Varsho's slam caps D-backs' historic inning

Despite plating 9 in 5th, Arizona falls in wild back-and-forth game in Colorado

September 10th, 2022

DENVER -- The only thing more unpredictable than the weather in Colorado is baseball at Coors Field.

A day after temperatures hit 98 degrees in Denver, the D-backs opened their weekend series against the Rockies with the temperature reading 59 degrees Friday night, along with a constant drizzle of rain. But after Arizona's 13-10 walk-off loss to Colorado, the dramatic weather swing was merely a footnote, almost forgotten in the fog of one of the wildest games in the ballpark’s history.

“Coming into this venue, you just prepare for the most outrageous outcome,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “Anything less will slow your heartbeat down.”

Friday’s outcome -- and the events that led to it -- didn’t slow anyone’s heart rate. It likely did the opposite. It was 3 hours and 5 minutes of record-matching feats, momentous ups and downs and … a loss for Arizona.

But much like their two losses in San Diego earlier this week, the young D-backs weren’t sweating the outcome. They were satisfied with their fight and with the growing pains that inevitably come while transitioning from a building phase to a competing one. And given where they were the last time they played at Coors Field -- fighting to stay ahead of the Rockies and out of the National League West cellar -- they realize how far they’ve come in less than a month.

Following a loss at Colorado on Aug. 12, the D-backs held only a 1 1/2-game advantage over the Rockies. But four weeks later (even after Friday’s loss) Arizona (65-72) is six games ahead of Colorado, going 14-10 in between while leapfrogging San Francisco to take possession of third place in the division.

“We had a lot of positives today, I don’t want to run from that,” Lovullo said. “When young kids come in here and get this experience in this ballpark, it’s going to make them that much better.”

Things got out of hand quickly for starter Zach Davies. The right-hander gave up a leadoff home run to Ryan McMahon, a two-run homer to Elías Díaz in the second inning and another McMahon homer in the fourth. Two batters later, reliever Keynan Middleton gave up a 504-foot homer by C.J. Cron to give Colorado an 8-1 lead. Cron’s homer tied Giancarlo Stanton’s mammoth blast on Aug. 6, 2016, for the longest at Coors Field since Statcast tracking began in 2015.

But in the fifth, the D-backs did something they had never done before: They batted around, with each of the first nine batters who came to the plate scoring before an out was recorded. Prior to Friday, that had happened only four times in MLB since 1974, when play-by-play records started being kept. It was also the first time it had happened since 2015.

The D-backs will never forget that they lost Friday’s contest, but they’ll also remember the resolve they showed in coming all the way back in the fifth. That’s what they took away from a game that defied the expectations of even hardened veterans of Colorado baseball.

The big blow was a Daulton Varsho grand slam to emphatically punctuate the nine-run fifth. It was the first slam of his career.

“I think it shows what kind of a grinding mentality we have as a team, just trying to win a baseball game any way we can,” Varsho said. “I think it shows that we’re willing to do everything we can for anybody, and it’s just a fun group to be around, because there’s a lot of energy, a lot of speed, just a different type of baseball that you don’t normally see up here in the big leagues.”

Varsho reiterated several times how close-knit and eager the youngest D-backs -- including Jake McCarthy, who had a homer and two singles, and Corbin Carroll, who launched his second career homer -- are to demonstrate what they can do.

Varsho said he’s even looking forward to playing spoiler the rest of the way in 2022.

“Even if you look back at the Padres series, yeah, those two losses hurt,” Varsho said. “But there were still a lot of learning experiences for everybody here. But it’s just a good group, and we know that down the stretch here, we can ruin a lot of playoff hopes.”

As they continue to learn -- whether through wins or tough losses like this one -- the D-backs have their sights set on becoming the team with the target on its back, rather than the team that is looking to rain on another squad's potential postseason parade.