Corbin Carroll's late HR powers Diamondbacks past Reds (2023)

The Diamondbacks won on Thursday night, a point manager Torey Lovullo made multiple times during his postgame session, a point that, in theory, is supposed to allow him to focus on the positives from their 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Positives such as Corbin Carroll’s go-ahead two-run homer or right-hander Merrill Kelly’s performance in what had a chance to be the best start of his career.

But Lovullo admitted to having trouble moving on from what could have been — what very nearly was — the most disastrous sequence of events of the Diamondbacks’ season, namely an inning’s worth of meltdowns of both the baserunning and bullpen variety.

Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks - MLB Box Score - Aug 24, 2023 | USA TODAY

“Did we even win this game?” Lovullo said. “I’ve been blacked out since it happened. I don’t even know what happened. I was so mad.”

He was half-joking. Probably. But before Carroll rode to the rescue in the eighth, connecting for his first home run in more than a month, Lovullo had reason to be as angry as he has been at any point this season after what took place in the bottom of the seventh and into the top of the eighth.

In a scoreless game in the seventh, the Diamondbacks had the bases loaded and nobody out when pinch-hitter Jace Peterson lined a ball to deep right field. Off the bat, it looked like an easy double to everyone in the ballpark. Everyone, that is, except Gabriel Moreno.

Fearful the ball was going to be caught, Moreno, who began the play at second, initially began to retreat to second to tag. His bad read set in motion an ugly chain of events.

Because Moreno got such a late break, third-base coach Tony Perezchica threw up a stop sign. Moreno stopped at third. Ketel Marte, who started at first, retreated to second, and Peterson, who was already at second, turned to head back to first.

“I know it was a bad read,” Moreno said. “With nobody out, I’ve got to be a little bit farther off (second base). It’s my fault.”

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As the Reds were slow to get the ball back to the infield, Moreno then made another mistake, breaking toward home, where he was easily thrown out on what is scored a 9-4-3-2 putout.

“I thought I saw the second baseman — I thought he wasn’t paying attention to what was happening on the infield,” Moreno said. “He threw it slow to the first baseman — that’s what I saw — I thought I could take advantage. But he got me at the plate. I know it’s bad baserunning by me.”

Instead of a two-run double, instead of having runners on second and third with nobody out, the Diamondbacks had to settle for a one-run single and were left with runners on first and second and one out. Two batters later, the inning was over without another run scoring.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, they did. Before the start of the eighth, Kelly wound up walking off the field with a trainer at his side. For the second time in the past four starts, he was dealing with a right hamstring cramp so severe he felt he could not continue.

Given how brilliant he had been to that point, it was a costly blow for the Diamondbacks. Kelly had needed only 86 pitches to mow through the Reds lineup over seven innings, giving up just one hit while striking out 12. He had faced just one batter over the minimum.

“It felt like a remote control,” Lovullo said of Kelly. “He could just dial it in at any time and throw it wherever he wanted to.”

The bullpen was not nearly so precise. Reliever Kyle Nelson served up a game-tying home run to the first batter he faced, Nick Senzel, and reliever Miguel Castro allowed the runner he inherited from Nelson to score on Tyler Stephenson’s RBI single later in the inning.

Just like that, the Diamondbacks lost an opportunity for a big inning, they lost their starter, then they lost the lead. They appeared certain of losing the game, as well.

Instead, they got a big hit from their best player.

Carroll’s offensive production has fallen off considerably over the past two months, but Lovullo has been saying for more than a week that he could sense a breakout coming, particularly after seeing Carroll take a good swing on a down-and-in pitch in a game at Coors Field last week.

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“Since that time,” Lovullo said, “I think the at-bats have just gotten better and better. I know it’s easy to say today was the day since it was his first home run (in a month), but I feel like this storm has been coming for a little while. He’s been having quality contact and quality at-bats.”

Carroll laced a 2-2 breaking ball from Reds lefty Alex Young on a line to deep right field. It was his first homer in more than a month, his last coming on July 23 in Cincinnati against these same Reds.

“To be able to come back and answer, it’s really encouraging to see from our guys,” Kelly said. “I think during that time that we were struggling a little bit, I think there would have been some heads hung in that dugout after we gave up the lead. But we’ve been kind of resilient all year and it’s good to see we’re getting back to that.”

After Paul Sewald slammed the door in the ninth, converting his seventh save in eight chances with his new team, the Diamondbacks could finally exhale, having secured a massive win against a Reds team with whom they are competing in the wild-card race. With the win, the Diamondbacks moved a half-game up on the Reds and San Francisco Giants for the third and final wild card.

“Any win is a good win and it’s against a quality team and we’re fighting for the same turf right now in the standings,” Lovullo said. “It’s just nice to get Game 1 of four. We’ve got to come out and be hungry again tomorrow and do our best to win Game 2.”

—Nick Piecoro

Diamondbacks mix up rotation to prepare for final month

The Diamondbacks made an unusual alteration to their rotation this week, moving Merrill Kelly ahead of Brandon Pfaadt and having him pitch Thursday’s series opener against the Reds. The move, manager Torey Lovullo explained, is part of a plan the Diamondbacks have scripted for their rotation from now until the end of the regular season.

“We want to maximize Zac and Merrill's ability to hit the right teams and pitch as often as possible in the most critical moments,” Lovullo said.

Lovullo did not say exactly who those teams are, but seven of the Diamondbacks’ 11 remaining series are against playoff contenders. That includes one series against each the Reds and Giants as well as two against the Cubs. All of those teams are vying with the Diamondbacks for National League Wild Card spots.

With Wednesday’s off-day, the team also had the option to move Gallen up a day in the rotation and have him pitch Sunday against the Reds. He will not do that because of how it would have mapped out for the rest of the season.

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The Diamondbacks, though, will move both Gallen and Kelly up in the rotation at points throughout the next month-plus. Lovullo only expects each to pitch on six days’ rest one more time. Beyond that, each will be on the typical five days’ rest, regardless of off-days.

“They're gonna be pretty much full throttling,” Lovullo said. “But there are some extra days in there.”

As for the rest of his rotation, Lovullo expects to remain creative in his usage of openers, despite the impending return of Zach Davies, who is set to pitch Sunday. So far this season, the Diamondbacks have primarily used openers either as a part of bullpen games or on days when Slade Cecconi pitches.

—Theo Mackie

Diamondbacks working on bunting ahead of stretch run

On Thursday morning, long before they began batting practice, a group of Diamondbacks hitters circled around home plate at Chase Field, going through bunting drills.

These types of drills are common throughout the season, they have become focus recently with Diamondbacks’ hitters displaying sloppy bunting. In recent weeks, they have popped up on multiple sacrifice attempts, undoing promising innings. Even on Tuesday, Geraldo Perdomo could have had a bunt single down the first base line but he pulled it just foul.

“We've gotta be better at it,” Lovullo said. “Plain and simple, we've gotta be better bunters. We've had some opportunities early in the year. We were very successful at it. We felt like we came out of spring training hot and we trained ourselves right. And then it slipped away from us. And maybe the technique got away from us.”

The focus on bunting is amplified because of the position in which the Diamondbacks find themselves. They enter play Thursday half a game out of a playoff spot and as one of five teams competing for two Wild Card spots. As such, their playoff hopes could come down to the narrowest of margins — like successful bunt attempts.

“This season's coming down to one game,” Lovullo said. “100%. Book it. And I want to know when I put the bunt sign on that that guy's got it.”

—Theo Mackie

(Video) Elly De La Cruz Steals 3rd & Home In SAME Play! MUST SEE! Corbin Carroll WALK-OFF Hit! 2023 MLB

Coming up

Friday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Brandon Pfaadt (0-6, 6.13) vs. Reds RHP Brett Kennedy (1-0, 3.00)

Saturday: At Chase Field, 5:10 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zach Davies (1-5, 7.38) vs. Reds RHP Hunter Greene (2-5, 4.72).

Sunday: At Chase Field, 1:10 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Slade Cecconi (0-0, 2.93) vs. Reds RHP Graham Ashcraft (7-8, 4.84).

Latest game:Diamondbacks nab win over Rangers in 11-inning walk-off thriller

What to know about the Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have had a rollercoaster of a year, going 26-33 through their first 59 games before ripping off 23-6 stretch starting June 5, a hot streak that coincided with the promotion of top prospect 3B Elly De La Cruz, who quickly became one of the more electrifying players in baseball. The Reds have hit the skids again more recently, however, losing 22 of 38 entering their Wednesday doubleheader against the Angels. They remain in the hunt for a wild-card spot and were just a half-game back of the Diamondbacks. SS Matt McLain, whom the Diamondbacks drafted but could not sign in 2018, has emerged as OF Corbin Carroll’s top competition for the rookie of the year award. He is hitting .295/.363/.510 with 14 homers and 11 steals. De La Cruz has a .254/.309/.450 line with 10 homers and 20 steals.He has 96 strikeouts in 260 at-bats. The Reds’ rotation has been an issue, ranking second-to-last in starters’ ERA (5.37) in the National League, but they did recently get RHP Hunter Greene back from the injured list. They were hoping to get LHP Nick Lodolo back, as well, but he recently suffered another stress reaction in his left tibia and may not return this year. RHP Alexis Diaz has a 2.30 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.

Early Diamondbacks-Reds reading

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