SAN DIEGO -- If the D-backs have shown anything in the season’s first week, it’s that you don’t have to match heavyweights punch for punch. Keep moving, and you can beat them with your legs and quickness.
Arizona found itself down four runs by the sixth inning Tuesday afternoon, midway through the finale of its opening trip. Rather than get conservative, unwilling to risk outs on the basepaths, the D-backs did the opposite. They got more aggressive on the bases and came roaring back with seven runs over the final four frames for an 8-6 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.
By stealing bases, challenging outfield arms and bunting in key situations, Arizona finished 3-3 against the National League West heavyweights from Los Angeles and San Diego. Next up: The home opener Thursday and another four-game series against the Dodgers.
“That’s our style. That’s how we’re going to have to win games,” said infielder Josh Rojas, who reached base four times and had one of the D-backs’ five stolen bases Tuesday. “We’re playing teams that can leave the yard at any time. One mistake, and they can put three runs on the board. Our style’s going to be to chip away and put pressure on guys and make them make plays in pressure situations.”
The D-backs started their rally when five straight batters reached base with two outs in the sixth inning, producing three runs. Four more runs came home in the eighth inning, a wild frame that featured four stolen bases (including a double steal that brought home a run), a safety squeeze bunt and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.
“We’re a good team. We’re athletic, and we’re going to exploit things that we’re supposed to,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “These are things we talked about all Spring Training long. … You can see what we’re trying to do.
“For me, that four-run eighth inning was built around the distraction of the pitcher with what we’re trying to do on the bases. And then we cashed in with some big base hits.”
Here’s how the D-backs stole a victory in the eighth:
• Jake McCarthy led off with a single and stole second base to get into scoring position. A groundout moved him to third base.
• Geraldo Perdomo, a switch-hitter who stepped into the lefty batter’s box against hard-throwing right-hander Luis García, bunted up the first-base line. McCarthy scored easily, and Perdomo got aboard when first baseman Matt Carpenter mishandled the ball.
• Perdomo then stole second base and scored on Jose Herrera’s single to shallow center field.
• Herrera, a catcher and not truly part of the D-backs’ speed brigade, nonetheless goaded García into an errant pickoff throw that put him in scoring position.
• After a walk, a single and a sac fly, the D-backs had a 7-5 lead with runners on first and third. Ketel Marte took off from first base and stopped on the basepaths to draw a throw from catcher Austin Nola. Rojas then broke from third base and scored ahead of a throw from second baseman Jake Cronenworth, with a nifty slide around Nola to slap the plate with his left hand.
“That’s our game,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, we aren’t going to be stealing bases if we’re up or down a ton of runs. But if we think we’re in striking distance, we’re going to play our game, our brand. That’s what we do best.”
The comeback helped ace pitcher Zac Gallen avoid losing his first two starts of a season for the first time in his career. Gallen grinded through six innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk. It certainly helped that the D-backs had plenty of baserunners. They drew seven walks after getting only two over their first five games.
“Today, we were able to get some guys on base and create some havoc,” Rojas said. “That’s the whole key, getting on base. You can’t really do anything until you get on base."