'A natural letdown' as D-backs unravel late

May 5th, 2021

As the eighth inning began, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo liked the position his team was in as he sat in the visitors' dugout at loanDepot park.

After falling behind 3-0, the D-backs had chipped away and pulled to within a run of the Marlins.

“I think the overall theme in the dugout was, ‘We’re going to have a big inning, we’re going to press it and chase them down,’” Lovullo said. “We did that. We chipped away and got a couple of runs to close it to 3-2.”

That was when Lovullo decided to push his chips into the middle of the table. He pinch-ran for his cleanup hitter, pinch-ran for his catcher, pinch-hit for the pitcher and emptied his bench of position players.

"I went all-in in the eighth inning, and I knew I was doing it," he said. "I just felt like we were going to pressurize the defense with two good baserunners and we could also set up the ninth for a couple of really positive matchups for us."

What happened next was a cascade of events that did not go Arizona's way, as the Marlins limited the damage in the top of the eighth inning and scored six in the bottom half to pull ahead en route to a 9-3 win.

The D-backs managed to tie the score in the top of the eighth, and they had the bases loaded with no outs and the chance to tack on even more.

That's when Marlins manager Don Mattingly decided to throw Lovullo a curveball by bringing in left-hander Richard Bleier to face Josh Rojas.

"It was a great move by their manager, kind of switched the deck up a little bit," Lovullo said. "We knew who their high-leverage-inning guys were. [Bleier] wasn’t one of them. It might have caught us by surprise. But after the first couple of warmup pitches, I think we can lock in on it. It’s not an excuse."

They didn't get locked in quickly enough, as Bleier proceeded to strike out Rojas, Wyatt Mathisen and Pavin Smith to end the threat.

"Man, I thought about that at-bat a while after the game," Rojas said. "He pitched me really well. I didn’t know he was coming in. I didn’t know his stuff. But I thought I had a pretty good approach going into the at-bat. He threw me some tough pitches there and I couldn’t capitalize. That was a big situation right there. I kind of let him off the hook right there. He’s coming in, bases loaded, no outs. I know he’s feeling the pressure. Him getting a leadoff strikeout right there put some momentum in their favor a little bit."

The Marlins rode that momentum into the bottom half of the eighth as things got ugly for the D-backs.

Relievers Kevin Ginkel and Alex Young were not sharp, and the defense wasn't crisp either as a throwing error by catcher Stephen Vogt added to the bad feelings in the inning.

When all was said and done, the Marlins had scored six times and put the game away.

"I just think there was a natural letdown," Lovullo said of the bottom of the eighth. "And that’s the beauty of baseball and the beauty of sports. You anticipate something happening and it doesn’t. We’ve got to pivot emotionally and make sure we’re ready for the next set of challenges."