'Labrador retrievers' Thomas, Varsho shine in outfield

August 27th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The D-backs played a complete game on Friday, with the offense delivering an early knockout blow and Tommy Henry battling through five innings on a night when he didn't have his best stuff.

It all added up to a 7-2 Arizona win over the White Sox with outfielder Alek Thomas returning to  Guaranteed Rate Field, where he spent so many a summer night with his father, the White Sox former strength and conditioning coach.

Here are three takeaways from the thrilling win:

1. Rivera is proving to be a big pickup 
Just prior to the Trade Deadline, the D-backs dealt right-hander Luke Weaver to the Royals in exchange for third baseman Emmanuel Rivera.

In 63 games for the Royals this year, Rivera hit .237/.284/.399, but he's been even better for the D-backs with a line of .279/.380/.607.

On Friday, he followed Josh Rojas' three-run double with a two-run homer that capped a six-run second inning against Johnny Cueto and gave the D-backs a huge lead. He also made a nice defensive play when he dove to nab Josh Harrison's grounder for the third out of the fourth when it looked like the White Sox might try and jump back into the game.

"I'd say, on both sides of the ball, he's been awesome," first baseman Christian Walker said. "The slug is obviously there. But even outside the homers I feel like he's been putting together really good at-bats. It's just another potential power threat in the lineup and I think that means a lot. We have a lot of speed, a lot of ways to kind of steal 90 feet, so it's helpful to have somebody that can drive some runs in and split a gap."

2. The outfield defense is a real strength 
With Thomas in center and Daulton Varsho in right, the D-backs have a pair of elite outfield defenders. That was on display once again Friday.

Thomas said before the game that when he was a kid shagging fly balls during batting practice at Guaranteed Rate Field, he loved robbing home runs. It was something that he hoped to get to do Friday, but instead it was Varsho who appeared to steal a homer when he jumped at the wall to catch Romy Gonzalez's drive with one on in the fifth.

Not to be outdone, Thomas later in the inning made a diving catch at the warning track to take extra bases away from José Abreu. It was his second diving catch of the night.

"[They] remind me of a bunch of Labrador retrievers chasing down frisbees at the beach," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of Thomas and Varsho. "They're just gifted. They are very talented, athletic players that play fearless baseball. They trust their positioning. They trust their coaching. And then they go out and execute an unbelievable game plan. Every time the ball goes up, I feel like it has a really good chance of getting caught and it's saved a lot of big innings."

Varsho, too, grew up around the game with his dad, Gary, a former big league player, coach and scout. He also spent time running around the outfield during batting practice when he was a kid.

"It's always fun when we're out there together," Varsho said of Thomas. "Just being kind of kids again and just doing what we did when we were younger when we would go out tracking fly balls during BP."

3. Henry was able to get through without his best stuff 
It was a grinder of a game for Henry, who was spotted an early 6-0 lead. He got a lot of help from his defense, which made plays that allowed him to hold the White Sox to one run over five innings.

"I counted 10 hard-hit balls," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "They played an excellent defensive game. The score should have been better, closer."

Henry -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the D-backs' No. 14 prospect -- has shown good poise in his first five big league starts. He battled nerves in his debut, pitched well at Coors Field, held a tough Cardinals offense to just one run and then Friday found a way to get through five without his best stuff or command.

"I owe some people some gifts or something," Henry said. "Alek was running all over the place doing what he does best -- incredible plays, and he makes it look like it's just another day's work. And then Varsho bringing back homers and doing it super casually. Just an insane night honestly, by the end of it, all I could do was just laugh. It was unbelievable."