Ahmed keeps raking as D-backs hit 4 HRs in win

August 14th, 2019

DENVER -- is crushing the baseball, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the postseason-hopeful D-backs.

Ahmed launched his 14th home run of the season -- and his third in three games -- in the first inning before tripling in the third and singling in a run in the eighth to help the D-backs beat the Rockies, 9-3, at Coors Field on Tuesday night.

Ahmed’s August surge is helping Arizona keep pace in the National League Wild Card standings, in which it remains 2 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the second berth.

At the end of July, Ahmed was hitting .263/.321/.419 with 10 homers. With Tuesday's 3-for-4 performance, the shortstop is batting .361/.439/.707 with four home runs in 11 games this month.

“I looked at a lot of stuff after the first half of the season,” Ahmed said. “I was hitting too many ground balls. It wasn’t a matter of me trying to hit ground balls, but there were a couple of mechanical things I had to clean up, and it took me a little longer than I would’ve liked, but I feel like I’ve made good adjustments on that now.

“Ground balls are outs more times than not. I’m definitely not driving in runs with extra-base hits by hitting it on the ground.”

Ahmed’s hard-hit rate, per Statcast, was 33 percent through July 31. In August, it’s 48.3 percent. His barrel rate for the season entering August was 6.1 percent. This month, it’s at 19.3 after he had two more barrels Tuesday.

Ahmed is still hitting the ball on the ground -- in fact, he has a 51.6 percent ground-ball rate this month, compared to 48.4 percent before August started.

But as Ahmed continues to hone his mechanics to launch the baseball, he’s seeing real improvement in his hard-hit rate when he does get it in the air. Through the end of July, his hard-hit rate when putting the ball in the air was 42.5 percent. This month, it’s 67 percent (10 out of 15).

Ahmed’s 2019 campaign is a microcosm of his career in terms of steady improvement at the plate. His wRC+ has gone from 42 in 2016, to 76 in ‘17, to 84 in ‘18, to 99 so far this season.

“It’s no secret I didn’t hit really well my first couple years,” Ahmed said. “But I’ve always known I have it in me. Growing up, I was never a really good hitter. I’ve had to work on it and learn and try to get better each day. I still feel like I’m scratching the surface on my ability.”

Ahmed’s surge is coming at an opportune time and is particularly nice to see for the D-backs after they were held to six runs over three games in Los Angeles over the weekend. With sluggers like Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker and Carson Kelly in Arizona’s lineup, a hot Ahmed at the plate makes it even more dangerous if they’re all consistent. That can lead to games like Tuesday, when Arizona hit four homers as Walker, Jarrod Dyson and David Peralta also went deep.

Needless to say, the D-backs hope Ahmed’s resurgence carries over through the rest of the regular season and, if others in the lineup follow his lead, potentially into October. Manager Torey Lovullo particularly has confidence in Ahmed because of what he has seen from him day in and day out over the past few years.

“I think it’s a constant game of adjustments for Nick,” Lovullo said. “He’s done a fantastic job of not missing pitches this year, limiting the chase and just continuing to grow day by day as a hitter. He’s never satisfied. … He’s had some huge hits. He’s hitting balls on a line. 

“All the hard work is translating.”