D-backs' home runs quell worries of letdown
PHOENIX -- In the aftermath of a disappointing loss to the Dodgers on Sunday, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo huddled with his coaches.
Lovullo was concerned that the loss could linger into the series opener against the Padres on Monday afternoon. He wanted the staff to deliver a consistent message to the players that they could not afford to let down.
So the staff had a video put together that showed various athletes like a speedskater celebrating victory just a little too soon and getting passed at the finish line.
The lesson proved to be important during the D-backs’ 14-7 victory over the Padres at Chase Field, just not in the way he might have anticipated.
The win was the seventh in the last eight games for the D-backs, who have surged back into the race for the second National League Wild Card. Arizona remains 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who currently hold that spot and beat the Mariners on Monday.
Players said they weren’t disheartened after the loss to the Dodgers and instead drew positives from taking three of four from the team with the best record in the National League.
“I didn’t really see a beat skipped,” Monday’s starter Mike Leake said. “If you’re a playoff team and you’re going to get on a playoff run, that’s what you’ve got to show.”
Leake (11-10) did his part as he attacked the Padres from the start and kept them off the scoreboard through the first five innings.
“I think he set a very aggressive tone for us,” Lovullo said. “He got quick outs and allowed us to get back in the dugout and bang the ball around.”
And boy did they.
“None of us were thinking about [Sunday’s loss] or concerned,” shortstop Nick Ahmed said. “We played a good series against them. It would’ve been great to get a four-game sweep, but we came up ready to go today.”
The D-backs came out swinging as they sent nine men to the plate and scored six times in the second inning. The last two runs of the inning came on Ketel Marte’s 29th home run of the season.
It was the first two of four RBIs he collected on the day. And it was actually at that moment where the pregame video paid dividends.
“We got a big lead early today and [bench coach Jerry Narron] kept telling us in the dugout, ‘Don’t celebrate too early,’” Ahmed said. “And we kept the foot on the gas pedal and put up some big numbers today.”
The D-backs pounded out 18 hits and got four home runs. In addition to Marte, Christian Walker, Josh Rojas and Eduardo Escobar also hit balls over the wall, with Escobar notching his 33rd of the year.
Rojas was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, and he might have gotten a three-bagger in the fourth had Josh Naylor not made a diving catch on his line drive deep in the gap in right-center.
That was more than enough offense for Leake, who gave the D-backs exactly what they desperately needed -- innings from a starting pitcher.
Leake worked 6 1/3 innings to become the first D-backs starter to pitch more than five innings since his last start, when he went 7 1/3 against the Giants.
“For him to do it, I’m not surprised,” Lovullo said. “He’s in a good spot right now. It was exactly what we needed.”
Leake’s ability to eat innings was one of the reasons the D-backs picked him up from the Mariners just minutes before the Trade Deadline on July 31.
“Any time a starter can eat up innings at this point in the season, it’s even more important than in the beginning because usually you’re worn out at the end and you rely on your bullpen and everybody else to get through it,” he said.