Calhoun, Varsho key 3-run 10th, Diamondbacks beat Astros
The Diamondbacks played a clean and complete game of baseball on Saturday night. Their starter did not crumble, their bullpen avoided a meltdown. Their defense did not falter, their offense did not come up empty.
That such an occurrence is noteworthy says all you need to know about their season, but for a night, at least, the Diamondbacks were able to knock off one of baseball’s better teams and avoid inching closer to historic franchise futility.
Daulton Varsho and Kole Calhoun delivered big hits and the Diamondbacks bullpen did more than its share of heavy lifting in a 6-4, 10-inning win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The win was the Diamondbacks’ 48th of the season. They need four more over their final 14 games to avoid tying a franchise record for most losses in a season.
“They did a fantastic job,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “When this team puts things together like that — we get some solid starting pitching, timely hitting, the bullpen takes over, you pick up the baseball and do your job — this is how good of a game we can play.”
A night earlier, the Diamondbacks spoiled a dominant performance by Madison Bumgarner. Their offense failed to come through on multiple chances and the Astros prevailed as closer Tyler Clippard struggled in the 10th.
Things were different on Saturday. Four of five batters came through with hits in a three-run fourth inning. And the offense awoke again in the 10th, with Calhoun coming through with a go-ahead single before Varsho mashed a two-run homer to straightaway center to pad the lead to 6-3.
For Varsho, it was a continuation of what has been a tremendous second half, a performance that has the look of an impactful big leaguer in the making. After struggling while receiving sporadic playing time over the first 3 1/2 months of the season, Varsho has found his way into the lineup recently and has delivered in a big way. Since July 20, he owns a .302/.358/.612 line with 11 doubles, one triple and 10 homers in 139 at-bats.
On Friday, Clippard was handed a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th. He could not make it stand. He was handed a three-run lead this time and managed to shut the door. With two on and one out, Clippard got Yordan Alvarez (ground out) and Yuli Gurriel (fly out) to end it.
In all, the Diamondbacks bullpen allowed just one run over five innings, getting an inning apiece from Brandyn Sittinger, Taylor Widener, Joe Mantiply, J.B. Wendelken and Clippard.
The game also featured one of the stranger plays of the season. In the sixth, Gurriel tagged from third and scored on a fly ball to right, with Kyle Tucker moving from second to third. The Diamondbacks, believing Gurriel left early, asked Sittinger to appeal to third.
However, apparently fearing that Gurriel would be ruled out, Tucker broke from home just as Sittinger threw to third. Third baseman Josh VanMeter got Tucker in a rundown and tagged him out. Since a play had occurred after the sac fly, the Diamondbacks were no longer able to appeal.
“It was just a weird play,” VanMeter said. “You’ve got to get an out in that scenario, so I thought it was a smart play on their third-base coach’s (Omar Lopez) part telling him to run. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that, so it was a hard play to navigate.”
VanMeter said he was not aware of where the Diamondbacks’ stood in comparison to the 2004 club, which went 51-111 in the worst season in franchise history. He said thinking about such things probably doesn’t help the players’ cause.
“We’re playing against some pretty good teams, some teams that are vying for playoff spots,” VanMeter said. “We just have to show up to compete. If you start looking at that stuff, I think you can put yourself in a corner.”