D-backs show fighting spirit with another comeback win

PHOENIX – The reasoning sounded pretty plausible.

“Well, I think every team want their guys to always keep playing hard,” said Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt — responding to a question about his team’s considerable pluck — roughly six hours before giving Arizona its second walk-off home run in the first two nights of a series against the Orioles.

Right, every franchise wants their guys to leave everything on the field.

But not every team makes it happen.

Goldschmidt and his teammates certainly seem to come far closer than most. When the All-Star slugged the first pitch he saw in the last of Tuesday’s 11th inning into the right-field seats, the D-backs had their 34th comeback victory of the season.

It was Goldschmidt’s second lead-off home run in the last three innings at Chase Field, his second walk-off clout in five games and his 29th homer of the season.

This latest galvanizing triumph (again) didn’t enable the D-backs to gain any ground on the L.A. Dodgers. The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals also won to maintain their measure of wild-card separation over the D-backs. If you’re interested in following a team that refuses to buckle, however, look no further than the Arizona clubhouse.

“I just think that’s the way this team plays,” Goldschmidt, whose solo home run off major-league saves leader Jim Johnson in the ninth tied the game at 3-3 and continued the comeback du jour after Baltimore had led 3-0 through six. “I think it’s just an attitude that we’re going to play hard regardless of what the score is.”

That certainly seems like an obvious go-to game plan for any group of professional athletes being paid stacks of cash. Just play hard and hope good things to happen, right?

Under manager Kirk Gibson, inconvenient truths such as the Dodgers’ crazy blitzkrieg (they’ve won 40 of their last 50 games, folks) and an in-house injury plague that could force tire rotation on the team gurney haven’t provoked panic.

“We’re always pushin’,” Gibson said of his team’s resolve. “Overall, we’re still a good team. We gotta lot of games left.”

He mentioned the impressive victory runs by the Dodgers and other teams.

“Why can’t it be us?”

With 43 more dates on the schedule, the D-backs (61-58) will need to hijack some momentum for themselves and hope things go a bit haywire for some National League peers.

What’s really refreshing is the knowledge that — unlike too many professional teams we’ve all seen — the effort to make this happen will be there.

“We talked in spring training about playing all 27 outs,” Goldschmidt said. “But that’s nothing new — we started doing that when Gibby came here three years ago.

“I think the guys have really bought in.”

WIL POWER

With Miguel Montero still escorted by a lower back strain, 35-year-old Wil Nieves has been thriving as Arizona’s replacement catcher.
But his unexpected contribution has occurred while standing next to — not squatting behind — home plate.

Nieves, a career .246 hitter, was batting .356 (in 147 at-bats) through Monday’s win over Baltimore that included his clutch, eighth-inning home run. It was his first homer of the season and eighth in 961 big-league at-bats.

“I’d like to think that’s the environment he’s in,” manager Kirk Gibson said when asked about what seems like a late-in-his-career uprising by Nieves. “The challenge for him is to make that the rule and not the exception.”

Gibson said during this string of competent hitting, Nieves has been reminded to remain humble.

“The game can turn on you quickly,” Gibson said.

Nieves was 1 for 4 Tuesday but struck out with the potential winning run at third for the second out in the ninth.

GOLDY STANDARD

Before having two MVP moments, D-backs All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt checked into Tuesday’s game with a .194 batting average over the last 10.

But with several important teammates missing from the lineup due to injury, he insisted that not feeling any additional pressure is easy.

“You just go out and play,” Goldschmidt, who struck out three times in Monday’s victory, said. “It’s just what you do. It doesn’t matter where you hit in the order or if you’re coming off the bench. Every guy just tries to do the best they can.”