Hot Ahmed wins it for D-backs with single in 13th

PHOENIX — Paul Goldschmidt, we have come to expect.

Nick Ahmed? That is something new.

When Ahmed’s strong spring training at the plate did not immediately translate into the regular season, he spent a lot of time with hitting coaches Turner Ward and Mark Grace on tweaking his approach and shortening his swing. It is taking.

The rookie capped his first career three-hit game with his first walk-off hit, a single into the left field corner to score Tuffy Gosewisch from second base for a 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs, after Goldschmidt’s two-run homer with two outs in the 10th tied it.

Ahmed’s first homer of the season, in the fifth inning off Jon Lester, tied the game at two, and he also singled in the 11th before being picked off while trying to steal second. His homer off Lester was special inasmuch as he is a Massachusetts native and grew up a Boston fan, watching Lester help bring two World Series to the Red Sox.

"I made some improvements, made some adjustments," Ahmed said of his swing.

"Starting to put the barrel on the ball. Starting to see it a lot better. My hitting coaches here have been awesome. My teammates, to stick with me and stay behind me, to keep instilling confidence in me even when I was struggling, that really helped a lot."

He called the adjustments "nothing crazy.

"Just trying to free myself up so I am seeing the ball a little bit better. Keeping my head still. I’ve been able to see the ball better lately, not chase as many pitches and be ready to attack pitches in the zone."

Ahmed, 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, has a seven-game hitting streak, raising his batting average 82 percentage points to a season-high .212.  

"He’s just trying to be shorter to the ball, to get his (front) foot down," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "When you are long-limbed, baseball is tough. … It is almost a game built for short limbs. So you can hit and be short to the ball. If you are long-limbed you really have to work to get that bat through quick and with no wasted motion."

D-backs 5, Cubs 4

Shortstop Nick Ahmed was all over the place. He made a remarkable turn and throw to complete a double play and retire the side with two runners on base in the 11th inning. Ahmed took the throw from second baseman Chris Owings on the inside of the second base bad and made a leaping throw to first base to catch Addison Russell. It was an exceptional play made to look almost routine.

11 — D-backs stolen bases in the last three games.

* A.J. Pollock has seen the Paul Goldschmidt clutch plate appearance so often that Goldschmidt’s game-tying homer in the 10th inning was not particularly mind-boggling. "The crazy part is, I’m not shocked," Pollock said. "I’ve seen him do it so many times, coming up through the system with him. That’s what he does. It’s crazy, but it’s no big deal to him. He hits homers to tie games and win games."

* Pollock had four hits and was a homer short of the cycle Friday, and he is 10 for 16 with two doubles, two homers, three RBI, seven runs and four stolen bases since his pinch-hit homer beat Miami on Tuesday. He batted in the 12th inning with a chance to homer for the cycle. "It crossed my mind," Pollock said. "If I’m ever thinking about hitting a home run, it is not going to happen. I’m going to stick with my approach."

* Right-hander Addison Reed gave up two runs while working from his new delivery, but the rally was built on two walks and a looping single by Kris Bryant. The only hard-hit ball was an RBI single by Starlin Castro. Reed has eliminated his high leg as he delivers the ball, instead bringing his left leg only an inch or two above the ground before giving a strong push off with his back leg.

* Josh Collmenter returned to form, giving up two runs in five innings. Dexter Fowler’s solo homer, however, was the seventh homer Collmenter has given up in last four starts covering 19 1/3 innings.

* Patrick Corbin is scheduled to begin playing catch Monday after being given some time to recover from his previous extended spring training appearance last Monday, when he experienced tightness in his left arm. The D-backs do not believe it is serious, and will err on the side of caution. Corbin tentatively had been scheduled for a June 4 return to the majors, but it will be "a little later than that," manager Chip Hale said. 

Remember when Kansas City had seven stolen bases against Oakland in a 9-8 victory over the A’s in the AL wild card playoff game last year? So did D-backs manager Chip Hale, who was the A’s bench coach at the time. The Royals got three of their seven off left-hander Jon Lester in that playoff game. Last night, the D-backs stole three bases on Lester, with Paul Goldschmidt getting two and A.J. Pollock one. None of the plays was particularly close.

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