D-backs’ Zach Davies rebounds with gem outing, Rays come back to win late

Jun 28, 2023, 10:38 PM

Zach Davies...

Starting pitcher Zach Davies #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a warm-up pitch during the first inning of the MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Chase Field on June 28, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zach Davies, fresh off three nightmare outings, came back and blanked the Tampa Bay Rays through seven innings on Wednesday night.

It was his longest and only scoreless start of the season, and it came against MLB’s top team with a chance for a series win. But as manager Torey Lovullo said postgame, “The ninth inning is what makes this game so beautiful. You love it and you can hate it at the same time.”

The Rays (55-28) had three hits all game but put together four in the ninth inning against Scott McGough, scoring three runs to steal a 3-2 victory at Chase Field.

McGough had not allowed an earned run in his last 10 games, but with two on and two outs with the score 2-1, he missed his spot. Catcher Carson Kelly set up high for a fastball McGough delivered low in the zone, and Rays RF Josh Lowe shot it to the left-center field gap for a two-run double.

“We got some unbelievable starting pitching from Zach, we picked up the baseball, made some unbelievable defensive plays … and we just we got clipped,” Lovullo said.

Davies called Wednesday’s game a confidence builder, a game that helped him flush the last three starts in which he allowed 18 earned runs.

He worked out of danger in the first inning after allowing a double to lead-off man Yandy Diaz.

With Diaz on third and one out, Davies use an inside cutter to force a jammed pop up. He walked the next batter but produced a ground ball out to end the inning.

The Rays picked up one hit — also from Diaz — and one walk over the next six innings against Davies, who did not allow another runner in scoring position.

Of Davies’ 21 outs, 12 came from ground balls — two from a double play. He struck out three, while Tampa Bay’s average exit velocity against him was a dismal 81 mph.

“Even guys that I got behind, I got the ball in the zone in places that I know I’m gonna get ground balls … defense was right there behind me every step of the way,” Davies said. “I know that the work is not done. I know it’s been a few games of struggles but it’s nice to feel like I’ve got somewhere to start.”

Lovullo credited Davies and Kelly for their tempo and the starter’s ability to locate the fastball.

Davies threw six four-seamers in his last start against the San Francisco Giants, but he put more trust in the pitch on Wednesday to set up the changeup.

He threw 84 pitches when Lovullo felt the starter had done his job and turned to the bullpen. Miguel Castro threw a scoreless eighth with only 10 pitches.

Arizona’s defense did all it could to keep the shutout going.

Nick Ahmed ranged to his left and made an acrobatic, spinning throwing to first in the eighth inning.

Ketel Marte snagged a 103.4 mph liner up the middle to end the sixth inning.

Then came McGough and the misfortune of a ground ball up the middle.

After a lead-off single, Wander Franco hit a grounder up the box that McGough knocked down but couldn’t field cleanly. Franco reached and the Rays were in business, but had the ball passed McGough, Marte was right there to potentially turn a double play.

“That’s the beauty of this game, right? The ball goes by and Marte is standing on second base for a double play, but we didn’t find a way to make a play and then things started to really rev up at that point,” Lovullo said.

When Lowe came up, one of two lefties in the lineup, Andrew Chafin had thrown in the bullpen.

Lovullo explained that Tampa Bay would have countered a pitching move with a couple right-handed options and was confident in the matchup.

The plan with an 0-1 count was to set Lowe up with a high fastball and then the splitter.

McGough had not allowed multiple runs in an outing since May 6 and has recently been handed more closing duties with six saves since June 11.

“This game is awesome and sucks at the same time,” McGough said. “I’ve had a lot of failure. You just kind of learn from it. Just like tonight, I’ll think about it tonight and learn from some of my mistakes and come back tomorrow.”

The Rays’ defense, meanwhile, also did its job to stayed in the game all night. A key moment came in the seventh inning when CF Jose Siri made a diving catch to rob Jake McCarthy of an RBI hit, needed insurance.

After the comeback, Franco made a diving stop at shortstop to start the bottom of the ninth against Emmanuel Rivera.

On the mound Zach Eflin worked seven innings with two earned runs and seven strikeouts. Like Davies, he was very efficient at 83 pitches, and the game appeared to be headed for a time under two hours (it ended at 2:13).

Arizona’s lone breakthroughs came in the third and fourth innings propelled by two of the hottest hitters in baseball.

Ketel Marte hit an RBI single in the third to extend his on-base streak to 21 games. Christian Walker doubled to start the fourth, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 contests. Kelly drove him in with a single.

The D-backs had runners in scoring positions in Innings 6-8 but to no avail.

Meet me halfway

Arizona’s loss capped the first half of the season, and the D-backs enter Game 82 with a 48-33 record. The franchise record for wins in the first half is 50 set in 2001 and 2017.

The Giants and Dodgers both lost on Wednesday, too, so Arizona holds a 2.5-game lead in first place.

Up next

Brandon Pfaadt will return to the mound to start his first game for the D-backs since getting optioned on May 27.

The D-backs needed another starter to fill in with Merrill Kelly on the injured list.

They will recall Pfaadt and make a coinciding roster move before first pitch.

Tampa Bay will start RHP Yonny Chirinos (3.91 ERA).

The game starts at 12:40 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM.

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