Hummel's walk-off double caps D-backs' gritty comeback

June 1st, 2022

PHOENIX -- For the 2021 D-backs, losing skids often spiraled out of control. Winning streaks were rare, especially once they reached May and struggled through the summer months.

The ‘22 version of the club is proving to be much more adept at moving past the tough times and turning the tide back the other way as the calendar flips to June.

After getting swept in four games by the Dodgers this past weekend, the D-backs have responded by securing a series win against the Braves, the defending World Series champions. Arizona won Monday’s opener, then followed that up on Tuesday by orchestrating one of its most impressive victories this season, outlasting Atlanta for an 8-7 win in 10 innings at Chase Field.

The D-backs, who trailed by four runs in the sixth, used multiple late rallies to stay in it, with Cooper Hummel’s walk-off RBI double in the 10th eventually lifting them to victory.

“The whole thing, top to bottom, was awesome,” Arizona first baseman Christian Walker said. “As far as a comeback win goes, that’s exactly how you write it up.”

After the D-backs scored two runs in the sixth and pushed across one more in the eighth, they forced extras with a ninth-inning run against Braves closer Kenley Jansen. Daulton Varsho’s sacrifice fly plated Alek Thomas, who opened the frame with a single, and tied the game at 6.

Atlanta began the 10th by quickly cashing in its automatic runner. Marcell Ozuna and Austin Riley each knocked first-pitch singles off Arizona closer Mark Melancon, with Riley’s hit making it 7-6. But that was the only damage the Braves did, and it wouldn’t be enough.

In the bottom of the inning, David Peralta tied the game back up with an RBI single off Atlanta right-hander Jackson Stephens, before Hummel followed by lofting a 2-0 slider down the right-field line for the game-winning hit.

“This team is really resilient,” Hummel said. “We grind out at-bats, we grind out games. We find a way. If it’s not one guy, it’s the next guy. We had a few tough games against the Dodgers -- it is what it is. But other than that, this team’s been grinding their [butts] off.”

It’s fitting that the D-backs’ 12th and final hit came from Hummel, whose patient at-bats and solid contact often haven’t been rewarded through the first two months of his rookie season. He has a .310 on-base percentage, largely because of his 18 walks in 113 plate appearances, while his average sits at .179.

Prior to the series against Los Angeles, Hummel spent eight days on the COVID-19 injured list. The 27-year-old said he used that time away as his version of “an All-Star break,” giving him a chance to reset.

When Hummel stepped to the plate in the 10th, he was 0-for-10 since returning. And with only nine hits in 54 May at-bats, he was due.

“The game ebbs and flows. Just remembering to stick to my approach and understand that you’re going to hit a ball hard, but then you’re going to get the bleeder,” Hummel said. “I mean, I hit two balls the first two at-bats that were 100 mph, and then I don’t even know what that last one was, but it happened to be the game-winner.”

That ball came off Hummel’s bat at 62.5 mph, per Statcast, and it stayed fair by only inches. So it may not have been Arizona’s hardest-hit ball of the night, but it turned out to be the one that sparked the celebration in the infield and gave the designated hitter his first career walk-off hit.

This wasn’t the first time this year the D-backs responded well after losing four straight to the Dodgers. After getting swept at Dodger Stadium from May 16-18, they then won five of their next six vs. the Cubs and Royals.

Arizona’s resilience now has it one win away from a sweep of Atlanta to complete its nine-game homestand.

“This is a hungry team,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “This team has a mindset they want to go out and do something special every single night.”

It hasn’t quite been every night, but it’s been more often than in early 2021. And Walker -- who played an instrumental part in Arizona’s big offensive night by homering as part of a three-hit, three-RBI performance -- is impressed by the traits being shown by this ‘22 team.

“A lot of heart,” Walker said, “a lot of character.”