PHOENIX — Entering Opening Day, there were questions about who in the lineup, other than first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, would step up and drive in runs. Third baseman Jake Lamb answered the bell on Opening Day, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to an 8-2 win over the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field.
J.D. Martinez, who came over from the Detroit Tigers in a trade right before the Trade Deadline last season, protected Goldschmidt to the tune of 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games as a Diamondback. Arizona acquired Steven Souza Jr. in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason, hoping he can make up for lost power. But Souza is on the disabled list to open the year with a right pectoral strain.
Even without Souza in the lineup and Martinez in Boston, after signing with the Red Sox as a free agent, Arizona still scored eight runs, including five runs in two innings against the Rockies’ bullpen.
Lamb started in the cleanup spot and the third baseman led the way with four runs batted in. He is in many ways, the D-Backs key bat in 2018. People may forget the D-Backs lefty drove in 105 runs in 2017.
“Player of the game right there,” D-Backs reliever Archie Bradley said to reporters after the game. “I thought he went deep, though, so hopefully he got a quick postgame lift in to get that double to leave the yard next time.”
With the bases loaded in the first inning, Lamb doubled to drive in two. He struck out swinging with the bases loaded in the fifth, but in the same situation in the sixth, Lamb drove in two more runs with a single, giving the D-Backs a 6-2 lead.The @Dbacks won their opening weekend series 2-1 over the Rockies thanks to monster individual performances by Jake Lamb and Nick Ahmed.Click To Tweet
It is easier to drive in runs when the 1-4 hitters get on base a combined 10 times, and Lamb got to do the damage. That is the formula to cross home plate 8 times without hitting a home run.
“That just shows how good our team is,” Lamb said to reporters after the game. That’s my job in that part of the lineup, but it’s on the other guys to get on base. Up and down the lineup, that’s what our team does.”
Lamb’s four RBIs on Opening Day is a new single-game franchise record, as are his nine career RBIs on Opening Day, two more than Luis Gonzalez (7).
Archie Bradley’s Role
The D-Backs bought into a sabermetric approach to the bullpen, and Bradley is at the forefront of this plan.
That decision already paid off in game one of the season. With runners on first and second after a walk by Andrew Chafin, Lovullo elected to bring in Bradley to face DJ LeMahieu. Bradley only needed three pitches to induce a double play and get his team out of trouble.
Bradley would go on to work a scoreless eighth and set the table for Fernando Salas in the ninth, but expect Bradley to come into high leverage situations, regardless of what inning the game is in.
“The one thing I knew is we were going to go to Archie (Bradley) in that part of the lineup, in that part of the game,” Lovullo told reporters after the game.
– Jarrod Dyson stole a base and posted the three fastest times in three categories; runner sprint speed (30.8 ft/second) on a groundout in the second, 3.75 seconds on a bunt single in the fifth and 11.80 seconds from home to third on his triple in the seventh, according to Statcast.
– Patrick Corbin picked up the win in his first Opening Day start, allowing two earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched. The left-hander gave up a home run to LeMahieu in the first but settled down after the D-Backs got him the lead right back in the bottom of the first with two runs.
Game 2: Career night at the plate by Nick Ahme fuels D-Backs victory
Nick Ahmed is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. If he could just stay healthy and learn to hit consistently, then look out, MLB.
Ahmed certainly can hit lefties. He hit .396 against southpaws last season and his success continued on Saturday. Ahmed established a new career high in RBIs with 5, leading the D-Backs to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies.
He capped off a 5-run first inning against left-hander Tyler Anderson with a three-run home run on a hanging breaking ball into the left-field bullpen. Ahmed added RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. If Ahmed can hit behind Jake Lamb against lefties, he should do plenty of damage this season.
“Nick is a perfect example of guys being prepared,” Lovullo told reporters on Ahmed. “We know he impacts the ball against both left-and-right-handed pitchers.”
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) March 31, 2018
Big Outs from the Back End
The D-Backs did not have a hit after Ahmed’s hit in the fifth, but the backend of the bullpen got big outs for the second straight night and made a one-run lead hold up.
Bradley gave up a run in the seventh, but it came on a jam shot single by Carlos Gonzalez. Yoshihisa Hirano stranded a runner at second base in the eighth and new closer, Brad Boxberger, after walking LeMahieu to lead off the ninth inning, got Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Gonzalez in order to end the game and pick up save number one in his D-Backs debut.
“He comes out and throws some quality pitches to the heart of their lineup,” Lovullo said on Boxberger’s D-Backs debut to reporters. In a slugfest, the back end of the bullpen was the difference.
Not a Great RayDay
Robbie Ray looked to build on a breakout 2017 campaign, but he got off to a rough start in 2018.
The left-hander surrendered six earned runs in five innings of work. He missed with his fastball up in the zone consistently. He allowed three home runs and walked three. Ray threw only 24 of his 41 fastballs for strikes. His mechanics looked out of sorts, but he should figure it out in his side sessions.
Ray’s velocity was down a few ticks, but Lovullo is not concerned, attributing the slower averages to early-season rust.
– A.J. Pollock, in the cleanup spot with a lefty on the mound, had two hits and drove in two runs. In two games, D-Backs cleanup hitters have driven in 6 runs.
– Arizona has managed to score 18 runs this season without a hit from Paul Goldschmidt.
– Lovullo said Ketel Marte‘s ejection was warranted because he slammed his bat down in the batter’s box in front of the home plate umpire.
Game 3: D-Backs get Blackmoned, drop tight series finale
Rockies center fielder and leadoff man Charlie Blackmon hit two solo home runs and the D-Backs dropped a rare low-scoring contest between the two teams in a finale of the opening series.
On a day when Arizona celebrated the 20th anniversary of the franchise’s first game, Blackmon, who finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player voting last season, hit a first-pitch breaking ball to right field off D-Backs starter Zack Greinke, evening the score at one run apiece. The pitch ended up at the bottom of the zone, but Blackmon stayed back and put a good swing on it.
Even with left-hander Andrew Chafin ready in the pen, Lovullo elected to stay with right-hander Fernando Salas, who was into his second inning of work, to face the left-handed hitting Blackmon. Blackmon burned Lovullo, hitting his second home run of the night to right field, giving the Rockies a 2-1 lead and the Colorado bullpen shut the door.
The decision haunted Lovullo, but he was thinking about the next two hitters after Blackmon.
“We were short in the bullpen,” Lovullo said. “We knew that we had two very good right-handed hitters that attack left-handed pitching and I felt like the one thing that could hurt us was a long ball. We wanted Salas to finish it off and face LeMahieu and Arenado.”
If Pat Valika had gotten on base, Lovullo said he probably would have gone to Chafin. But once Valika was retired, he thought Salas could get through one left-handed bat.
Aside from the Blackmon home run, which did not come on a bad pitch, Greinke turned in a great 2018 debut. Maybe we can now put any concerns about him to bed.
“Zack was outstanding….what more could you ask for in his first start of the year, especially after getting knicked up in spring training,” Lovullo told reporters after the game.
Greinke departed after 5.2 innings of one-run ball. He struck out nine, walked none, and threw 59 of his 83 pitches for strikes. Greinke was on a strict pitch limit, so no surprise that he departed early. Greinke sat 89-91 with his fastball, which is a good sign and both his secondary pitches had plenty of life on them.
Bats Cool Off
After scoring 17 runs in the first two games, the D-Backs managed only one run and it came on a groundball that Ahmed beat out at first to prevent a double play.
The D-Backs had their chances to strike first for the third consecutive night. David Peralta and A.J. Pollock led off the game with singles but were stranded. After that, Arizona only had three hits the rest of the night.
– Jorge De La Rosa has done a great job of relieving the starter and stranding inherited runners, picking up right where he left off last year.
– Goldschmidt still does not have a hit this season after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
The D-Backs welcome in another NL West rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for a three-game set beginning Monday night at Chase Field. Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is projected to start for the 1-2 Dodgers, facing right-hander Taijuan Walker of Arizona.