Welcome home: Pollock walks off Padres

PHOENIX — At first, A.J. Pollock claimed he was just trying to hit a gap. But after a few minutes of speaking to reporters, the remnants of a celebratory dirt bath on the floor around him, the Diamondbacks center fielder came clean.

"I was trying to be a little greedy," Pollock said, grinning. "I wanted that thing to go over the fence."

Whether or not he actually meant for it to go as far as it did to deep center field, Pollock’s two-run walk-off homer in the ninth inning was more than enough to lift the D-backs over the Padres 7-5 Monday night.

Pollock’s moon shot — his sixth home run of the season — came on the first pitch from Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush, who had already got two outs in the inning. As quickly as the ball got out, it didn’t take much longer for Pollock to be doused by elated teammates with dirt, bubble gum and sunflower seeds.

"It was exciting, just a really cool feeling," Pollock said of his first career walk-off homer. "You come in here every day, you put a lot of swings in the cages and you work hard. So it’s really cool when you actually get up there when the team needs you in the late innings and are able to win a game for the team."

After going 3 for 24 with seven strikeouts on a six-game road trip, Pollock broke out of his mini slump in a big way. Batting leadoff, he went 3 for 5, looking more like the player who was named National League co-player of the week seven days ago.

Pollock’s big hit only added to what’s already been a bit of a breakout season, one that could soon prompt talk of a spot on the NL all-star team. But for all D-backs manager Kirk Gibson cared, a relief pitcher could have hit the home run.

"Who cares who does it?" Gibson joked. "You just want to see somebody do it. We were standing there saying, ‘Let’s walk ’em off, let’€™s walk ’em off,’ and he crushed that ball."

Coming off a 2-4 road trip, the D-backs needed a win in their return to Chase Field — or at least as much as a team 12 games under .500 entering the day can need a win. Pollock knew with speedy outfielder Ender Inciarte on first base all he needed was a drive to a gap and the D-backs could go home winners.

D-backs 7, Padres 5

"We’ve had some tough losses lately," Pollock said. "I feel like we’ve put some good games together, keeping us in the game. Early in the year that was the most frustrating part: We let games get out of hand. That’s not us. We’re a team that’s always in it. Last year we were always in it, late parts of the game. I think we’re kind of getting back to that."

Pollock now trails only first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in home runs among D-backs hitters this season. Furthermore, he has nearly matched his home run total of eight from last season. D-backs coaches have said in the past Pollock has power potential, and it’s beginning to show.

Asked to explain his power stroke this season, Pollock credited his approach, which he admitted was particularly aggressive in the ninth inning Monday.

"I’m just taking more chances," Pollock said. "I know right there a single doesn’t really win it. I’m obviously not swinging for the fences, but I’m not trying to slap a single out there."

Monday’s win was just the second for the D-backs this season behind a Brandon McCarthy start. McCarthy has had much better lines than his five runs allowed on nine hits over 6-2/3 innings Monday, but the D-backs have squandered those efforts.

McCarthy admitted to making a few bad pitches and getting thrown off by the roof opening in the fifth inning after being closed the first four but wasn’t the slightest bit negative thanks to Pollock.

"In the end it’s just nice to be a part of a game where we got a win," McCarthy said. "It’s something that I’ve struggled with this season for whatever reason. Now at least I’ve started a game and now we’ve got a positive clubhouse. That’s a good feeling."

Perhaps taking a cue from Goldschmidt, owner of numerous walk-off home runs, Pollock made sure to put his own big moment behind him quickly.

"It’s obviously a good thing, good to get the win and come up winning a game for the team, but you move on," Pollock said. "We’ve got two more games against these guys, and no one’s going to stop and watch this game."

When umpires determined via replay review that Padres outfielder Seth Smith was out at third base trying to stretch a fourth-inning double, it was just the second unsuccessful challenge for Padres manager Bud Black this season. Black had won six of seven previous challenges, and though there wasn’t evidence conclusive enough to overturn Monday’s call, he might have been right for a seventh time.

6 — Home runs by A.J. Pollock this season through 47 games. He hit eight home runs in 137 games last year.

— Second baseman Aaron Hill texted manager Kirk Gibson before Monday’s game asking to play despite left ankle inflammation. But Gibson decided to keep Hill out of the starting lineup an extra day. Hill exited during the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader in New York after fouling a ball off his ankle. He pinch hit in the seventh inning Monday.

— Gibson said outfielder Mark Trumbo (fractured foot) is out of a walking boot and could soon start therapeutic work in a pool. If all goes well, Gibson said, Trumbo could be back by the third week of June.

— McCarthy on the difference between pitching with the roof open or closed: "The ball doesn’t do the same thing. When it’s open from the beginning you kind of set your sightlines and you know your feel and what you’re trying to do. When it changes like that, everything that you’ve been doing kind of goes out the window and you have to make an adjustment off it. It’s the first time I’ve had to do that."

Gibson set off a quiet alarm Sunday when he said Bronson Arroyo was dealing with a tender elbow. But Arroyo quelled any concerns Monday, even laughing at the idea he was dealing with anything unusual.

"I’m banged up all the time," Arroyo said. "It’s not new news. We play this game banged up almost all of the time. That’s just the way it is."

Arroyo, who has never been on the disabled list as a major leaguer, fully expects to make his next scheduled start, Friday against his former team the Reds.

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