Patience key for Diamondbacks’ Christian Walker to break out of funk in World Series
Oct 26, 2023, 7:42 PM
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON — Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker began the 2023 postseason with a three-hit night and a pair of ninth-inning RBIs off Milwaukee Brewers All-Star closer Devin Williams in the wild card round.
Since then, he’s 4-for-35 and coming off a seven-game NLCS with two hits against the Philadelphia Phillies, which the D-backs won to reach the World Series.
Game 1 between the Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers is on Friday at 5:03 p.m.
Walker is Arizona’s cleanup hitter, its leader in home runs (33) and total bases (289) during the regular season. He and hitting coach Joe Mather were on the same page during World Series Media Day on Thursday, pointing to patience as a key to turn this thing around.
“Just settle in, I’m getting pitched pretty tough,” Walker said. “There’s a fine line of knowing when to hit the gas pedal and try to be aggressive and hit my way out of something and also understand — go back and look at the at-bats, I’m not getting a lot of center-cut pitches.
“So my choice is to try to hit the fringe stuff or maybe be more patient and try to wait out the mistake. We have a lot of good hitters in this lineup.”
Mather credited the pitchers’ game plan against Walker in the Phillies series but pointed to his ability to still reach base. The first baseman walked seven times and had a .310 on-base percentage despite going 2-for-22. Mather wants him to be stubborn.
Manager Torey Lovullo during the NLCS said the Phillies were attacking him up in the strike zone, which is not his sweet spot. For instance, he slugged .371 on strikes up-and-in during the regular season. Compare that to .719 on strikes middle-in, .929 middle-middle, .571 middle-down, .429 down-and-out and .672 middle-down, according to Baseball Savant.
Mather said Walker has improved over the years as a high-ball hitter, but he’s still been more impactful in other areas of the strike zone.
Lovullo said he wanted to see Walker shrink his swing radius a bit.
“It’s letting guys come through and not feeling like I have to score all the runs, hit five homers and all that,” Walker said.
“So it’s a little bit of just loosening up and easing up. I don’t feel like I’m putting any pressure on myself. It’s just, I really want to help our team win. I need to understand when the opponents are giving me that opportunity or when they’re trying to make the next guy do it.”
Walker said the beauty of the postseason is that a new series brings another opportunity.
The D-backs have a group of right-handed bats they could use more from in the World Series, especially with Rangers southpaw and Game 2 starter candidate Jordan Montgomery having a strong postseason (2.16 ERA in 25 innings). Tommy Pham and Evan Longoria combined to go 4-for-39 in the NLCS, albeit Pham homered in Game 6 and Longoria hit an RBI double.