SAN DIEGO -- The D-backs arrived in San Diego Friday in a rut. Frustrating back-to-back losses in Chicago rounded out a disappointing 3-4 start coming out of the All-Star break. Arizona was tired, discouraged and, frankly, in need of a reboot.The D-backs should be in much better shape heading home
SAN DIEGO -- The D-backs arrived in San Diego Friday in a rut. Frustrating back-to-back losses in Chicago rounded out a disappointing 3-4 start coming out of the All-Star break. Arizona was tired, discouraged and, frankly, in need of a reboot.
The D-backs should be in much better shape heading home to Chase Field, as they slugged their way to an early lead and held on to a 5-4 victory and a three-game sweep over the Padres at Petco Park on Sunday afternoon.
It didn't come easy, as the Padres threatened late, but the trio of Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger showed why the D-backs' bullpen ranks as one of the best in the National League. The three combined for 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball, with Bradley managing to pitch out of a dangerous Padres threat in the eighth.
However, the biggest play of the game isn't recorded in the box score. After Eric Hosmer led off the eighth with a single, Christian Villanueva lined a floater to right that looked to have a good chance of falling for a single. Steven Souza Jr. had other plans, though, and faked as if he was going to dive for the play. The move was subtle, but convincing enough for Hosmer to stutter on the basepath. The ball fell, and Souza delivered a perfect strike to Nick Ahmed to nab Hosmer for a forceout at second.
"Off the bat I was going for it, but once I realized I didn't have a shot, I tried to make it look like I did," Souza said.
"Once the ball is on the way, once it gets to a certain point, you kind of realize you're not going to get it, and you do whatever you can to freeze the runner," he added.
Souza's fake out proved to pay off immensely, as Bradley was tagged for a run when Freddy Galvis, the ensuing batter, doubled off the wall. Villanueva was waved home on the play, but John Ryan Murphy appeared to whiff on the throw at home, and Villanueva was called safe after replay review. The Padres only scored the one run, when the game surely would've been tied should Hosmer have reached base safely.
"With Steven, sometimes he's a little unpredictable with his movements," manager Torey Lovullo said. "He faked out like he was going to dive and executed a perfect throw. Nick did a great job of stretching like a first baseman. Those are the type of fundamental plays, the key things we do in those moments, to win ball games."
The win wrapped up a road trip in which the D-backs went 7-4. Following the Dodgers' loss to the Braves on Sunday, Arizona is just a half-game back of first place in the National League West.
Cool as Clay
For a Major League veteran that started the year unsigned and waited more than month before joining the D-backs on a Minor League deal, Clay Buchholz has settled nicely -- albeit unexpectedly -- into the No. 3 arm in the rotation. He delivered another decent outing Sunday, allowing three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings. Buchholz walked three and struck out three, and was lifted after allowing an RBI single to A.J. Ellis in the sixth.
"I didn't feel as sharp as I did last time I was out, but whenever I had to make some pitches, I made some pitches," he said.
Buchholz has been a solid arm since joining the team on May 20. Only one of his nine starts lasted less than five innings, and his 2.65 ERA holds as the lowest in the current rotation. He's 3-0 in his last four starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Paul Goldschmidt wasted no time in getting the D-backs on the board. He belted the second pitch he saw from Padres starter Joey Lucchesi into the left-field seats in the first inning. It served as his 23rd homer of the season and put the D-backs up 2-0. The blast caromed off the Western Metal Supply building at an estimated 364 feet, according to Statcast™.
A.J. Pollock and Ahmed each belted their 14th homer of the year also. Those came in the fourth inning, when Pollock led off the frame with a solo shot. Souza followed with a single, and Ahmed followed that with the second two-run homer of the game to make it 5-2. Pollock's shot travelled 397 feet, while Ahmed's travelled 352, per Statcast™.
The D-backs are now 25-4 in games in which they homer twice or more.
Boxberger notched his 25th save of the season with a perfect ninth. He fanned pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe and Travis Jankowski, and induced a ground ball from Manuel Margot to end the game.
It was Boxberger's first appearance since his blown save against Chicago on Thursday, when the D-backs fell 7-6 in extra innings.
"Really, really nice inning," Lovullo said. "He was attacking the zone, really good stuff. Last time he was on the mound wasn't a great day for him. That's some mental toughness there, and that's what we preach here."
The D-Backs' sweep was their fifth of the year and their second three-game sweep in club history at Petco Park. Before Sunday's contest, the only time Arizona had swept the Padres on the road came April 24-26, 2006. Their last sweep came over a month ago -- a four-game sweep against Pittsburgh from June 21-24.
HE SAID IT
"I'm excited to be a contributor on defense. For a while there, I felt like I was a liability. I was all over the place." -- Souza, on his defense in right field
Robbie Ray (3-2, 4.90 ERA) will face off against Martin Perez (2-4, 7.08) and the Texas Rangers at Chase Field in the first of a two-game Interleague series. Ray missed a significant chunk of the first half with a strained oblique and struggled with his command, seeing his ERA inflate to as high as 5.37. However, he's coming off his best start of the season -- he stymied the Cubs for seven innings of one-run ball, scattering four hits and striking out six. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. MST.
Kathryn Woo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego.