PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks have made winning late their m.o.
If it were not so excruciating, it might even be enjoyable.
“It’s just not a fun way to play baseball,” Eric Chavez said after his single in the ninth inning Saturday night gave the D-backs a 4-3 win, their 12th walk-off victory and 30th in their last at-bat this season.
Chavez won the game with an opposite-field line drive to left-center after a rally that was straight out of Winning Baseball 101. Leadoff hitter Willie Bloomquist singled and was sacrificed to second base by Adam Eaton before Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked. Chavez then hit a first pitch fastball deep to left-center field, the ball getting all the way to the fence as Bloomquist scored easily.
“You just don’t want to play like that,” Chavez said. “We had a lead. You want to be able to tack on runs and get shutdown innings and win the ball games you are supposed to and not go to extra innings.
“We are good late. I don’t know what that means, but that was a good win.”
The D-backs (69-65) could gain no ground on the Reds in the wild-card chase and remained six games back with now 28 games to play.
“If that’s how we have to win games, win them that way,” said Bloomquist, who has three-hit games in both of his starts since returning from the disabled list Wednesday.
“We’ll all heart attacks in the meantime, but you can certainly gain a lot of momentum off wins like that. They’re big. It’s never a dull moment in those sort of games. It’s nice when we do it early, too, when we don’t have to go 18 innings.”
Walking Goldschmidt, the NL RBI leader with 104, has become the norm for opponents these days, and the players behind him have stepped up their production to make up for it.
Chavez did it Saturday. Martin Prado and Aaron Hill have had big months, mostly from the fourth and fifth spots in the batting order behind Goldschmidt, who has been walked 28 times in 26 games in August and 38 times in 38 games since the All-Star break. Chavez knew it was coming.
“You have to walk him there,” Chavez said of Goldschmidt. “They’ve been burned before. He’s hit some big hits in late innings against them.”
Chavez picked a good time for his first hit since returning from the disabled list last Monday after missing 16 days with a left knee strain. The single broke an 0-for-10 slump.
“I felt fine. Just not getting any hits. It’s really the first time I haven’t swung the bat good all year,” Chavez said. “Right before I went on (the disabled list), I felt great. I felt like I was going to get hot again. I came back and it just hasn’t been the same. I don’t feel bad. Physically, everything feels good.
“It was a nice one to get.”
Brad Ziegler pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his eighth victory, most coming when the D-backs have rallied in the late innings or extras.
“We get the feeling that if we keep it close late in games, we are going to find a way to win. It’s pretty crazy. It’s a different person every night, but we always feel like somebody is going to step up,” Ziegler said.
Prado finished August with 43 hits, 30 RBIs and a .374 batting average. He led the NL hits and RBIs in the month, and he had nine doubles and four home runs. his batting average was third among NL regulars.
Bloomquist has had little trouble getting back into his groove after being activated Wednesday, and his bat can only help the D-backs down the stretch. He was a vital piece in the D-backs’ run to the 2007 NL West title. You don’t have to draw him a picture.
“It’s no secret. We know what situation we are n,” Bloomquist said. “Every game is crucial. We’re going to need some help on the other end even if we do play great. So we have to control what we can control, and that is taking one at a time and winning each game we can. We’re not done by any stretch of the imagination. If we can just keep playing good baseball reel off a good month here, we can be right in the middle of this thing.”