D-backs dingers help batten down the hatches in win over the Pirates
PHOENIX – Despite tempers flaring between team members a bit in the dugout, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ offense pounced on the Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers with the long ball on Monday at Chase Field. Their three home runs powered them to a 4-2 victory for their second win in a row at home.
Third baseman Eduardo Escobar was 2-for-4 with a home run, a triple and two RBIs, while center fielder Pavin Smith and second baseman Josh VanMeter hit consecutive taters for just the third time for the D-backs this season.
Manager Torey Lovullo said there was a lot of drama in the dugout.
“But we won a ballgame. That’s all that matters to me,” he added.
While the offense seemed to be on a roll in the third inning, frustrations boiled over a bit between Escobar and left fielder David Peralta after a strange play happened that involved starting pitcher Chase DeJong getting hit with a comebacker.
Escobar tripled to lead off the inning. With one out, Peralta hit the ball that went back at the pitcher DeJong, who was still able to make the play to get him out at first after video review reversed the original decision that he was safe.
When the inning ended with Escobar still stranded at third, words were exchanged between the two as they were headed to the dugout. They had a brief discussion that involved bench coach Luis Urueta getting involved before everything seemed to settle down.
“They’re two fiercely passionate athletes that care an unbelievable amount about winning baseball games and sacrificing for one another and scoring runs and tacking on and doing all they can to have winning moments,” Lovullo said on the dust up.
After the game, Peralta said there was simply a misunderstanding between he and Escobar.
“He thought something and that’s why when the inning was over, he called me over to the dugout to see what was going on,” Peralta said. “We were just talking like ‘hey really quick’ and ‘hey this is what happened.’
“It looks like it was a big deal but no, it was just part of the moment of the game.”
The fiery interaction didn’t stop Escobar and the D-backs offense. In his next at bat in the fifth inning, he made sure he crossed home plate with a two-run blast to right field for his 22nd homer of the year.
He joined Smith and VanMeter, who had their back-to-back solo jacks in the second inning reminiscent of the Home Run Derby one week ago. It was Smith’s eighth home run of the season and VanMeter’s third.
The Fright Train was fired up too. He went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.
“I think it energized the dugout, it energized them a little bit,” Lovullo said. “And they’re very passionate people, you guys know them, and they care about things the right way. And they love each other. Trust me, they get along very, very well.”
Peralta joked that maybe he and Escobar should get into arguments more often considering the results.
While he didn’t hit any dingers, shortstop Josh Rojas had another good night at the dish, going 2-for-3 with a walk. He is hitting .393 in his last 10 games.
On the mound, Diamondbacks starter Caleb Smith shook off the bad outing against the Dodgers and delivered.
He kept his pitch count low and gave Arizona another quality outing that it wasn’t getting from starting pitching over the last three months. He had a pair of clean innings in the third and fifth and was able to pitch himself out of a bases loaded jam in the second.
“Fantastic job,” said Lovullo on Smith’s outing. “It was a great mixture of pitches, quick early outs. It’s consistent with what we’ve been getting over the past several starts from our starters.
“But Caleb in particular was throwing a quality changeup, swing and miss in the zone, out of the zone. It was just a really, really impressive evening for him.”
He also had the D-backs first stolen base by a pitcher since Zack Greinke in May 2019 against – you guessed it – the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was his first since high school.
“You know, just swiping bags like it’s my job,” joked Smith on his stolen base. “I’m a big fan of pitchers having to hit, so I enjoy I playing all aspects of the game. So that was really fun to steal a base.”
He cruised through six scoreless before allowing a pair of singles with one out in the seventh. He was able to get one more fielder’s choice grounder, but Lovullo maneuvered to the bullpen to get the final out in the inning.
Smith went 6.2 innings for his first win since April 29, giving up six hits and two earned runs. Relief pitcher Brett de Geus allowed the two runners on base to score in the seventh for Smith’s two earned. He walked two batters and struck out seven.
“I thought I threw the ball well,” Smith said on his outing. “Me and Bryan Holaday went in with a game plan and we executed the game plan, we stuck with it. Defense played great behind us, and we scored runs. Got ahead early, so that was nice.”
He also wasn’t happy with the results once he left the game, showing obvious frustration with the runs that were given up in the dugout.
“I probably could have handled that better,” he said on his reaction. “My intentions are never to show a manager up or show anybody up. Especially Torrey. He’s a great person and even a better manager. I just let my emotions get the better of me and I need to keep that in check.”
D-backs starters have allowed two runs or fewer in eight of their last ten games.
While the game wasn’t completely out of reach, the bullpen squandered the D-backs comfortable lead with the aforementioned RBI singles given up by de Geus, who wasn’t able to register an out in his relief appearance. They had just a two-run lead after he left in the seventh.
However, relievers Joe Mantiply and Noe Ramirez sat down every batter they faced to take the lead into the ninth for closer Joakim Soria.
It was another exciting ride through a save opportunity with Soria. He gave up a leadoff single to start the inning and a one-out single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate for Pittsburgh.
But he was able to get a fly out to center field and a strikeout of pinch hitter Gregory Polanco to secure the win and his fifth save of the season.
The D-backs will look to win this three-game series on Tuesday. They will get back their third starting pitcher from the injured list since the All-Star break, Taylor Widener, who will make his return to the mound from a groin injury. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Widener is 1-0 in six starts this year with a 2.54 ERA, a 1.165 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched.