D-backs win 6th straight, knock off Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
PHOENIX — Looking to extend their winning streak to six games, the Arizona Diamondbacks faced a tall task in Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
The pitcher got the best of the D-backs early on, but it was Arizona who got the last laugh, using two big innings to take home the 6-5 win in front of a soldout Chase Field on Saturday night.
The D-backs’ bats, however, were stymied at the start.
Kershaw was hitting his marks from the first pitch, recording just one hit through the first three innings.
Adding to the D-backs’ woes, the Dodgers struck first offensively with two homers in the third and fourth innings, as Arizona starting pitcher Robbie Ray looked to weather the storm.
Mission accomplished as Arizona’s offense found its footing in the bottom half of the fourth inning in a big way.
With a lone Josh Rojas double on the team’s stat sheet, the D-backs’ bats looked nonexistent up until first baseman Christian Walker stepped up to the plate.
Looking at one out with shortstop Nick Ahmed at first base, Walker wasted little time in the batter’s box, absolutely crushing a two-run shot to straightaway center field.
Just like that, the D-backs trimmed the lead to 3-2.
But wait, there’s more.
Second baseman Wilmer Flores, who entered Saturday’s contest reaching base safely in his last 10 games, batting .581 over that span, continued his hot streak.
Needing just three pitches, Flores provided the backend of the one-two punch, sending a solo shot to left field and tying things up at 3-3.
The homers marked just the second time Kershaw allowed back-to-back jacks in his career, while Walker has now hit four dingers in 10 career at-bats against Kershaw. The feat ties Adam Dunn for the most homers against the pitcher all-time.
“I feel like I’ve faced him enough now where I’ve got a pretty good feel on how he’s gonna try and get me out and how he did get me out in my first at-bat,” Walker said of Kershaw.
“I think against a pitcher like him, you know, he’s so good at making adjustments as the game goes, you have to make adjustments with him. I just really wanted to sell out to my approach, buy into it and when I’m trusting myself, my confidence is higher and luckily it worked out for us tonight.”
The Dodgers wouldn’t let the stalemate last long, though.
Ray was attacked in the top of the fifth, allowing a double and single to open up the inning before a Kike Hernandez sac fly gave Los Angeles a slim one-run lead. Arizona’s ace responded after the run, striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
The back-to-back strikeouts would be Ray’s final action Saturday night as the pitcher went 5.0 innings (91 pitches/54 strikes), allowing four earned runs on eight hits. Ray also allowed three walks and two homers while fanning six.
“I felt good. They made me work for it,” Ray said of his performance. “They put some really good at-bats together. And man, some really good plays behind me and obviously the bats came alive there.”
But what’s better than one run scored? Two runs scored.
Keeping the back-and-forth affair going in the inning, Carson Kelly reached base with a leadoff walk before outfielder Tim Locastro was able to move the catcher into scoring position with a one-out single.
Then up came Ahmed.
Looking at a 1-2 count, the shortstop put a solid swing on the ball, lasering a two-run double to quickly put Arizona back atop the leaderboard.
From there, it was up to the bullpen to close things out.
For the most part, the bullpen looked strong in place of Ray, getting through the next three innings unscathed, while Eduardo Escobar added an insurance run with a solo home run in the eighth.
Things then turned dicey for closer Archie Bradley in the ninth.
Coming in for the final three outs of the game, Bradley was met head-on by the Dodgers. The closer ran into trouble right off the bat, allowing a single and a double to the first batters he faced before a walk loaded the bases with no outs.
Just as it looked like Los Angeles would ultimately take the lead, a huge double play from the combination of Walker, Bradley and Ahmed kept the victory in tacked, even with a run scoring.
Russell Martin represented the final out of the evening as Bradley got the catcher to groundout to seal the victory.
“I obviously don’t like loading the bases there but it happened, and in that role you have to think about what you’re going to do next,” Bradley said of the ninth inning.
“Honestly I give a shoutout to [former D-backs closer] Greg Holland. He also told me to get the next guy out. No matter what happens get the next guy out.”
The D-backs have now won six straight games, taking the last nine of 12 in the process.
“We’re on a good path,” Torey Lovullo said after the game. “I’m not predicting a championship by any means, however, when I see things [like Saturday’s finish] it makes me really proud of these guys.
“Because a week ago we were having a different conversation and we’ve finally strung together a lot of good things because of the hard work we’re continuing to put in. These players are getting after it every single day, and they go out and execute gameplans on the mound [and] at the plate.”
Up next, the D-backs look to take the four-game series sweep over the Dodgers. Alex Young gets the nod for Arizona, while Ross Stripling is on the mound for Los Angeles.
First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.