fifth inning.
Arizona starter Robbie Ray made his first start since his name was tossed around in trade reports and rumors going into Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline. He pitched well, but had two separate innings in which he gave up two runs (1st, 4th). After the D-backs scored five runs in the fifth inning to take a 10-4 lead, Ray’s batting spot was replaced by a pinch-hitter to end his outing.
“I felt like my stuff got better as the game went on,” Ray said. “The first two batters in the first inning was not great, not how you draw it up. But I felt like I was able to get back down in the zone, working both sides of the plate and the way the bats came alive tonight was pretty amazing.”
Ray went five innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits, no walks and five strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches. He has not walked a batter in 15 consecutive innings.
After Ray, Lovullo tasked Yoshihisa Hirano with protecting the 10-4 lead for an inning, while Zack Godley pitched after that. The two of them combined for 3.2 scoreless innings before Godley gave up a three-run home run with two outs in the ninth, and was removed for T.J. McFarland.
McFarland recorded the final out.
— Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb and Alex Avila also hit home runs in the win.
— Ray was taken out for precautionary reasons, Lovullo revealed, but said he was fine.
“I elected to remove him from the game for precautionary reasons,” Lovullo said. “There was maybe something that left us a little bit of concern with some low back tightness, but it was something that I overreacted to and he’s fine and should not miss any time.”
“I guess I made a face on a pitch,” Ray said. “My back did tighten up a little bit, but it wasn’t really an issue. … The lead that we had, it was really no point in trying to push it.”
— Pitchers Mike Leake and Zac Gallen, both acquired by the D-backs in trades on Wednesday, are with the team and will pitch at Chase Field next week during the series against the Phillies. After Merrill Kelly on Monday, Leake will pitch on Tuesday with Gallen going on Wednesday.