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Walker continues tear as D-backs punch win

First baseman posts second straight three-hit performance, relaxing into everyday play
@matthewhleach
April 17, 2019

ATLANTA -- For Christian Walker there is only right now. And right now, things are good again. There's no big league past to speak of. Walker is 28, but over parts of four previous seasons in the Majors, he amassed all of 14 starts and 99 plate appearances. The future

ATLANTA -- For Christian Walker there is only right now. And right now, things are good again.

There's no big league past to speak of. Walker is 28, but over parts of four previous seasons in the Majors, he amassed all of 14 starts and 99 plate appearances. The future is not entirely clear either. When Jake Lamb returns from a quadriceps injury, there's no certainty of how many at-bats there will be for Walker.

Right now, though? Right now, he's making the most of a big opportunity. And on Tuesday night, Walker's second home run in as many games, off Braves closer A.J. Minter, sent the D-backs to a hard-fought, 9-6 win at SunTrust Park.

"Minter's got really, really good stuff," Walker said. "I was just trying to find something over the plate and put the good part of the bat on it, and it worked out."

Leading off the ninth, Walker jumped on a 1-0 cutter from Minter and drove it a Statcast-projected 416 feet to left center, giving Arizona a 7-6 lead.

"You all saw what happened," Minter said. "I don't know if the [cutter] got too much of the plate, but he hit it out of the ballpark."

The homer was Walker's third hit of the game and sixth in two games. He singled and scored in the fourth inning, then singled in a run in a four-run sixth that dug the D-backs out of a three-run deficit.

It all follows a Saturday meeting with manager Torey Lovullo that may not have been strictly necessary, but certainly was welcome. Walker was 2-for-28 over the first eight games of the D-backs' recently completed homestand after starting the year on a torrid streak.

That could shake anyone's confidence, but especially a player with Walker's history. He knows how fickle the game can be. He knows opportunities often don't last. And while he hadn't lost his confidence, it was still good know his manager had his back.

"I wouldn't say I necessarily needed it," Walker said. "I kind of see what's going on. Obviously I know more at-bats are going to come my way based on what's going on. But at the same time, it always feels good to hear your manager tell you to relax and go play your game."

As long as Lamb is out, Walker will play. The D-backs need him to produce. But in order to do that, they also need him to de-stress. It's a tough line to walk for a manager.

"I think in years past," Lovullo said, "he probably thought, ‘I'm out of here,’ getting sent out. But that's not the case now. We're counting on him, and we need him. And he knows that. But I want him to embrace those expectations, not put too much pressure on himself."

It's working. On Sunday, Walker hit an opposite-field home run to go with a single and a double. On Tuesday, he followed it up with the game-winning homer, two singles and a walk. It might not be a coincidence that after getting some results on Sunday, Walker was able to relax even more on Tuesday.

"I think I had two hits across the homestand up until the last day, and then to get three and then three again the next day, baseball is funny like that," he said. "Yeah, definitely it helps. Maybe it lifts some self-[applied] pressure or whatever you want to call it."

His manager has his back, and his teammates are pulling for him. The future is uncertain, but the present isn't too bad.

"He really loves this game, and he just needed the opportunity," said outfielder Adam Jones. "When I signed over here, I was glad to see him. It sucks that Lamber is hurt, but he knows he's gonna get the bulk of the opportunity, and he's running away with the opportunity. And that's what you're supposed to do.

"He can play. And he belongs here."

Matthew Leach is an editor and reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.