Escobar's 2-HR, 7-RBI night powers D-backs

May 16th, 2021

PHOENIX -- As the list of D-backs players on the injured list grows, manager Torey Lovullo is keeping a positive mindset.

There are numerous young players getting opportunities to prove themselves and earn a place in the big leagues. This can be fun to watch, even if it doesn’t lead to immediate results.

Don’t forget about the more experienced guys in Arizona’s lineup, though. They’re looking to make an impact, too, in the absence of some key contributors.

provided a reminder of that Saturday night, as he broke out with a pair of home runs and a career-high-tying seven RBIs to power the D-backs to an 11-4 win over the Nationals at Chase Field. Entering the night, Escobar was mired in a 1-for-34 slump over his previous 10 games.

In an interesting coincidence, the only other time Escobar drove in seven runs in a game was Aug. 3, 2019, which also came at home against the Nationals.

“Several of the veteran players led the way today, and that will shift gears throughout the course of the season; there’s going to be the young players that are going to carry that load,” Lovullo said. “But somebody stepped up today, and it was Eduardo. I know that he’s been waiting for a day like this over the past couple of weeks, where he’s been grinding away at things. This is what he’s capable of doing.”

From May 5-14, Escobar’s only hit was a fifth-inning single in the D-backs’ win over the Marlins on Tuesday. During the slump, he struck out 14 times in 36 plate appearances. And his batting average was down to .200 entering Saturday, the lowest it had been since he ended April 12 with a .195 mark.

On Friday, Escobar changed his pregame routine, which included coming in earlier to take swings against the pitching machine. It didn’t lead to immediate results, as he went 0-for-3 in the series opener against Washington. But he credited those adjustments from his pregame work for his breakthrough performance, resulting in his first three-hit game since Aug. 16, 2020.

“I think that’s the secret. Before, I jumped to the ball, that’s why I missed my pitches I was hitting when I was doing good,” Escobar said. “The secret tonight was coming in early and using the machine, and I think, most importantly, it was trusting my hands.”

Right-hander Seth Frankoff allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings in his Arizona debut, which was also his first career big league start and only his fourth MLB appearance.

The D-backs’ lineup gave him six runs of support, half of which came on Escobar’s 413-foot homer to right-center field off Nationals right-hander Joe Ross in the fourth.

Frankoff faced some adversity in the first, allowing a leadoff double to Trea Turner, who scored two batters later on a Juan Soto groundout that put Washington ahead, 1-0. But Arizona responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning -- including a two-run single from Escobar that put the D-backs on the board -- as it went on to pound out 12 total hits on the night.

“What a night, he was incredible,” Frankoff said of Escobar. “He was fantastic for us tonight. It was really good to get on the board early and give us a little bit of cushion to work with and extend that lead later on. It certainly is a lot more fun to be around when you’re doing the hit tunnel in the dugout and all that kind of stuff.”

With catcher Carson Kelly (left big toe tuft fracture) being placed on the injured list before the game, Arizona was missing four key position players who were on the field on Opening Day. However, it still had veteran leaders Escobar and David Peralta, who also went deep.

Peralta stretched the D-backs’ lead to 9-2 with a solo homer in the sixth, then Escobar made it 11-3 with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Escobar has been a big part of Arizona’s offense in the past, such as the 2019 season, when he batted .269/.320/.511 with 35 homers and 118 RBIs. The D-backs’ lineup could use that form of Escobar -- like the one that showed up Saturday night -- while waiting for some reinforcements to return in the near future.

“I know he’s been working real hard,” Lovullo said. “There are some new names in our clubhouse, it’s a team full of guys that are trusting one another and going out and working hard. And it was Eduardo’s turn to lead the way.”