PHOENIX -- From the first day he gets his hands on position players at Spring Training, D-backs first base/baserunning coach Dave McKay begins hammering home a theme: You run hard out of the box, and you run until the other team stops you.
Simple? Maybe so, but it’s not something that every player in the game does. And every so often, it can be the difference between winning and losing a game.
Take, for example, the D-backs' 1-0 win over the Reds on Saturday night at Chase Field.
Arizona managed just one hit, one total baserunner, all night. And yet, because shortstop Nick Ahmed was running hard out of the box, it proved to be enough to win the game, snap a six-game losing streak and keep the D-backs' hopes of a postseason berth alive.
It was the first time in the modern era (since 1900) that a team won a game that lasted nine or more innings despite having just one baserunner, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball's official statistician.
Ahmed led off the third with a chopper over the head of third baseman Eugenio Suarez that rolled to the wall in left. Reds left fielder Josh VanMeter did not pick up the ball cleanly or get the ball in quickly.
Ahmed never hesitated in rounding second and making it to third. He scored on the very next pitch as Jarrod Dyson flied out to center.
“I went hard out of the box and hit both first and second base really well, and I don’t know if he dropped the ball or just didn’t play it quite right, but I saw a little hesitation and then I took it from there,” Ahmed said. “You never know if it’s the first inning, the last inning or anywhere in between where something little like that can make a huge difference in the game.”
With the victory, Arizona remained 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who hold the second National League Wild Card spot. The D-backs have 13 games remaining, with 10 of them against teams well below .500 in the Reds, Marlins and Padres.
That the D-backs had only one baserunner didn’t quite register in the Arizona dugout until the final inning.
“I didn’t even notice that,” catcher Carson Kelly said. “Going into the ninth inning I was like, ‘We only have one hit? Are we about to win this game with one hit?’ You don’t see that very often. But hey, we scored more than them today.”
Credit D-backs starter Merrill Kelly (11-14) for making that one run hold up.
The right-hander turned in a masterful performance in holding the Reds to three hits over seven innings.
"He was just pitching,” Reds manager David Bell. “He was locating his pitches and mixing his pitches. Just weren’t able to get anything going off him. He just seemed to be in control out there of each at-bat. He was making pitches when he had to, just really locating more than anything."
It was the third straight really good outing for Kelly, after almost a month of struggles that put his spot in the rotation in jeopardy.
Over the three-start span, he has allowed just three runs in 20 innings.
“Honestly I think it’s just mentality,” the pitcher said of what changed for him. “Going through that little skid there, I was trying to feel some different things, trying to find some different things rather than just going out and competing, and I think that’s probably been the biggest difference.”
For the first time in a week, there was music playing in the D-backs' clubhouse, laughter and a deep sigh of relief.
"A win is a win, especially at this point in the season,” Ahmed said. “We’re not going to complain about getting W’s. We’re going to try and make adjustments offensively and come out swinging better tomorrow, but it’s definitely a good win.”
And, as it turns out, a historic one.