VanMeter's big night keys third straight 'W'

Double, triple, 3 RBIs in 8-run seventh inning keep D-backs rolling

July 21st, 2021

PHOENIX -- For the first time in nearly three months, the D-backs find themselves winners of three straight. To get there, the offense erased a four-run deficit with a flurry of hits -- both well-hit and softly struck -- to defeat the Pirates, 11-6, on Tuesday at Chase Field.

The tipping point came in the bottom of the seventh when 13 batters paraded to the plate. Josh Reddick delivered the decisive knock with two outs, an opposite-field two-run single that gave the D-backs a lead they would not relinquish.

By the time the inning concluded, Arizona had delivered its first eight-run frame since Aug. 12, 2020.

, who entered the game via a double switch in the fifth inning, came just a home run shy of the cycle. He got the scoring going in the seventh with an RBI triple, before capping the frame with a two-run double in his second at-bat of the inning.

“Normally, guys are more scared to make two outs in an inning than to get two hits,” VanMeter said. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever done it, and to get RBIs in both situations was really cool, too, with where we were at in the game; I’ve never done that before.”

The victory marked the fifth time this season that Arizona landed in the win column without hitting a home run.

Whereas the first two wins of the streak came with strong starting pitching taking center stage, the offense commandeered the narrative against the Pittsburgh bullpen. Arguably most impressive about the “pass the baton'' style of production was that the D-backs hadn’t scored eight runs in a game since June 26 in San Diego. Appreciative of the performance, manager Torey Lovullo lauded the at-bats that his group had Tuesday.

“The thing that stands out is we stood up with two outs when we needed to and delivered and we got that big hit when it mattered most,” Lovullo said. “Those are the things that I think good teams do on a consistent basis. And we’re playing good baseball right now.”

Despite homering Monday night, the Pirates starting a southpaw Tuesday likely played into the left-handed-hitting VanMeter landing on the bench. But after entering on defense midway through the fifth inning, it was his left-on-left triple in the seventh that sparked the decisive frame and also marked his first career three-bagger off a southpaw.

“Obviously, it felt great,” VanMeter said. “I’ve been able to feel like I’m seeing lefties decently well here the last couple of weeks.”

VanMeter has seen sporadic playing time this season with the D-backs, which led to a 19-game stint with Triple-A Reno from May 27-June 19. While there, he demolished the ball to the tune of a 1.419 OPS, earning him a callback to the big league club, where he has primarily seen action at second base.

Entering the night, VanMeter’s batting average sat at .182. He has been persistently flummoxed by breaking pitches, against which he hit just .053 through his first 57 games.

“We ask our guys to block it out,” Lovullo said of batters cautiously eyeing the scoreboard on their way to the plate. “Have a good, productive at-bat and take it pitch to pitch. That’s going to yield positive results.”

As of late, VanMeter has altered his approach -- and has seen those positive results. Rather than seeking one pitch in one zone, the 26-year-old is adjusting to looking in a variety of quadrants.

“We looked at some data and saw some things that were pretty glaring for me,” VanMeter said. “I think I’m a good enough hitter that I can hit multiple pitches in multiple zones.”

With the Trade Deadline looming on July 30 and D-backs GM Mike Hazen saying on Tuesday that his club is having "a lot of conversation" as far as trade talks are concerned, VanMeter’s playing time could be in line for a drastic uptick, especially should he continue to thrive in a pinch.

“I think any time you get a chance to be on the field is a good opportunity to take advantage of something -- take advantage of the opportunity, open some eyes,” VanMeter said. “Results aren’t always there, but just sticking to the process and just going about my day and trying to be the best me I can be is really what’s been working for me.”

The last time that the D-backs enjoyed their third consecutive win this season, their record sat at 12-11 and they were just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West. The outlook of the year has changed drastically since that point, but, per Lovullo, the objective has remained consistent:

“It’s really about winning baseball games and playing winning baseball.”