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D-backs see balls, can only hit them in 2-frame blip of loss to Reds

Arizona Diamondbacks' Eduardo Escobar follows through on his two run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — It went from home-opening dud to ballistic rally in a hurry. And then it fizzled.

Entering their first Chase Field regular season game in front of fans since 2019,  it took the Arizona Diamondbacks five innings against the Cincinnati Reds (6-1) before they managed their first hit Friday. It took seven frames to finally put a runner across home plate.

And just like that, the dam burst — for the time being.

Arizona (2-6) began hammering the Reds bullpen, recording five hits and scoring five runs to tie the game by the end of the eighth.

A blip of offensive life in front of 19,385 fans ended there.

Off Arizona reliever Alex Young, the Reds scored Eugenio Suarez, who began the 10th inning as the second-base runner. Tucker Barnhardt’s RBI single made for the go-ahead run, and the D-backs couldn’t answer in the bottom of the 10th.

While Arizona got on the bases by taking nine walks on the night, the team went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“Guys are patient and we’re seeing pitches,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “Obviously would love to score early and play some downhill baseball and do it a little differently. I was pleased with the patience …”

Yet the most curious part of the evening — and one that became a microcosm of the Diamondbacks’ missed opportunities — came in the ninth, with two outs and Christian Walker at first base having been walked.

Lovullo turned to Madison Bumgarner on an off-pitching night to face left-hander Cionel Perez. Lovullo picked the starting pitcher over switch-hitting youngster Geraldo Perdomo and lefty catcher Stephen Vogt, the two other available pinch-hitters.

“Bum’s a good hitter. He’s a real good hitter. I was looking for a little bit of slug in that situation,” Lovullo said. “I’ve seen him do a long time. I’ve seen him do it in BP, I’ve seen him do it games.”

But it didn’t pan out.

Bumgarner took two balls before getting bad contact on a 97-mph fastball in the zone, a good pitch to swing at in Lovullo’s eyes.

It wasn’t the only at-bat where an opportunity to make contact was missed.

And it didn’t help the D-backs got down early.

Cincinnati got on the board first against Diamondbacks starting pitcher Tyler Widener thanks to a lead-off double in the third inning by Barnhardt. A sac-bunt to get him to third and a single by Jesse Winker, who went 3-for-3 against Widener, scored Barnhardt.

In the top of the fourth, the Reds’ Tyler Naquin then drilled Widener’s hanging changeup on a 1-1 count to right field, a 454-foot bomb to bump the Reds’ lead to 2-0.

The pressure piled up on Widener in the fifth inning, when three singles to load the bases were followed by an error on D-backs second baseman Eduardo Escobar, who fumbled a bouncing hit to allow a run. A sac-fly scored a second run in the inning.

Widener was lifted after he allowed seven hits, four runs (three earned) with three strikeouts in 5.0 innings.

“They were pretty aggressive at times,” Widener said. “Overall, just got to make better pitches. I wasn’t landing some of the pitches I was last week.

“It’s just a good hitting team and capitalized on some mistakes I made.”

The D-backs got on even more shaky ground with Widener’s departure. Caleb Smith, in his second game since being demoted to the bullpen, allowed a double and walked two Reds as they tacked on a sixth run in the sixth.

Finally, Arizona’s offense found brief life in the seventh inning against right-handed reliever Cam Bedrosian.

Escobar doubled and advanced to third on a groundout before catcher Carson Kelly hit a deep sac-fly to make it a 5-1 Reds lead. The D-backs’ Pavin Smith and Tim Locastro then singled to chase Bedrosian.

Kole Calhoun, who made his 2021 debut coming off a knee injury, launched a double that bounced off the right-field fence to score two more with two outs.

That 5-3 Reds lead melted the rest of the way away in the eighth, when Arizona’s Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a walk. Escobar made up for his earlier defensive miscue with a two-run shot, a towering fly ball at a 38-degree angle that still went 400 feet.

“Nice little battle back, especially against a team and a bullpen like that,” Calhoun said.

“Had some baserunners, had opportunities, and saw a lot of their guys out the bullpen that are kind of the top-end of their bullpen. Got to see those guys and battle back and make their closer (Amir Garrett) get into a game that they were up by five at one point.”


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