PITTSBURGH -- The D-backs are struggling to find success off starters, but that hasn’t hindered their ability to score at all. This year, when the going gets late, the bats get going.
They continued to find ways to rally in the dark on Monday night, lifting off for seven runs in the seventh inning to key a 12-4 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
It’s an extension of an intriguing trend for Arizona: its 29 seventh-inning runs are the best in the Majors, and it entered the game third in runs scored in the seventh through ninth innings (42).
Monday night’s seventh-inning comeback wasn’t exactly a slugfest, nor was it completely a small-ball rally. It was something in between, a smorgasbord of run production.
Here’s how the wild frame played out.
Kyle Crick entered, and before he could even work a count against John Ryan Murphy, the D-backs catcher took advantage of a defensive shift. Seeing Bucs third baseman Colin Moran sitting deep on the left side of the infield, Murphy laid down a bunt and easily beat it out. That set up a bases-loaded Arizona debut for Blake Swihart, who came off the bench to face Crick.
Swing away and show ’em what you’ve got, right? Instead, Swihart hit a short tapper, which Crick fielded in plenty of time to feed to catcher Elias Diaz. But Diaz’s foot was inches short of the plate.
So even though the rally started in short, quiet and even head-scratching fashion, manager Torey Lovullo was impressed with his team’s ability to build on the little victories.
“We chased [Musgrove] out of the game, and we kept going. We kept just powering through,” he said. “It gave us a huge boost of energy. It was the right guys in the right spots doing the right things.”
Eduardo Escobar, who hit the homer off Musgrove in the third, lifted another ball in the seventh -- a blooper that left the bat at a projected 57 mph and dropped in the left-field grass to bring the D-backs within a run at 4-3.
“I’ll take all bloopers,” Escobar said with a laugh. “[But] the most important thing is to play hard. Everybody comes in here working hard every day, and consider every at-bat their last at-bat.”
“[Swihart and Escobar] did what they were supposed to, and in both situations, they scored runs. That’s the name of the game,” Lovullo said. “We had a few things go our way this day, but I thought it was a product of us being in a good place to hit.”
David Peralta, the next batter, entered Monday’s action hitting .362 with a .997 OPS. He upped his impressive numbers by ripping a bases-clearing triple to plate the game-winning runs off Crick -- the first hard knock of the inning.
“I knew the guy. He’s got a pretty good slider and fastball, so I was just looking for a fastball and put a good swing on it,” Peralta said. “It worked our way, cleared the bases and I think that was the ballgame.”
Pittsburgh had finally gotten a pair of outs with just Peralta on base. But Arizona brought its biggest weapon this season to the plate in Christian Walker. On an 0-1 pitch, he swatted his seventh homer of the year 100 mph off the bat over the Clemente Wall to complete the seven-run rally.
“I’m really proud of him,” Peralta said of Walker, “because finally, he got his chance, his opportunity, and he’s doing damage. ... Every time he steps up to home plate, you expect something to happen.”
Walker has become the prototype of clutch power, as all seven of his homers this season have come in the seventh inning or later. Can he explain it?
“I can’t, to be honest,” Walker said. “It’s just the way baseball is sometimes. I wish I could do a better job of getting on the starter, but just happy to help the team any way I can.”
Late-inning success, like the seventh-frame outburst on Monday, has given the guys in the D-backs' clubhouse confidence to stick with their approach, even if they struggle early.
“We’re the type of team that we never give up,” Peralta said. “We have to play every inning, every at-bat, and with this opportunity we got late in the game, we just have to be prepared for everything.”