Tim Locastro, Diamondbacks walk off Padres in season finale victory
PHOENIX — What’s a season finale without some late-game fireworks?
The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres entered Sunday’s matchup in a similar position.
Out of the postseason race, both sides were playing for pride above all else, hoping to close out the season on a high note.
But even though it’s the last game of the year, that doesn’t mean it would be an easy one.
After going eight straight innings of scoreless baseball, Tim Locastro broke the seal for the D-backs, walking off the Padres for the 1-0 victory on Sunday.
For Arizona, the win means ending an up-and-down 2019 on a five-game winning streak, the longest such streak to end a season in franchise history. For the Padres, the loss marks their six straight.
“How much more can I be proud of these guys on a day where we grind, we do it the way we’ve been doing it all year long and we win the game on an infield base hit,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after the win. “We didn’t shut down until the final out and I was so proud of these guys for that.”
While the win moves the team to an 85-77 record, up three games from 2018 and good enough for second in the NL West, Sunday’s season finale had some added juice to it.
Taking the mound for the first time this season was pitcher Taijuan Walker, who started the game for the first time since April of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“It was fun, had a good time out there,” Walker said. “I got a little emotional definitely warming up and stuff. It was just crazy, you know. Two seasons, just straight rehab. Mentally just grinding out there and trying to get through it, too.”
In limited work, Walker looked comfortable. In one inning pitched (15 pitches/11 strikes), the starting pitcher allowed just one hit, while also striking out a batter.
“To watch him walk off the mound — and I feel like I know his body language and his facial expressions — it told me a great story and I think his teammates, you could see the excitement shared and all that excitement with him,” Lovullo said. “He came out of that feeling as good as we could have expected, he worked hard to make today happen before the season was over.”
From there, the solid pitching continued for both sides, allowing just 12 more hits over the course of eight innings. Even when Alex Young ran into a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, he stayed locked in, escaping the inning unscathed.
Then came the ninth.
After reliever Stefan Crichton made quick work of the Padres in the top of the frame, it was all up to the D-backs to close things out in their home finale.
Eduardo Escobar jumped out on Matt Strahm, needing just two pitches to reach base with a single, but was called out for trying to stretch for second base. It felt like an opportunity missed until Christian Walker stepped up to the plate.
Turning on the third pitch of his at-bat, Walker lined one to the outfield, turning on the jets for the one-out double. He wouldn’t stay long at second, with Josh Rojas advancing the first baseman on the groundout and leaving Tim Locastro the chance to end the season on a positive.
He did just that, taking a called strike before hitting a groundball to the San Diego shortstop. For most, the hit would have made for an easy out at first. But not for Locastro, who turned on the afterburners after contact, beating out the throw and sealing one last celebration of the season.
“To watch them celebrate on the field and have that moment to end the season it couldn’t have gone any better for me, as I had already digested where we were and what was happening in our season. This was a tremendous way to finish it off.”
Sunday’s win marks the end of a D-backs season that saw a lot of highs as well as quite a few lows.
Even when the team seemed to be looking to the future, the team hung in and competed.
Missing the postseason is never on a team’s agenda, but for Arizona, Sunday’s win helps brighten the road ahead.
“We picked up the baseball and we did it the Diamondback way,” Lovullo said. “Hopefully that’s a catalyst for a strong offseason and a lot of very positive things in the future for this organization.”