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Ahmed slams, but D-backs settle for series split

MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

CHICAGO -- David Bote tied the game with a two-run homer and Anthony Rizzo won it for the Cubs with a solo blast, but if there's one moment that D-backs closer Brad Boxberger regrets from Thursday afternoon's heart-wrenching 7-6 loss, it was the leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist to open the bottom of the ninth inning.

"To put the tying run at the plate just because I couldn't throw a strike was probably the worst part of the inning," Boxberger said.

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CHICAGO -- David Bote tied the game with a two-run homer and Anthony Rizzo won it for the Cubs with a solo blast, but if there's one moment that D-backs closer Brad Boxberger regrets from Thursday afternoon's heart-wrenching 7-6 loss, it was the leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist to open the bottom of the ninth inning.

"To put the tying run at the plate just because I couldn't throw a strike was probably the worst part of the inning," Boxberger said.

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Zobrist ran the count to 3-2. The sixth pitch of the at-bat was on the borderline at the bottom of the zone, and it was called ball four.

Video: Must C Clutch: Rizzo follows Bote with walk-off homer

"When you look at things backwards, that's obviously the part of the inning … you want to just get that leadoff batter, but it was a close pitch," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "You can tell things unraveled from there."

Boxberger recovered to get Javier Baez to fly out to center before Bote, who was called up earlier in the day to replace the injured Kris Bryant, hit an 0-2 fastball into the bleachers in left-center to tie the game.

"I thought it was a good pitch," Boxberger said. "He was right on it. I don't know if he kind of knew what I was throwing or not. I'll look at the film tomorrow and find out what's going on."

One answer is that Cubs manager Joe Maddon was Boxberger's manager with the Rays in 2014, so he is plenty familiar with the right-hander.

"He elevated the pitch to Bote, he swung, strike two," Maddon said. "I was concerned at that point, but then he got the pitch he was looking for. Once that happens, Riz becomes an even better hitter. That definitely puts the pitcher on his heels, immediately. It's hard to really refocus and make the kind of pitch you're looking for to the next hitter. Rizzo definitely benefitted from Bote's at-bat."

Video: ARI@CHC: Avila cuts out Rizzo trying to swipe second

Boxberger jumped ahead of Rizzo 0-1, but he then hung a changeup that Rizzo crushed to right for the game-winner.

According to Statcast™, the home run measured 453 feet and was the longest this season by a Cubs player. It's also the longest home run that Rizzo has hit at Wrigley Field since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. His longest homer in that time frame is a 463-foot blast at Citi Field off of Zack Wheeler on June 13, 2017.

"Changeup just trying to locate down the middle," Boxberger said. "He was probably looking for it."

The loss was the second straight tough defeat for the D-backs, who had won the first two games of this series.

On Wednesday, it was a throwing error by shortstop Nick Ahmed that allowed the winning run to score in the eighth. On Thursday, Ahmed turned the tables with a grand slam in the fifth inning that put the D-backs seemingly in command of the game with a five-run lead.

Video: ARI@CHC: Ahmed nabs Almora Jr. from deep in the hole

"I think it was a changeup just hanging right in the middle of the plate, and I was just trying to be aggressive with something up in the zone," Ahmed said. "Obviously, you want to play well and help your team, but we didn't do enough as a team today, and it hurts."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Need to shut them down: After Ahmed's slam in the top of the fifth, D-backs starter Zack Godley gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame instead of shutting down the opposition.

Video: ARI@CHC: Almora Jr. brings home Bote on an error

"We understand we have to close teams out when you're supposed [to], no matter where you are," Lovullo said. "I think our team is good enough to do that when we're supposed to, but we're going to learn some lessons from this and move on. We've just got to do a better job in shutdown moments."

SOUND SMART
D-backs catcher Alex Avila hit a two-run homer off a Tyler Chatwood curveball in the fourth inning. He had been 0-for-30 when hitting breaking balls this year, and 0-for-44 against offspeed pitches.

Video: ARI@CHC: Avila belts an opposite-field 2-run homer

"Yeah, that's what stinks about it," Chatwood said. "I think Alex Avila was 0-for-44 on breaking balls before that curveball he hit -- the one that had to be a homer."

HE SAID IT
"We just wanted to slow him down. Look, we've got a very good team. Get us back in the dugout, and we'll take our chances. A tie game is OK. We haven't lost, and we still have a heartbeat. The idea was just continue to make some pitches and do your job. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. You make mistakes to a good hitter in this environment, you're going to get beat." -- Lovullo, on what pitching coach Mike Butcher said during his mound visit after Bote's homer

UP NEXT
The D-backs open a three-game set with the Padres in San Diego on Friday at 7:10 p.m. MST with ace Zack Greinke (11-5, 3.05 ERA) on the mound. Greinke comes into the game on quite a roll, having gone 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA over his past seven starts. Throughout his career, Greinke has had success at Petco Park, compiling a 1.82 ERA in 11 starts there. He will be opposed by right-hander Luis Perdomo (1-5, 6.99 ERA).

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Nick Ahmed, Alex Avila, Brad Boxberger, Zack Godley