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D-backs avoid no-hitter, drop series opener

MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHOENIX -- As he walked to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning of what would become a 4-1 loss for the D-backs, the odds seemed stacked against Christian Walker.

The D-backs backup first baseman had just six plate appearances to his credit since being called up from Triple-A Reno on April 8, and he was stepping in to face Tyson Ross, who was working on trying to complete the first no-hitter in the history of the Padres franchise.

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PHOENIX -- As he walked to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning of what would become a 4-1 loss for the D-backs, the odds seemed stacked against Christian Walker.

The D-backs backup first baseman had just six plate appearances to his credit since being called up from Triple-A Reno on April 8, and he was stepping in to face Tyson Ross, who was working on trying to complete the first no-hitter in the history of the Padres franchise.

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Far from intimidated, though, Walker felt like he had Ross right where he wanted him.

"To be honest, that specific situation, I think the pressure's on him there," Walker said. "I watched a lot of at-bats, I watched him throw a lot of pitches that game, from the dugout, from the TV inside. I wanted to really get a feel for what he was doing and why he was being so effective and try to pre-determine a plan and just stick to it."

Ross had thrown 124 pitches by the time Walker stood at the plate.

"He was getting a lot of chases," Walker said. "I really wanted to narrow the zone, really make it center-cut, make him throw his best pitch to get me out. Tonight, it was a slider."

Ross' first pitch was a slider in the dirt for a ball, and then he missed with a fastball to fall behind 2-0.

"2-0 right there, coming up on 120 pitches, I don't know if he has a lot of confidence in the fastball to get it by somebody 2-0 right there," Walker said. "So, that was in the back of my mind. But just a whole game of observations going into that at-bat."

Walker did get a slider, and he hit it over the head of Franchy Cordero in center for a double to break up the no-hitter and, more importantly, drive in the tying run.

Walker was the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League last year when he hit .309/.382/.597 for Reno. He also put together a good spring, before being sent back to Reno.

The problem for Walker is his primary position is first base and the D-backs have a player there -- Paul Goldschmidt -- who gets about one day off a month.

"Typically, we're all used to playing every day," Walker said. "There's definitely an adjustment. But with every at-bat, with every pinch-hit, I learn a little bit more about the role. I feel like I get a little bit better. I'm just giving myself more of a chance every time. As my at-bats go, I definitely feel more confident, but it's helpful to see some results, too."

Walker's result was a good one, but for the D-backs, an ugly three-run ninth inning in which they committed a pair of errors, led to a loss.

"It's probably a frustrating ending and very unusual type of baseball for us in the ninth inning," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "That's what's kind of sitting with me right now. I know that's not the type of team we are."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Boxed in: Lovullo tends to stay away from using relievers three days in a row if he can help it, especially when it comes to closer Brad Boxberger, who has had some injuries issues the past two seasons. With the meat of the Padres order coming up in the ninth, and the D-backs having just tied the game, Lovullo went with Boxberger for the third day in a row.

The Arizona closer allowed a leadoff single to Wil Myers, a shift-beating single and a grounder through the hole at third before being removed.

Video: SD@ARI: Villanueva rips a go-ahead RBI single in 9th

"Bad pitch to Myers to lead it off and then a couple of weak contacts that just didn't find the fielders," Boxberger said. "I felt good. I felt like I was executing well. I was getting ahead of hitters, just when they put it play, it just wasn't where they were standing."

DECISION TIME
Following the game, Lovullo said he was going to sit down with the front office to decide what to do with starter Matt Koch, who was called up to start in place of Taijuan Walker, who will miss the rest of the season to have Tommy John surgery.

Last year, the D-backs alternated between a pair of starters in Braden Shipley and Zack Godley, before finally sticking with Godley. But Koch certainly didn't do anything to deserve a demotion, as he allowed just two hits and one run over six innings.

"Certainly my vote will be 'yes,' based on what I saw," Lovullo said of Koch getting another start. "He attacked the zone and did a great job. On another day, we're talking about how good his outing is, and we score runs and swing the bats the way we're normally capable of, but unfortunately it's a different story tonight."

Video: SD@ARI: Koch tosses six innings of one-run ball

HE SAID IT
"He made some good pitches when he had to. We didn't put a lot of pressure on him by getting baserunners out there. He got us in a lot of counts where we chased his slider, and he had a good slider going today. He had it going tonight. We chased a little bit more than I think we wanted to. But you've got to give him credit. He did a good job out there." -- D-backs infielder/outfielder Daniel Descalsoon Ross

UP NEXT
The D-backs continue their series with the Padres at 5:10 p.m. MST on Saturday night at Chase Field. Zack Godley gets the start. The right-hander is coming off his first loss of the season as he gave up six runs (five earned) over four innings against the Dodgers. Godley struggled with his command in that game walking six.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks