Inciarte heeds Hale's message, beats Dodgers shift for walk-off

BY foxsports • April 11, 2015

PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks stressed situational hitting all spring. The staff devised specific drills for hitting with two strikes, hitting with a runner on third base and less than two out, etc.

The preferred approach boiled down to one thing.

"Just hit the ball through somebody," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "If you hit a nice, hard line drive, something good will happen."

Ender Inciarte did that Friday night against a five-man infield to give the D-backs' a 4-3, 10-inning walk-off victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field

Inciarte continued to own left-handed pitching this season with two more hits against lefties, including his game-winning single inside the bag at first base.

After Cliff Pennington stole third as A.J. Pollock walked with one out, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly visited the mound and brought right fielder Yasiel Puig in to play third base, stationing three players between second base and third base. Inciarte went to the other side for his first career walk-off hit.

Inciarte said the extra infielder made his job easier, actually, against lefty J.P. Howell.

"It made me realize what they were going to try to do," Inciarte said. "They are going to try to throw that sinker because they want a ground ball. I feel like they are not going to throw a curve, because it will be easier for me to hit it the other way or hit a fly ball. I was just trying to hit the ball hard."

While Inciarte won the game -- he is 4-for-7 against left-handers this season, including Madison Bumgarner and Javier Lopez -- both he and Pollock credited Pennington with setting up the inning. Pennington walked as a pinch-hitter with one out and went to second on a wild pitch before reading Howell's move to the plate well enough to steal third on a 3-1 pitch to Pollock. 

"That's probably the game-winning play. As he soon as he stole third base, it was win-win," Inciarte said. "You have the confidence that he did this for the team, now I have to do my job."

Pollock was right there.

"It totally ruined their plans, what they had going," Pollock said. "You have a guy on third base with less than two outs, it really changes the complexion of the inning. It was crucial. And I know everything did after that was altered because he was on third base.

"You're kind of feeling them out when you are out there. You are out there on the island at second. He definitely was thinking the game a little bit. He took a chance on something he saw and it worked out."

The two best first basemen in the National League were on the field as well. And while the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez set a major league record with five home runs in the first three games of a season, Paul Goldschmidt had the only home run Friday. His first homer of the season after Pollock and Inciarte singled in the third gave the D-backs a 3-0 lead.

The D-backs were extremely distrustful of Gonzalez, who had a three-homer game in San Diego on Wednesday. After he beat a shift with a two-out single to left field in the first inning, the D-backs walked him the next two times up. He was erased on a double play grounder in the fourth and was intentionally walked with two outs and Jimmy Rollins on second in the fifth, preventing further damage after Rollins' two-run double tied the game at 3.

Oliver Perez (1-0) got Gonzalez to ground into a double play started by Goldschmidt to end the 10th inning.

"Numbers don't lie," Hale said. "We have to be very careful. Pick our spots with him. Sometimes we have to go after the next guy."

The D-backs used a lot of off-speed stuff in attacking Puig and it worked. Chase Anderson struck out Puig twice, on a curve ball and a changeup, and also got Puig to fly out on a curve. Andrew Chafin got Puig to ground out on a slider in the eighth.

14 -- home runs by Goldschmidt in 58 games against the Dodgers, his most homers against any opponent.

* Anderson got the D-backs closer to a quality start, giving up three runs in five innings, before the bullpen limited the Dodgers to three singles across the final five innings. Chafin pitched three perfect innings and Addison Reed and Oliver Perez were unscored on as the bullpen dropped its ERA to 1.02. 

* Power prospect Peter O'Brien homered on the first pitch he saw at the Triple-A level Thursday, driving one over the center field fence in Reno's 8-2 victory at Albuquerque. O'Brien had 39 homers at four stops last season, his last five coming in the Arizona Fall League.

* Catcher Gerald Laird and Archie Bradley meshed well in spring training, Hale said, and will be paired when Bradley makes his major league debut Saturday. "We looked at the charts and (Laird) had caught him so much," Hale said. "He would come in and talk to us about Archie a lot, what he was trying to do with him and how he was executing and how well he was following the plan. I think a lot of it has to do with Archie trusts him. He's a veteran."

* Pennington has walked twice as a pinch-hitter and doubled in his only start this season. As he showed last season, it would be hard to find a more valuable infield reserve.

Aaron Hill got his second start at third base and likely will get a third at third against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday as manager Chip Hale continues to play matchups around the infield in the early going. "It's an opportunity to get Hilly in there at third a couple of days in a row," Hale said. Jake Lamb will get an extended string shortly. The D-backs are scheduled to face five right-handers in a row starting with Zack Grienke on Sunday before bumping into Madison Bumgarner next weekend in San Francisco.

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