D-backs’ Gabriel Moreno walks off Cubs in 13th inning, playoff race tightens

Sep 17, 2023, 12:01 AM

Gabriel Moreno...

Gabriel Moreno #14 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single against the Chicago Cubs during the 13th inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on September 16, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 7-6 in 13 innings. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Nothing was stopping Evan Longoria around third base.

Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno punched a base hit to right field during the bottom of the 13th inning against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at Chase Field, and Longoria represented the game-winning run on second.

After the two sides traded lead after lead in a near 4.5-hour marathon, Longoria said he had to push it. Third-base coach Tony Perezchica waved him in, he dove, maneuvered his left hand and avoided the tag.

The D-backs swarmed Moreno in shallow center field, as they captured a 7-6 victory to shrink Chicago’s (78-71) lead over Arizona (78-72) in the second National League Wild Card spot to 0.5 games.

Manager Torey Lovullo called Saturday one of the five craziest ballgames he’s managed and praised his team for the fight it took to win it.

Arizona jumped ahead 2-0, the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead, the D-backs tied the game and both clubs scored in the 10th and 11th innings. The D-backs were down to their final strike in the 13th, but infielder Emmanuel Rivera evened the score again with a line drive off reliever Hayden Wesneski’s arm that fell for an RBI single.

“You talk about heart and determination and never quitting until your final strike, it’s everything I always ask for,” Lovullo said.

“It’s such a critical time of the year and we’re in such a huge race. For these guys to step up and do what they did today was amazing. I’m so proud of them. I lost my voice because I’ve been screaming and yelling at everybody my congratulations.”

Moreno has had quite a week. He went on the paternity list Monday, and his wife gave birth to their son in Florida. He was activated on Thursday, went 4-for-4 on Friday and followed that with the game-winner in a critical matchup for his team’s playoff hopes.

He said through a translator that he can’t wait to get back to his baby but noted there is a lot to accomplish on the field.

Moreno was down 0-2 in his at-bat, but his ability to shoot the ball to right field with two strikes has been a standout this year. Longoria said he anticipated Moreno going the other way, and with two strikes he was able to get a larger jump.

The catcher explained it was an intense at-bat, but he stayed composed and let a 97 mph heater just off the outside corner get deep for the D-backs’ sixth walk-off win of the year.

Not to be lost among the heroics was the effort by Arizona’s bullpen, which Lovullo singled out multiple times postgame.

The D-backs used seven relievers to cover nine innings, and they did not allow a single earned run, only letting in the Manfred Man who started on second base.

Lefties Andrew Saalfrank and Joe Mantiply threw two innings each to keep the D-backs in position to win.

“That was pretty wild,” Mantiply said. “Those are the ones that you like envision as a kid playing in the backyard. … I’ve never been to the playoffs. But I can imagine that was kind of a playoff atmosphere. I feel like we handled it really well.”

The Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds all picked up victories on Saturday.

The D-backs and Reds are tied, and the Marlins are 0.5 games behind. Arizona has only 12 games remaining.

Opening nine innings

Arizona broke through in the fourth inning against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks with a triple by Tommy Pham, double by Christian Walker and single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

D-backs starter Zach Davies kept the Cubs off the board through two rounds of the order, but he exited with no outs in the fifth and the bases loaded. All three inherited runners scored off reliever Luis Frias.

It was Davies’ third straight start in which he didn’t record an out past the fourth inning.

“The pitch count started climbing a little bit, got into an 80-pitch count. We’re in that time of the year where you got to feel like you can’t wait around,” Lovullo said. “You got to go make some moves and stop momentum.”

Lovullo said the D-backs could turn to a four-man rotation in the final two weeks of the season with the off days they have coming up, but that’s something they will hash out.

The D-backs chased Hendricks in the sixth after three consecutive singles capped by Gurriel tied the game, 3-3.

Key moments in extra innings

Saalfrank, in only his sixth MLB appearance, faced drama in extras.

Leading 4-3 in the 10th inning with a runner on third, Cubs All-Star Cody Bellinger checked his swing. The ball bumped off the knob of his bat and right to Saalfrank for a key out. Chicago challenged the call but lost, with Bellinger pleading the ball hit his hand.

Next batter Dansby Swanson hit a tapper right back to the young southpaw, who caught Cubs base runner Christopher Morel in a rundown between third and home.

Keeping that run from scoring set up Corbin Carroll for the game-tying single in the bottom half, an opposite-field knock with an 0-2 count.

The Diamondbacks were in prime position to win in the 12th inning with the bases loaded and one out, but Ketel Marte struck out on three pitches out of the zone. The Cubs survived but only for another inning before Arizona’s two-out rally in the 13th.

Sunday Night Baseball

At least the two clubs don’t have to return for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Their series finale will be nationally televised by ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball.

The pitching matchup consists of rookies Ryne Nelson for the D-backs and Jordan Wicks for the Cubs.

Nelson allowed one earned run in 5.2 innings at Wrigley Field last week. Wicks, a lefty, will make his fifth MLB appearance.

First pitch at Chase Field is at 4:10 on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.

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