D-backs' run through contenders brings playoff-style drama

Padres give pushback with a walk-off, but Arizona's finding its footing

September 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- A loss is a loss in baseball, but some hurt more than others.

The D-backs’ 6-5 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park was one of those.

Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, the D-backs looked to have the game in hand. Their starter, right-hander , was dealing. He had retired all 12 batters he faced while the offense had scored five runs off Joe Musgrove.

If you were a D-backs fan, you couldn't help but start looking at the way the wins had been piling up and start to wonder if they might, just might, have a chance to make a run at the final National League Wild Card spot.

After all, they had just taken two of three from the Phillies and three of four from the Brewers on their last homestand and were headed toward their second straight win against the Padres -- all teams they are behind in the Wild Card race.

Things, though, began to change in the bottom of the fifth.

Kelly walked the first batter of the inning and then gave up a two-run homer to Jake Cronenworth. Ha-Seong Kim followed with a homer of his own, and suddenly it was a 5-3 game and the Padres, who had seemed lifeless Monday night and early Tuesday, suddenly had a bit of momentum.

"We were wobbling a little bit," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.

The Arizona offense went quiet the rest of the night against the Padres’ bullpen while San Diego managed to chip away at the lead with a solo homer by Josh Bell in the seventh.

Kelly allowed just three hits, but all were homers.

"Usually, if I'm going seven and [giving up just] three hits, that's usually a pretty good day," Kelly said. "But they just didn't miss the mistakes today."

The Padres loaded the bases against closer in the ninth. With two outs, Jorge Alfaro hit a hard grounder back up the middle into center field, scoring two runs and giving the Padres the win.

It wasn't so much the hit that Kennedy lamented after the game, but rather the two batters he walked during the inning as a result of yanking fastballs to his glove side.

"You just can't walk people," Kennedy said. "When you give up a couple singles but walk people, this happens. Command … I was pulling everything."

The D-backs came into the game having won nine of 11. Since the day before the All-Star break they had gone 26-17 -- the second-best record in the NL West over that stretch -- and were eight games behind the Padres for the final NL Wild Card spot.

Yes, it would have taken a miracle finish, but there was starting to be a belief in the clubhouse that something special might be happening.

Tuesday, the music that had filled so many postgames lately was off and it was eerily quiet.

"I think you can tell just from how quiet it is," Kelly said. "But as tough as this one was, I think we can't let it derail what we've been doing. I mean, that was a good game today. Just got to flush this one and move on."

This was always supposed to be a building season for the D-backs, one in which they were going to transition some of their top prospects into the big leagues. As they've done that, they've begun to play with more energy and enthusiasm. It's a team that has been playing an exciting brand of baseball.

"In my mind, this last stretch is probably the best Diamondbacks baseball I've seen probably since 2019," Kelly said. "It means a lot, and I know this year [the playoffs are] probably a long shot with the barrel that we're looking down. But like I said before, if we can continue to play this brand of baseball for the rest of the season, I think it bodes well for the mindset and the momentum going into next year.

“I think a lot of guys are starting to find their footing and starting to find their confidence."