Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
By Josh Greene
For a team that’s been remarkably resilient all season long, the D-backs know they will need to be even more so on Tuesday for Game 3 of their National League Division Series vs. Milwaukee. Continue reading
Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
First place in the National League West hung in the balance on Wednesday night, with the D-backs entering the day a slim half game behind the Giants.
But with the Pirates handing San Francisco a 9-2 loss earlier in the afternoon, the D-backs and Giants were tied atop the NL West standings, as Josh Collmenter toed the rubber vs. the Astros in his 16th start of the season and sole possession of first place on the line.
Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
For the first four innings of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Astros, it appeared as if the D-backs were destined for another disheartening loss. Houston’s red-hot offense picked up where it left off on Monday by plating seven early runs off Arizona starter Jason Marquis.
Marquis was knocked out of the game early and the D-backs faced a six-run deficit heading into the bottom of the fifth. That’s when the game took a startling turn.
Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
In last Wednesday’s thrilling comeback win over the Marlins, Willie Bloomquist led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. He later hustled from first to third on a ground ball that never left the infield. Bloomquist then scored the winning run on Justin Upton’s walk-off single. In his first season in Arizona, Bloomquist has served as a sparkplug at the plate and on the base paths for the D-backs.
D-backs Insider sat down with Bloomquist to talk Wednesday’s victory, executing the little things, and even some ASU baseball.
DI: Another huge win last night, and obviously you were a big part of that in the ninth. Were you going to third from the beginning once you saw the ball hit?
WB: Well I was running on the pitch, and it was kind of one of those instinct plays to where you know it’s going to be two long throws across the diamond. I timed him pretty well when he was releasing the ball at third. Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the smartest play in the world. If I would’ve gotten thrown out it would have been the third out at third base, but I’ve done that play a few times to where I think I had it timed pretty well to where I was going to be safe. I wouldn’t have taken the risk if I didn’t think I was going to be safe.
DI: Gibby mentioned that one of the benefits of you going on that play is forcing them to make a long throw. Is that something that you thought about?
WB: Absolutely, it’s two long throws. One positive of me playing a variety of positions is I know on the flipside of that is that that’s a long throw for the first baseman, especially when you haven’t been throwing a lot. Usually you’re just flipping ground balls over there. So to come up and catch a ball and get rid of it back across the diamond, it’s going to take an absolute perfect throw to even have a chance of getting me. You force the other team to make plays. So if they make them maybe you tip your hat, maybe you don’t, but you got to make them first so you force the other team and put pressure on them. Usually good things happen when you’re the aggressor.
DI: This team seems to do the little things well. Is that a driving force behind the recent success?
WB: Well it’s certainly been a key point coming into this season. I think a more emphasis on instead of hitting a three-run home run, doing some little things properly. For example, you take the at-bat Justin had in the seventh (on June 1) when Kelly just hit a triple with one out. Him not getting big right there and trying to tie it up, him just taking a nice swing within himself and hitting a ground ball to second base and scoring the run to make it a 4-3 game. A lot of times guys will try and get big and pop that ball up to short or hit a shallow fly that doesn’t score the run, but that’s a big run to make it 4-3 instead of 4-2. That’s a little thing that he just did right. So those sort of things are starting to come together, and when we do those things we can be a pretty decent team.
DI: So as I’m sure you know, ASU baseball is back in the postseason this month. Are you going to follow your alma mater?
WB: I’m pulling for the kids. I hope they do well. For the kids’ sake I hope they do well. Obviously I still have ties and that’s my alma mater so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling for them in some way shape or form. I wish the kids well. I hope they do really well there.
By Greg Dillard
In 2011, the D-backs have proven time and time again that they can never be counted out in a ballgame. And as they’ve proven this season, it’s the execution of the little things that makes all the difference.
During the team’s surge to the top of the National League West, they have continually found ways to win with a new hero every single game.
In Wednesday night’s series finale against the Marlins, the D-backs pulled off another miraculous comeback to seal the 6-5 win and the series victory. It was the team’s third walk-off win of the season, and the D-backs now have a 16-3 record in their past 19 games.
“We just try to weather the storm, just stay calm about it, and don’t get too frustrated,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “When you get in games like that they can frustrate you.”
After the Marlins came back to tie the score at 5-5 in the top of the inning, it was time for the D-backs to rally once again.
Upton delivered the striking blow with a two-out, broken-bat single to left, but Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Roberts deserve a ton of credit for the way the game ended.
Bloomquist singled to start the inning. When Roberts was up with a 2-1 count and one out, Bloomquist took off running. Roberts made contact, chopping the ball to third. When third baseman Greg Dobbs fielded it and threw Roberts out, Bloomquist was able to advance to third, taking two bases on a ground out.
Upton’s hit then plated Bloomquist and sealed the walk-off win.
“We just kept battling,” Upton said. “Huddy gave up some runs early, but he kept us in it. He gave us a chance to battle back, and we just fought.”
Hernandez continues 8th inning excellence
After rallying to tie knot the score at 4-4 in the seventh, Gibson called on David Hernandez to pitch the eighth, as he has so many times this year. The right-hander did his job, and then some in his lone inning of work.
Hernandez fanned the first batter, Gaby Sanchez, to start the inning and then froze Gregg Dobbs on strike three. Mike Stanton then strode to the plate in need of just a double for the cycle. Instead, Hernandez struck out Stanton to fan the side and end the inning.
“I was feeling good,” Hernandez said. “It’s actually funny, Gibby came up to me yesterday during batting practice and was like ‘Hey we need to work on getting your pitch count down’. He told me he wanted to get down to about 15 an inning so it was 13 tonight so that’s a start.”
By Greg Dillard
It’s been five years since infielder Sean Burroughs last donned a Major League uniform.
His career could have been finished in 2007 when the Seattle Mariners released him in June. But five years and plenty of hard work later, he is back in the big leagues.
The D-backs recalled Burroughs from Triple-A Reno prior to Wednesday’s game against the Padres.
“It’s still really a surreal feeling,” Burroughs said. “I don’t know if I was dreaming when I got the call last night. I try to think of myself as a man’s man, kind of macho but I actually broke down, had some tears last night.”
Burroughs was once a star in the Padres’ minor league system. A first-round draft pick by San Diego in the 1998 amateur draft, he quickly ascended through the minor leagues before making his Major League debut on April 2, 2002.
Despite the hype, Burroughs’ career never completely took off with the Padres. In four seasons, he hit .282 with 11 home runs and 133 RBI. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006 where he batted .190 in 25 plate appearances. He was cut by Tampa Bay after only eight games.
That’s when his baseball career appeared over. Burroughs was unsure if he’d ever play baseball again.
“To tell you the truth, probably not,” Burroughs said. “If you would have told me 12-14 months ago that I would be playing baseball in general, anywhere, be it in independent leagues or at a high school on a Sunday, I don’t know if I would have believed you.”
This winter, Burroughs embarked on a comeback, hoping to one-day return to the Major League level, signing a minor league contract with the D-backs. Burroughs then dominated Triple-A pitching will with Reno this season, batting .386 with nine extra-base hits in 27 games.
His standout performance there earned him another shot in the Majors.
“It’s been a long journey,” Burroughs said. “I’ve been through a lot, a lot of ups a lot of downs. This organization has given me the opportunity to play and produce and have the chance to come back and play Major League Baseball.”
Bloomquist reinstated from disabled list
The D-backs roster received another boost on Wednesday when the team activated utitiliy man Willie Bloomquist from the disabled list.
Bloomquist missed four weeks due to a lingering hamstring injury. Prior to his disabled list stint, he was an integral part of the D-backs’ lineup.
In 14 games, Bloomquist batted .306 with four doubles, seven stolen bases and seven RBI.
“DL’s are no fun, obviously,” Bloomquist said. “There’s no good time to go on them, nonetheless, happy to be off and happy to be back. I look forward to getting back in there soon.”
During his first season in Arizona, Bloomquist quickly proved himself to be a constant threat on the base paths. In eight stolen base attempts, he’s been thrown out just once.
Given the importance of his speed, Bloomquist did not want to come off the disabled list too early.
“I feel good, good enough to go,” Bloomquist said. “That was the understanding amongst everybody that until I was at a point where I think I could steal some bases and do what I normally do then stay on the DL.”
By Greg Dillard
In each game Willie Bloomquist has played in this season, he has collected at least one hit.
With a single in Friday’s contest against the Giants, Bloomquist extended his season-starting hitting streak to 10 games. It is currently the fourth-longest streak in the Major Leagues and sits in a tie for the franchise’s longest season-opening hitting streak. Steve Finley hit in 10 straight to open the season in 2000, and Danny Bautista opened with a hit in 10 straight in 2002.
In addition to collecting 16 hits, Bloomquist has swiped seven bases, driven in seven and smacked three doubles while playing both shortstop and left field.
“He’s played well,” Gibson said. “He keeps grinding. He adds something to our lineup.”
Blum making progress in extended spring
D-backs infielder Geoff Blum is continuing to make advancements in his return to the active roster.
Blum, who was signed by the D-backs in the offseason, was placed on the 15-day disabled list in March. He has battled right knee inflammation dating back to Spring Training.
“It’s been going decently,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “A little bit of soreness today. He got a couple hits the first day. I think he’s got 10 at-bats in the two days.”
Blum has been playing in extended Spring Training at the D-backs spring complex Salt River Fields. He has been limited to DH, but is expected to play third base in the coming days.
In non-game situations, Blum has been able to field ground balls, hit and do some light running. Although Blum continues to make progress, there is no definite timetable for his return.
“It’s possible by the end of next week he could go somewhere and start a rehab,” Gibson said.
Once he returns to the big league club, Blum figures to play an integral role off the D-backs’ bench. In his 12 year career, Blum has posted a .251 batting average with 468 RBI as primarily a role player.
Vasquez lights out in return to Major Leagues
Since being recalled from Triple-A Reno, relief pitcher Esmerling Vasquez has looked good the D-backs.
In two appearances, Vasquez has thrown 3 1/3 shutout innings. During that time, he’s struck out two and without walking a batter, while allowing only two hits.
“He’s throwing the ball good since he’s been here,” Gibson said. “He’s throwing strikes. The breaking ball is as good or better than it was at the end of Spring. His velocity has been up to 92 to 96.”
Gibson neutral in Coyotes/ Red Wings series
Gibson is among the many fans following the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. With a win on Saturday, the Red Wings hold a 2-0 series lead as the series shifts to Glendale.
The former Detroit Tiger used to have Red Wings season tickets, but gave them up when he moved to Arizona.
Despite his former interest in the Red Wings, the skipper won’t take sides in this playoff series.
“I don’t think I can lose either way,” Gibson said. “I’m pretty neutral on it to be honest with you.”