DENVER -- As he was handed the ball from D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano took in the situation -- runners on first and third, no one out and the D-backs clinging to a three-run lead in the ninth inning.Lovullo marveled at Hirano's composure. Meanwhile, fellow reliever Brad Ziegler,
DENVER -- As he was handed the ball from D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano took in the situation -- runners on first and third, no one out and the D-backs clinging to a three-run lead in the ninth inning.
Lovullo marveled at Hirano's composure. Meanwhile, fellow reliever Brad Ziegler, who had worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, noticed Hirano looked like many Japanese pitchers on the big stage.
"They're always in control on the mound at all times," Ziegler said. "There may be chaos going on around them, but they're always in control of their emotions."
If only they knew what was going on inside Hirano.
"If it looks that way, that would be good," Hirano said when told of the comments. "They think that way, so it's good."
Hirano then smiled, put his hand over his heart and fluttered it up and down, indicating it was beating a lot faster than it may have looked.
The nerves also summed up the feelings of D-backs fans, who knew their team, which had dropped eight of 10, desperately needed a win to stop its slide and keep its postseason hopes from slipping away.
Hirano proceeded to strike out the first two hitters he faced and then got Charlie Blackmon to line out to end the game and preserve a 6-3 victory, which pulled the D-backs within 2 1/2 games of the National League West-leading Rockies and within one game of the second-place Dodgers.
"It feels good," Ziegler said. "We needed to win a game, especially against these guys. Going 4 1/2 back is not appealing at all. It's nice to get back to 2 1/2. It feels like we're in shouting distance."
The D-backs have two more games against the Rockies in this series, and three more against them at Chase Field Sept. 21-23. Arizona also has three games left against the Dodgers, at home Sept. 24-26.
Six of the D-backs' last eight losses came in the late innings, and on Monday, Lovullo removed Brad Boxberger from the closer's role in favor of going with the best matchups in the final few innings.
It wasn't always pretty on Tuesday, as left-handed relievers Andrew Chafin and Jake Diekman failed to retire the four hitters they faced, but Ziegler and Hirano got them through.
"The middle of this lineup is fantastic, and they have been for several years now," Ziegler said of the Rockies. "It doesn't get any easier any time you come here, especially mid-September with a lot on the line."
Hirano picked up his first save in the Major Leagues, but the 34-year-old recorded 156 in Japan before signing a two-year contract with the D-backs during the offseason.
"It was good to get the first save," Hirano said. "But I got saves in Japan also, so it's not like I'm 'Oh, it's the first save!' I was excited to get the first save out of the way."
Lovullo told Ketel Marte last Thursday that he was going to give Daniel Descalso more playing time in his place down the stretch. Descalso then started four straight games at second base, but Marte was in the lineup on Tuesday night and made the most of it. His two-run triple in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie, and his two-run single in the eighth gave the D-backs some extra breathing room as he matched his career high with four RBIs.
"I know he's probably been a little bit frustrated by some of the conversations that I've had with him," Lovullo said. "Maybe it's just preparation and knowing that he's got to go out there and prove himself and do what he's capable of doing. The simple fact is he's not distracted by trying to do too much or being too frustrated. He's really simplified things."
HE SAID IT
"He came into a little bit of a mess and was just steady tonight. From the start, he was just making pitches, being aggressive." -- Ziegler, on Hirano
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A call overturned by the replay official prolonged a rally that ultimately added a pair of insurance runs to the D-backs tally. With the typically lights-out Adam Ottavino on the mound in the eighth, A.J. Pollock was called out at first on a grounder to short that caused shortstop Trevor Story a costly split-second of hesitation as he looked to the runner at third. The D-backs challenged, and the call was overturned, putting runners on first and third with one out. Pollock stole second and then scored on Marte's two-run single.
The D-backs and Rockies continue this four-game series at 5:40 MST on Wednesday night, with left-hander Patrick Corbin (11-5, 3.01 ERA) taking on Colorado right-hander Jon Gray (11-7, 4.69). Corbin is 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last six starts and has held opponents to a .188 average over that span.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.