D-backs capitalize on chances, rally after Lovullo ejection in win vs. Braves
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks took advantage of their scoring opportunities with contributions from the middle of the order in a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves Monday night at Chase Field.
The D-backs (24-26) struggled to capitalize with runners aboard in their past two losses against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they converted a pair of three-run innings against Atlanta (23-26) to snap a four-game losing streak.
“To come out as world champions and win a baseball game like this, it showed what this team is built on and where we stand and what we believe we can do,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
Left fielder Peralta hit a blooper double to left in the first inning, as Marcell Ozuna failed to come up with the ball on a slide. Ozuna slid early, not giving himself a chance to catch up with the ball.
That set up first baseman Pavin Smith with two on, and he launched a three-run shot 417 feet to right field that he knew was gone right away.
Pavin Smith – Arizona Diamondbacks (7) pic.twitter.com/Peo6feqX3m
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) May 31, 2022
Lovullo felt that moment pushed the team in the right direction for the rest of the night.
With an out in the bottom of the fifth, D-backs third baseman Josh Rojas grounded into what looked like an easy double play. Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson, though, dropped the ball, giving second baseman Ketel Marte an at-bat with two runners on.
Marte belted a double, a one-hopper off the wall in center and both runs scored.
Peralta stepped up and drove in Marte with a single to right, and Arizona took a 6-2 lead with all six runs preventable with routine defense.
Everyone say “Thank you Ketel” for making tomorrow Taco Tuesday. 🌮🌮🌮 pic.twitter.com/CKgIbvUPO8
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 31, 2022
“Baseball is tough like that, a lot of ups and downs,” Smith said. “You come through in certain spots and you don’t in others. Today we came through and got the win.”
The three insurance runs were more than Arizona’s pitching staff needed.
D-backs starter Zac Gallen held onto the lead from after the first inning with 5.2 innings of two-run ball.
The righty was not untouchable on Monday having allowed seven hits, but he managed to escape several jams and leave six runners on base.
Zac Gallen, Nasty 89mph Changeup. 👌 pic.twitter.com/FsK3DCXjL6
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 31, 2022
Gallen surrendered a pair of hits and a run off a wild pitch in the first inning. Braves third baseman Austin Riley hit a solo shot to right in the fourth inning, but Gallen held them from there.
He produced back-to-back strikeouts with runners on second and third in the fifth to hold what was a 3-2 lead and set up the offense.
“I felt like everything was OK, changeup I felt was pretty good, fastball was cutting a little bit … curveball was pretty good,” Gallen said. “The pitch to Riley just kind of cut a little bit.”
The D-backs have won seven of nine games in which Gallen has started this year, and he has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of nine outings.
The bullpen took over and produced a fourth straight scoreless game. Noe Ramirez came in and stranded a runner on second to close Gallen’s book in the sixth. Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon pulled Arizona across the finish line.
Arizona’s offense, defense, starting pitching and bullpen showed out for a win Lovullo said he was proud of.
“I think there was just an overall energy and focus that I was proud of. It was a huge win.”
Lovullo did not get to watch his team’s win all the way through. In the fifth inning, he was ejected by home plate umpire John Libka.
Gallen grew frustrated with the umpire for calling a couple of close pitches balls, especially a 2-1 pitch to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. that appeared to have hit the black. Acuña walked and Lovullo heard some barking between the pitcher, umpire and catcher Jose Herrera and ran out of the dugout.
Gallen said he voiced his displeasure and probably rolled his eyes, but thought it was over.
Herrera stepped in front of Libka who started heading toward Gallen and pointing a finger at the pitcher.
Lovullo ran up to Libka and pointed his finger in the umpire’s face.
“At a certain point, I didn’t like the activity of the umpire and I felt like it was my job to protect my players,” Lovullo said.
“I knew I was gonna get ejected about 45 feet from where I was. So about halfway there, I was yelling as loud as I could to create a distraction, to put it on me.”
Herrera stepped up to protect Gallen from possible ejection, and Lovullo followed suit by taking one for both of his players.
Both of their actions sent messages to the team.
“It speaks volumes to the way (Herrera) carries himself,” Gallen said. “He’s been here two months now and it’s like, the guy handles himself like he’s been back there for 15 years. … Jose was sticking up for me there.”
“I just saw the aftermath of Torey coming out and I think he came out to sacrifice himself for Zac, which was big for us,” Smith said.
Lovullo cooled off and watched the rest of the game from his office, and the D-backs rallied for three runs the following half-inning.
The D-backs go for a series win over the Braves on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. Humberto Castellanos is on the hill for Arizona against Atlanta’s Charlie Morton.
Catch the game on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.