Diamondbacks Hold Off Rosario, Braves in Thriller

Austin Adams of the Diamondbacks yells in triumph after a striking out a Braves hitter.
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Diamondbacks 3, Braves 2

PHOENIX, June 2 — Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. continued his hot streak, smacking a two-run first-inning double and making two key defensive plays to lead his team past the Atlanta Braves, 3–2, in a Friday-night pitchers’ duel. The Diamondbacks hung on for victory despite a two-homer game from Braves left fielder Eddie Rosario and despite not getting a hit beyond the fourth inning.

Braves starter Charlie Morton and Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly both lasted seven innings in a playoff-style pitchers’ duel. Morton allowed three runs on six hits, walking two and striking out nine. Kelly allowed two runs on five hits — including the two homers — walking three and striking out eight.

“This one was working off some unbelievable starting pitching,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame. “What can you say about Merrill? Seven very strong innings. One hundred pitches, was making pitches all the way up until his final one against (Braves center fielder Michael) Harris. Got in the dugout with the lead. Just another quality start.”

Diamondbacks Catch Acuña Stealing, Build Momentum into Lead

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Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the game with a first-pitch infield single to the shortstop. On the very next pitch, he bolted for second. He beat the tag but overslid the bag while the glove was still on him, so a replay review declared him out. This killed any momentum the Braves might have had, as first baseman Matt Olson grounded to the mound and third baseman Austin Riley popped to the shortstop.

The Diamondbacks made the caught-stealing hurt in the bottom half. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo led off with an infield single to his counterpart. Two batters later, Corbin Carroll hit a one-out bouncer to the right side. It deflected off Olson and toward second baseman Ozzie Albies, who had no play at either base. Two batters later, left fielder Gurriel plated both runners with a sharp double to the left-field corner. When third baseman Emmanuel Rivera struck out, the inning ended with the Diamondbacks holding a 2–0 lead.

“Early on, we made a nice statement to jump out to the early lead,” Lovullo said. “And then the little things started popping up.”

Phenomenal Defensive Play Preserves Lead

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The Braves got a run back in the top of the second on a two-out splashdown homer to the pool in right-center by left fielder Eddie Rosario.

Then came one of those “little things” Lovullo mentioned.

The Braves were well on their way to tying the game in the top of the third after a two-out walk by Olson and liner to the left-field corner by Riley. The ball ricocheted farther to Gurriel’s right than he expected, stumbling as he changed directions. While still moving toward the wall, he spun and fired to shortstop Nick Ahmed, the relay man in shallow left, as Olson neared third. Ahmed caught the throw and fired toward home, clearly much sooner than Olson expected. Olson slammed on the brakes as Rivera leapt to cut the throw off. When Rivera landed, Olson was a dead duck. Rivera took a few steps and tagged a stunned Olson for the third out.

“It’s a lot of training and a lot of reps that these guys are paying attention to and caring about to help us win those inches,” explained Lovullo. “That’s the difference in the game right there.” He later added about the play, “You don’t see that often.”

The Diamondbacks made that play even more costly in the bottom of the third. Carroll drew a two-out walk and scored from first on a double to left by Christian Walker, making the score 3–1.

Braves Claw to within a Run, Diamondbacks Hang On

Morton and Kelly traded zeroes until the top of the seventh, Morton not allowing a hit beyond a two-out double in the fourth by Ahmed. Rosario struck again, belting a one-out homer to the seats in left-center. Kelly struck out Albies for the second out before coughing up a single to center by shortstop Orlando Arcia. That brought up center fielder Michael Harris II, whose strikeout retired the side.

Morton pitched around a one-out walk by Ahmed in the bottom of the seventh. Diamondbacks reliever Austin Adams pitched a 1–2–3 top of the eighth. Braves reliever Collin McHugh matched Adams’ feat in the bottom of the eighth.

Miguel Castro took the hill in the top of the ninth to close out the game. Catcher Sean Murphy led off with an infield single to the shortstop. Pinch-runner Sam Hilliard took over at first base. Designated hitter Travis d’Arnaud belted a deep fly to left, one that Gurriel snatched with a leaping, possibly run-saving grab against the wall. Gurriel told reporters after the game through interpreter Alex Arpiza that he thought he had a play on it and was able to track it.

Rosario, not letting it keep the Braves down, poked a hit-and-run single to left through the hole vacated by Ahmed, who was covering second for the throw. With runners now on first and third, Albies hit a fly to left. Gurriel caught it and made a strong enough throw home to keep Hilliard at third.

Up came Arcia as the last hope for the Braves. His comebacker had a chance to get through, but the 6’7” Castro made a reactionary glove save to the right of his head. Castro jogged toward first, gathering himself for an easy toss to first for the game-ending out.

Energy and Finding a Way to Win

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Braves fans in attendance started doing the Tomahawk Chop in the seventh inning, but the hometown faithful drowned it out with boos and “Let’s go D-Backs!” chants. Kelly told reporters postgame, “Our fans didn’t like that (the Tomahawk Chop) too much. It was some of the better energy I’ve felt in here in a while. Games like that are why we do this.” Gurriel added in Spanish, “It’s a great feeling having that energy. That’s what it’s all about.”

The ninth inning saw multiple opportunities for the Diamondbacks to lose, but they found a way to win. Kelly told reporters that he talked to someone about that after the game but before the reporters arrived. “The last couple of years,” Kelly said, “we would have found a way to lose that game. I think the fact that we’ve been playing well obviously helps. The confidence we’ve built over the first couple of months of the season helps going into a game like that. We know we can finish games; we have the confidence to finish games.”

Kelly also gave credit to Castro, saying it was a testament to him “not to get rattled. First and third, right there. Made a couple of big pitches, get the pop out and the ground ball back to him.”

Quick Hits

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This was Rosario’s first multi-homer game of the season and twelfth (eleventh in the regular season) of his career, which is in its ninth season. The last one came in Game Four of the 2021 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the last regular-season one came while he was with the Minnesota Twins, August 11, 2020 at the Milwaukee Brewers. … Carroll scored from first on two separate doubles, both of which were hit to left field. Lovullo said his eyes normally watch the middle infielders on hits like that, looking for their positioning. But when Carroll is on first, he immediately watches Carroll run. … Ketel Marte failed to reach base, ending his on-base streak at an impressive 30 games. … The Diamondbacks have now won six straight games, doing so for the first time since August 12 through 18, 2020.

Looking Ahead

Kelly (7–3) earned the win, while Morton (5–6) took a tough loss, losing despite putting in a quality start. Castro notched his sixth save of the season.

The Diamondbacks (35–23, first in NL West) and Braves (33–24, first in NL East) face one another again Saturday evening. Spencer Strider (5–2, 2.97 ERA), the mustachioed Cy Young Award contender, will take the hill for the Braves while Ryne Nelson (2–2, 5.37 ERA) toes the rubber for the Diamondbacks in a battle of right-handers. First pitch will be at 7:10 pm Arizona Time.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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