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Youngsters homer to complete DH sweep

@SteveGilbertMLB
September 26, 2020

Pavin Smith knew the days on the baseball calendar were dwindling, and the D-backs’ first baseman/outfielder really wanted to check one thing off his rookie list before it ended: a home run. Smith was able to do that Friday night with a solo shot in the fifth inning as the

Pavin Smith knew the days on the baseball calendar were dwindling, and the D-backs’ first baseman/outfielder really wanted to check one thing off his rookie list before it ended: a home run.

Smith was able to do that Friday night with a solo shot in the fifth inning as the D-backs beat the Rockies, 11-5, to sweep a doubleheader and raise their winning streak to four.

Box score

Arizona won the first game, 4-0, behind the pitching of Zac Gallen.

The nightcap was more of a slugfest, with the D-backs collecting 13 hits, including Smith’s first homer in the big leagues.

“Definitely feels good,” Smith said. “I don’t know, I was just thinking about how we have a couple of games left, I wanted to go home having a home run under my belt. It was good to get that out of the way.”

Smith, the team’s top pick (seventh overall) in the 2017 Draft, almost got his first one out of the way last weekend in Houston, but it narrowly missed and he had to settle for a triple, which led to some good-natured teasing at the time from veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun.

It turns out that Calhoun had a feeling early in Friday’s game that this might be the game for Smith.

“I heard him in the dugout earlier saying he had me for a homer tonight,” Smith said. “He was calling it. It was pretty cool to go up to him after that and he goes, ‘I knew you were going to hit a homer tonight.’”

Smith is part of a group of younger players who have gotten valuable experience in the Major Leagues this season, joining the likes of Daulton Varsho, Josh VanMeter, Josh Rojas and Wyatt Mathisen.

“It’s fun for me when I get a chance to see these young kids come in, newly drafted, and I watch their bodies grow, I watch their swings improve, I watch them accept some coaching,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s a great player development story when you watch these young guys. Especially in Pavin’s case today, he hit that ball a long way. It’s been a long time coming. I know he worked hard for that moment. We all celebrated with him. It was good for all of us to see.”

Varsho had a pair of hits in the first game of the doubleheader. VanMeter hit a three-run homer in the third inning of Game 2 that started to give the D-backs some separation. Mathisen hit a pair of homers in Wednesday’s game against the Rangers.

“It seems like one of those guys does something different every night,” outfielder Tim Locastro said. “And they all keep one-upping each other. But I mean, it's pretty fun to watch and hopefully these last two games we get some more of it.”

Locastro also had a big night, getting on base all five times he came to the plate, driving in a pair of runs and also scoring twice.

The numbers of the D-backs rookies might not necessarily be outstanding, but Lovullo and the front office and looking at far more than that when evaluating them.

VanMeter, for instance, hit .059 in just 34 at-bats for the Reds before coming to Arizona in the Archie Bradley trade. With the D-backs, he’s hitting .188 in 32 at-bats.

“VanMeter came [to the D-backs], I think his numbers were obviously way down from his time in Cincinnati,” Lovullo said. “We kind of unearthed that, talked to him about that, what happened. I’m just taking each at-bat that he’s giving us. He’s hitting the ball hard. His barrel is behind the ball. That’s what I’m evaluating. I’m not so much looking up there and seeing the numbers and paying attention to the batting average. I’m watching what happens inside the at-bat.

“I’m not so concerned about anybody that’s hitting .175 or .180 if they’re getting a pitch and putting the barrel on it. I know the numbers will increase over the course of a long season, over a period of time.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.