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Walks sink D-backs in frustrating 9th inning

@SteveGilbertMLB
July 3, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Greg Holland took the mound to start the bottom of the ninth for the D-backs with a one-run lead. The right-hander quickly retired the first two batters he faced, and ran the count to 0-2 on Chris Taylor. Then, well, disaster struck. Holland lost the strike zone,

LOS ANGELES -- Greg Holland took the mound to start the bottom of the ninth for the D-backs with a one-run lead. The right-hander quickly retired the first two batters he faced, and ran the count to 0-2 on Chris Taylor.

Then, well, disaster struck.

Holland lost the strike zone, walking four straight to force home the tying run.

In came T.J. McFarland to face Cody Bellinger. He walked him to force home the game-winning run as the Dodgers walked off the D-backs, 5-4.

Box score

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in the live-ball era (since 1920) that a game ended on five consecutive walks with no outs occurring between those walks.

And it left those in the visiting clubhouse stunned.

“I don’t think I’ve really been a part of a game like that,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “It stings. It definitely stings.”

Twice the D-backs had the Dodgers down to their final strike -- an 0-2 count on Taylor and a 3-2 count on Russell Martin.

“That’s unacceptable,” said Holland, who suffered his third blown save of the year. “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I felt pretty good out there and then just completely lost command of the strike zone altogether. It’s just not acceptable.”

As the walks began to mount and McFarland got loose in the bullpen, Lovullo elected to stick with Holland, even against left-handed hitters Alex Verdugo and Matt Beaty.

Did he consider taking him out?

“No, he’s our closer,” Lovullo said. “I felt like it was still his opportunity to get that closed and slam the door. The bottom line is I believe in him. And I still do believe in him. And he’ll get the baseball again [Wednesday] if there’s a save opportunity because he’s done it a long time. I felt like it was the best opportunity for us to win the game.”

Things started to unravel for Holland after he tried to get Taylor to chase outside the strike zone after getting ahead 0-2.

And once he started down that road, he couldn’t get his command back.

“When it went 2-2 I probably should have gotten back in the strike zone instead of trying to get [Taylor] to chase,” Holland said. “After the first walk, I still was telling myself to make tough pitches. In that situation, when I fall behind, I treat it like an open base. If I ended up walking a few guys, I’m not going to give up that big hit. That was my mindset. But it got to the point where I needed to get back in the strike zone and I just didn’t, and we lost because of it.”

It was McFarland, though, that drew the toughest assignment.

Summoned with the bases loaded, he had to face one of the toughest hitters in baseball in Bellinger.

After falling behind Bellinger 1-0, McFarland got him down 1-2 before uncorking three straight balls, the final two of which were sinkers.

“Obviously I’m trying to pound the zone and have him hit something on the ground,” McFarland said. “Got ahead 1-2 and then just kind of lost my sinker a little bit. He’s a good hitter. I think matchup-wise, I feel really confident against him, throwing my sinker. Again, I got him 1-2, got him where I wanted to. I just needed to put him away and then didn’t throw strikes when I needed them.”

And while the Dodgers celebrated their walk off win with the usual on-field celebration and Gatorade bath for Bellinger, they couldn’t help but feel for what happened to Holland.

“As a pitcher, you feel for him,” said Dodgers starter Ross Stripling. “You don’t want anybody to go through that. You want us to take it from them and not him basically hand it to us on a silver platter. He’s been one of the better closers in the game for a long time and I’m sure he’ll be able to get over it and get back at it.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.