Christian Walker hits first career grand slam in D-backs’ win over Padres
PHOENIX — With just one game left on the schedule, the Arizona Diamondbacks only have next season to look forward to.
Coming into the seventh inning, it looked like they were ready to get things over with.
“This time of the year, you tend to shut down and maybe try to do something individually, but the guys made their at-bats, made their approaches the right way and then the right guy walked up there,” manager Torey Lovullo said after Saturday’s game.
That guy was Christian Walker.
Walker hit his first career grand slam with two outs to make it 6-5 D-backs and give the team the win over the San Diego Padres.
“I feel like I’ve proved up to a certain point that I can help this team win,” Walker said. “A lot of that has to do with the guys around me and the staff helping out, everybody from top to bottom.”
In a year that Walker has taken in stride, he’s batting .259 with 136 hits, 85 runs and 29 home runs. Walker’s numbers this season — and Saturday’s grand slam — have shocked Lovullo.
“I just had this conversation with him in our one-on-one meeting where we didn’t know what type of year he was going to have, the amount of at-bats,” Lovullo said. “We’d talked mostly about Jake Lamb all spring training long.
“He was just laying in the weeds waiting for his opportunity, and that’s what this game is all about.”
Throughout the roller-coaster season, the D-backs have had multiple chances to experiment with different starters, but left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray has been consistently a go-to for them.
After the Zach Greinke trade in July, Ray arguably became the team’s No. 1 pitcher in the rotation.
On Saturday, Ray started his 33rd game of the season, marking a career high. Through six innings pitched, he added onto his already career-high numbers with 10 strikeouts, bringing his season total to 235.
Bn the flip side, he also allowed two home runs — including a two-run home run to Manny Machado in the second inning — surrendered eight hits and walked three.
“They weren’t laying down, they put some really good bats against me,” Ray said.
Ray almost left the outing after taking a line drive to the backside. Despite the pain, Lovullo was impressed that his starter muscled through it.
“It was more of a fistfight for him to get through those six innings but he did it,” Lovullo said.
Ray himself was considered to be on the trade block at the deadline, but since that point, he’s allowed just 30 hits in 45.1 innings pitched through 10 starts.
He’s coming up on a contract year after previously signing a one-year deal in January and is arbitration-eligible this year.
If Ray sticks around — as well as the rest of Arizona’s starting rotation — it could spell a different tale come next September.
“We’ve got the pieces to put it together in this clubhouse,” Ray said. “It’s just a matter of everybody coming into spring training prepared and ready to go.”
Padres right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards limited the D-backs’ offense, only allowing Walker’s solo home run in the second inning. The rest of San Diego’s relief pitching kept the D-backs in check until Walker stepped to the plate again in the seventh to give the D-backs the win.
Walker’s grand slam followed an inning where Jimmie Sherfy surrendered a home run to Eric Hosmer. From there, Yoshihisa Hirano and Kevin Ginkel kept the Padres scoreless.
The D-backs’ look to sweep the Padres Sunday in their season finale. Pitcher Taijuan Walker will get the start for D-backs, his first since rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Taijuan Walker will only pitch an inning and left-hander Alex Young will take over from there.
The Padres will start right-handed pitcher Michel Baez.
First pitch is set for 12:10 p.m. and you can catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.