Kole Calhoun, D-backs keeps good vibes rolling with walk-off over Astros
PHOENIX — Kole Calhoun must’ve gotten his legs under him after his circular sprint just about 24 hours prior.
Instead of a blowing the scoring open as he did with an inside-the-park homer that sparked a nine-run inning Wednesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder called game. Calhoun lined a two-RBI walk-off to right field for a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros, giving his team its first series victory in four tries in 2020.
And yes, the D-backs remained socially-distant.
“I practically wanted to bear-hug him but I couldn’t get too close,” manager Torey Lovullo said after Thursday’s win. “He was dug in and had a great approach and dug out a two-strike breaking ball.
“It was probably the most unusual feeling you have after a walk-off win … very awkward. We did a really nice job of verbally encouraging him and congratulating him but there was no warmth and connection physically, but we’re fine with that.”
While Calhoun finished it for the D-backs, sending them on a road trip with a two-game winning streak, pitcher Zac Gallen got them there. The right-handed starter went 6.0 innings, struck out six and allowed six hits but only two earned runs.
The starter felt that Wednesday’s 14-7 win over Houston carried into the series finale. The clubhouse needed the confidence boost.
“You kind of get that vibe,” Gallen said. “We just needed that offensive outburst to kind of put it back in our mind that we can swing the bats, we can score some runs. I was just going out there trying to do my job as usual and keep us in the game and let that explosion continue.”
It was another step into history, too, as Gallen joined two other pitchers in MLB history — Steve Rogers and Aaron Sele — by never allowing more than three runs through their first 18 career starts.
For Arizona, it was a grind all game long.
Houston pitcher Brandon Bielak, who was shuffled into the rotation to give former D-back Zack Greinke an extra day’s rest, had made two relief appearances for the Astros so far this year. He’d allowed one earned run in 5.1 innings entering Thursday.
Arizona mustered two hits and no scores against Bielak, trailing 2-0 when he reached his length limit of five innings. The D-backs wasted no time jumping on Houston’s bullpen from there, with Starling Marte singling and then scoring from second base when Christian Walker smacked Cy Sneed’s slider to the center field fence for an RBI double in the sixth inning.
D-backs third baseman Eduardo Escobar singled and chased Sneed as Houston matched lefty David Peralta with fellow southpaw Blake Taylor, but Peralta hit a low ball to right field for an RBI single to tie the game, 2-2.
Like they did a day prior with a nine-run fourth inning, the Diamondbacks kept laying it on the Astros in the sixth. Catcher Carson Kelly took a walk to load the bases with one out, and DH Andy Young hit a fielder’s choice RBI to push the D-backs’ third run home.
Houston regained the lead in the top of the eighth when Alex Bregman pulled a low curveball by Stefan Crichton over the left-field wall, but that was the only miscue by the bullpen, as Alex Young, Andrew Chafin and Junior Guerra backed up Gallen’s strong start.
Andy Young, called up five days prior, put together a patient at-bat to earn a walk to begin the ninth, and that set up the veterans. Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte singled to load the bases with no outs for Calhoun, who caught a Ryan Pressly pitch for the game-winning knock.
“It’s a guy I’ve faced a few times having been in the same division,” said Calhoun, a former Los Angeles Angels outfielder. “He’s had a ton of success over in Houston. I’ve never had success against him. Faced him before, had an idea of what he likes to do, what he trusts. Just got a pitch I could handle and put a pretty good swing on it.”