With the small amount of real estate separating the top three teams in the NL West standings, the Diamondbacks will take any break they can get.
On Tuesday, they got a massive one as a hit-by-pitch, consecutive bunts and a throwing error led to a bizarre finish with the Diamondbacks picking up a 5-4, walk-off win in their series opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Chase Field.
“It was a nice one to win,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “We knew the Angels were playing good baseball and are a fundamentally sound team, and to win that game that way, certainly we’ll take that at any time.”
BOX SCORE: Diamondbacks 5, Angels 4
With the score tied, 4-4, as play moved to the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Jon Jay emerged from the Diamondbacks’ dugout to bat in the pitcher’s spot to lead off the inning against Angels right-hander Cam Bedrosian.
The Diamondbacks walked off a win at Chase Field on Tuesday in the first game of this homestand.
Katherine Fitzgerald, The Republic | azcentral.com
For the 14th time in 57 games with Arizona, Jay was hit by a pitch and jogged to first base. The next batter, catcher John Ryan Murphy, laid down a perfect bunt down the first-base line to put runners at first and second with nobody out.
And before anyone in the press box had time to research the fact that Murphy had just registered his first hit since July 6, outfielder A.J. Pollock was standing at the plate and squaring to bunt himself.
Pollock bunted the first pitch right back to Bedrosian, who fired to third base in an attempt to cut down Jay at third base. However, the ball was at least 5 feet up the line from Angels third baseman Taylor Ward and began to roll toward the right-field corner.
“Jon Jay is a guy that finds a way to get on base,” Lovullo said. “We all know that getting hit by a pitch is something he’s done before. Then I thought J.R. laid down a perfect bunt and executed. The final piece, that whole thing, A.J. lays down a bunt and they make a mistake fundamentally. You don’t really expect that.
“Do I feel like we stole one? I feel like we stole one on that particular play, but I felt like we were bound to score a run with those two guys getting on.”
Jay scored with ease, winning the game as his teammates sprung from the dugout. But they were celebrating more than just an individual win; the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers both lost on Tuesday, giving the Diamondbacks a 1 1/2 game lead over the Rockies and a 3 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers.
“I was scoreboard-watching a little bit,” Lovullo admitted. “I saw mid-game that the Rockies had lost, but I didn’t really zone in on it. … I think anytime that you’re playing baseball at this time of year and you’re in front or near the front, every game is very meaningful.
“We know that the stakes are, but we can’t get distracted by the other things going on in August and September baseball. We’ve got to take care of business between our white lines every single night.”
Pollock laid down the bunt that would get Jon Jay home on a throwing error as the Diamondbacks won 5-4 in the ninth over the Angels on Tuesday.
Katherine Fitzgerald, The Republic | azcentral.com
Lovullo said he had some “nonverbal communication” with Pollock as he made his way to the plate from the on-deck circle. Lovullo’s interpretation was that Pollock was prepared to bunt, so he put a sign on.
“You’ve got to throw out the spray charts every once in a while and just mix it up,” Lovullo said. “I thought (the nonverbal communication) was his way of saying he’ll do whatever it takes and that bunting is certainly an option. I know that the odds go up drastically with runners at second and third and one out, especially when you’re playing for one run.”
Pollock said that, although he was prepared to bunt, the decision wasn’t a no-brainer to him because the Diamondbacks don’t bunt as often as some other teams. He said he puts down two bunts at the start of every daily batting-practice round, but that’s about as far as most players go.
“Whatever way you can win a game,” Pollock said after the game. “When you’re trying to win a tight game like that and you need one run, there’s a lot of teams that do it, and it worked.”
The Diamondbacks blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning when Lovulo did not send left-hander Patrick Corbin back to the mound following six innings of two-run ball.
Right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano started the seventh and retired the first two batters before allowing a solo home run to Angels pinch-hitter Jefry Marte. Lefty Andrew Chafin entered to face Kole Calhoun and allowed a single before being replaced by right-hander Archie Bradley.
Bradley then allowed a run-scoring triple to Angels second baseman David Fletcher but forced first baseman Albert Pujols to ground out to end the inning. Bradley pitched a scoreless eighth before handing the ball to closer Brad Boxberger, who was given the win after keeping the score tied with a clean frame in the ninth.
Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta went 3 for 3 and finished a triple shy of the cycle. He reached base all four times he went to the plate and hit his seventh home run in his past 12 games.
Richard Morin covers the Coyotes and Diamondbacks for azcentral sports. He can be reached at [email protected] and by phone at 480-316-2493. Follow him on Twitter @ramorin_azc