ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. saves Diamondbacks in bizarre walk-off win over Nationals

May 6, 2023, 9:59 PM

Arizona Diamondbacks Lourdes Gurriel Jr....

Lourdes Gurriel Jr #12 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates after hitting a game tying solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning at Chase Field on May 06, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Diamondbacks won 8-7. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.

After two hours and eight innings of baseball, Saturday night’s game at Chase Field was decided in a nearly 40-minute ninth frame in which a total of seven runs were scored by both teams.

Luckily for the Diamondbacks and 27,345 fans in attendance, Arizona walked out with an 8-7 win over the Washington Nationals — quite literally too.

With the bases loaded and one out in a 7-7 tie, pinch hitter Pavin Smith earned a base on balls to bring Christian Walker home for the walk-off victory.

“Anything you can do to win the game there,” Smith said postgame of delivering without swinging the bat. “It didn’t matter, it was a good (at-bat).

“I didn’t chase so I was happy with it. … Your heart’s beating pretty hard and you gotta take a step back and breathe and I was taking a couple deep breaths just to calm my heart rate down and treat it like a normal AB.”

The D-backs entered the bottom half of the ninth down 7-6, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. slammed a solo home run on the first pitch off Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan that was just out of the reach of former Diamondbacks OF Stone Garrett to tie the game at 7-7.

“I had a good conversation with hitting coach (Joe Mather),” Gurriel said through a translator postgame. “He kind of ran down the pitcher’s repertoire and I just got a good swing on it and I was able to hit it out.”

The top half of the ninth inning, however, did not go the way that Arizona manager Torey Lovullo wanted it to.

“We won the game, I’m very pleased with that,” he said postgame. “I don’t want to maneuver into the things that we did wrong. We’re addressing that right now internally.

“There’s a few things we’ve got to be better at and you guys know exactly what they are. We’re watching the same game, but I was proud of the way we fought … because we could have collapsed and just fallen completely apart and lost this game by one run and woke up tomorrow and been feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Having scored three runs in the bottom half of the eighth, Lovullo sat down closer Andrew Chafin and brought in reliever Scott McGough with a 6-2 lead.

McGough gave up a leadoff homer to Keibert Ruiz before getting the next two batters out. But after a walk, the D-backs skipper decided to bring in Chafin for a one-out save opportunity.

Chafin was unable to record an out, though, giving up two singles, a home run and a double to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead. D-backs co-closer Miguel Castro was able to get the final out of the ninth en route to picking up the win.

“I’ve been using (Chafin) as a closer but I will reverse that a little bit, I promise you,” Lovullo said. “So if you see me close Castro against the right type of matchup, I can do something like that.”

This marked the first time Lovullo has identified any one reliever the team’s closer after calling the backend of the bullpen a “fluid” situation throughout the first month of the season.

“I don’t want Andrew Chafin to throw in 80 games, no way” he added. “So I have to be mindful of that. … Somewhere in the high-50s, mid-60s (appearances) I think would be very fair.

“We’re having a good year if we get to that point, but we got enough back there to give him days off and spell him for sure.”

It was Gurriel’s night all around on both sides of the diamond.

Offensively, the right-handed slugger finished the ballgame 4-for-5 with one home run, one RBI and two runs scored.

He also came up with this sliding grab in foul territory down the left-field line.

“I put a lot of importance on the defensive side,” Gurriel said. “Not only do the people appreciate it and enjoy it but also our pitchers — they commend me for it. … Especially in this stadium, the tracks are a little bit longer than usual.”

UP NEXT

The D-backs will go for the three-game series sweep on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.

Arizona right-hander Ryne Nelson (1-2, 6.39 ERA) is scheduled to start against Washington righty and former Arizona State standout Trevor Williams (1-1, 3.41 ERA).

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Lourdes Gurriel Jr. saves Diamondbacks in bizarre walk-off win over Nationals