PHOENIX – Perhaps this was an isolated bright spot to separate a challenging beginning. Then again, the Arizona Diamondbacks hope by taking their first series of the season, and apologies to Steve Allen who published this populate song in 1956, “this could be the start of something big.”
Perhaps an argument can be made on the theory of whether the glass is half-full or half empty. After taking a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers before 15,138 Wednesday afternoon in Chase Field, the Diamondbacks seized their first series victory over L. A. in three years. Combined with a modest win streak of two games, there could be a ripple of life in that life-support system.
Over the opening weeks of the season, there is no argument the starting pitching has been the glue which holds this baseball club together. Despite a team batting average of .182 coming into Wednesday’s game, the Diamondbacks managed to manufacture enough wins and then capitalized on closer Mark Melancon’s 1-2-3 ninth inning for their latest victory.
“This was a good series for us,” said manager Torey Lovullo after the game. “I’m proud of these guys, how they have learned to fight and to embrace close games. We are prepared to play games like this all season long.”
Given a stellar effort from starter Zac Gallen, the game appeared to be in a waiting pattern until some kind of edge developed. That happened in the Arizona half of the fifth inning.
That’s when shortstop Nick Ahmed drilled a one-out liner into the left-field bleachers for his first home of the season and the slightest edge, at 1-0 at the time, Gallen required.
“It was a fastball,” Ahmed said of the pitch from Dodgers’ starter Julio Urias. “During my first at-bat, I was aggressive on a few fastballs and just missed one. Flew out to center. He gave me three off-speed pitches in my second at-bat to start and knew he would come back with a fastball. I was just ready for it and he made a mistake leaving it over the middle.”
Given a myriad of challenges at the plate, the Diamondbacks appeared to be fortunate to pull this out. Set-up reliever Ian Kennedy could not hold that 1-0 lead and surrendered an RBI single to Trea Turner in the top of the eight. That knotted this event and Arizona managed to manufacture two in their half of the frame.
Daulton Varsho led off with a walk and Sergio Alcantara put down a perfect bunt that dropped in front of a changing Max Muncy at third. Muncy’s subsequent toss was thrown into orbit, eluded Gavin Lux covering at first and sailed into right field. Varsho scored and Alcantara ended up at third, Eventually, he scored on a ground out by pinch-hitter Pavin Smith and the team caught a sigh of relief.
“We kind of coming into our own,” said Gallen, who reduced his ERA to 0.60 with six scoreless frames. “This was a good confidence boost against a team with a good lineup and good pitching staff.”
On the day, the Diamondbacks managed just two hits and the two runs in the eight featured only an infield single by switch-hitting Copper Hummel. Hitting left-handed, Hummel cued a twisting ball down the third base line and that managed in remain fair inside the foul line. The other was Ahmed’s homer.
For a team which squeezed the maximum energy out of another marginal game at the plate, the victory was clearly gratifying but far from satisfying.
On the road again … The Diamondbacks begin a seven-game road trip Thursday in St Louis. Right-hander Humberto Castellanos (1-0, 3.00) opens the series against Cards’ righty Dakota Hudson (1-1, 3.95). On Friday night, it’s lefty Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 1.00) taking on veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright (2-2, 3.86). For Saturday, look for righty Merrill Kelly (1-1, 1.69) facing righty Miles Mikolas (1-0, 1.21). For the finale on Sunday afternoon, it’s right-hander Zack Davies (1-1, 5.40) opposing righty Jordan Hicks (1-2, 3.00). Then, it’s on to Miami for three with the Marlins before returning to Chase Field to face the Rockies, Marlins, and Cubs in a nine-game homestand.