D-backs struggle with runners on in loss to Pirates, enter All-Star break

Jul 9, 2023, 5:09 PM

Ketel Marte...

Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after being called out on strikes against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Chase Field on July 09, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks capped the unofficial first half of the season with a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday and enter the All-Star break at 52-39.

The D-backs are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West, although L.A. has the nod with a .573 winning percentage to Arizona’s .571.

“We’ve had a tremendous first half, but I’ll tell you what, we’re just starting the race,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame. “We can’t rest on anything. I want them to get grounded, have a good four-day break and then get charged up for the second half. That’s probably where most of my thoughts would go.”

Sunday’s game started well for the D-backs who stole a run in the first to take an early lead.

Geraldo Perdomo and Christian Walker worked walks, and they attempted a double steal with two outs.

Pirates catcher Austin Hedges’ throw to second sailed into center, and Perdomo came home to score, no hit needed.

The rest of the game was a struggle to get runners in against a Pirates bullpen day, as Arizona finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The two prime examples were in the fourth and sixth innings.

The score was tied 2-2 when Walker led off the fourth with a double to left. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a grounder to move Walker 90 feet away, but an Emmanuel Rivera popup and Jake McCarthy flyout ended the threat.

The Pirates took a 3-2 lead thanks to successful situational hitting with a bunt and sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Ketel Marte started the sixth with a double, and Corbin Carroll bunted him over to third. Lovullo said Carroll had the freedom to do that.

Walker, who finished the game 1-for-2 with two walks, grounded out with the infield in to halt the runner, and Gurriel followed suit to end the inning.

“We’ve had a lot of success doing it, and I think the thing that kind of shocks you and pushes you back when guys who have done it at a very high clip don’t do it,” Lovullo said. “But it’s part of the game, we’re going to learn from it and keep pushing forward. We had some opportunities with runners on third base and less than two outs, just didn’t execute.”

The D-backs recorded only four hits after producing five in 10 innings during Saturday’s 3-2 walk-off win.

Lovullo said when his club has an all-field approach and grinds out at-bats, it creates traffic which becomes difficult to defend. He hasn’t been seeing that same “traffic” as much lately.

Arizona’s second run on Saturday came via an Alek Thomas solo home run off LHP Ryan Borucki. It was Thomas’ first homer of the year off a lefty in the majors.

“I feel like my approach against lefties has always been pretty solid, but in the big leagues it hasn’t really been to where I want it to be,” Thomas said. “The past couple of at-bats against lefties, I felt pretty good, pretty comfortable. It’s good to see some results.”

On the mound, the D-backs got 5.1 innings from RHP Zach Davies, who allowed three earned runs with six strikeouts.

Pittsburgh’s major blow against him came in the second inning on a two-run shot by Ji Man Choi to take the lead.

Davies walked the lead-off hitter and fell behind Choi. He threw a get-me-over fastball which Choi blasted to center.

The veteran starter was frustrated by the pitch and his fifth frame, but he felt Sunday was another step in the right direction.

The D-backs are tied for the sixth best winning percentage in the league, entering the break with as many wins as they reached during the entire 2021 season.

Davies said it isn’t surprising where they are given the work ethic of the players and the momentum from last year, but there’s so much baseball left and now their ability to stay among the top teams will be tested.

“I think it went pretty well … definitely positive,” Thomas said. “I think we can still improve in some areas and not let up. I felt like maybe we might have let up like in the past week or so. I don’t think we were playing our brand of baseball. So I think once we come back, we get back to that and ride this thing out and continue to play good baseball.”

Merrill Kelly update

D-backs starter Merrill Kelly was scheduled to toss 60-65 pitches in a simulated game on Sunday, Lovullo said pregame.

Kelly threw 45 pitches on Wednesday.

He is on the 15-day injured list after finding a blood clot in his lower right leg.

“He’s feeling really good, and we will continue to monitor him,” Lovullo said.

Up next

The All-Star break is here, which means the next Diamondbacks game is not until Friday.

Arizona come out of the break with a nine-game road trip starting with three contests in Toronto against the Blue Jays.

It will be the D-backs’ first matchup with Daulton Varsho after trading him this past offseason for Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

In the meantime, four Diamondbacks players will partake in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Seattle: Carroll, Zac Gallen, Perdomo and Gurriel.

“They deserve this break and however they get grounded and get balanced, more power to them,” Lovullo said.

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