Sunday, April 14 2024

ARLINGTON, Texas — Two unavoidable questions this postseason – Why are all the great teams losing? What’s going on with the Arizona Diamondbacks? – seemed to get answered softly but definitively in Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday night.

Softly, as in the three sacrifice bunts the Diamondbacks successfully laid down to boost their offense.

Definitively, as in their 9-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in which the club hung in long enough to ambush lefty Jordan Montgomery, banging out 16 hits, slashing and scooting around the bases.

And above all, showing the casual baseball fans tuning exactly how a club can win just 84 games in the regular season, yet take the fight to ostensibly superior opponents come playoff time.

They’re now all square, 1-1 in this World Series and just one fateful Game 1 ninth-inning pitch away from going home 2-0. In doing so, they have showcased a style of baseball on the game’s endangered species list as the “three true outcomes” approach – walk, home run, strikeout – at times stultified the game and prompted Major League Baseball to make rules adjustments to stimulate action.

Nobody took better advantage than the Diamondbacks, who ranked second among 30 teams in stolen bases but 22nd in home runs, featuring a young, athletic club.

That style was on display in Games 1 and 2: Not a slugger swinging from his heels, nor a self-absorbed player refusing to give up his “A” swing even when the count is tilted against him.

Instead, it was 38-year-old Evan Longoria, Geraldo Perdomo and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – former All-Stars, all of them – successfully laying down sacrifice bunts in Game 2, even if Longoria admitted he was bunting for a base hit.

It was Alek Thomas, who batted just .230 with a .273 on-base percentage this year, getting inserted into the Game 2 lineup against a lefty almost exclusively for defensive purposes, manager Torey Lovullo said – but starting the game’s most crucial rally and producing his second two-hit game in as many nights.

Diamondbacks outfielder Alek Thomas celebrates after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Rangers in Game 2.Diamondbacks outfielder Alek Thomas celebrates after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Rangers in Game 2.

Diamondbacks outfielder Alek Thomas celebrates after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Rangers in Game 2.

And no, this doesn’t mean every team should give up the longball and hope to piece together three consecutive hits every inning against pitchers hitting the upper 90s on their fastball.

Tell you what, though: That ground game works pretty well in the postseason.

“We did it in a way very reflective of the group we are,” says Longoria of the club’s hunt-and-peck Game 2 attack, until bursting the dam with seven runs in the last three innings to blow open a 2-1 game.

“It wasn’t with the long ball. It was just working good at-bats, driving the ball all over the field, consistently putting pressure on opposing pitchers.

“You can feel the positivity on our side building when we do get our guys that can run on base.”

RECAP OF GAME 2: Diamondbacks square World Series vs. Rangers behind Merrill Kelly’s gem

Arizona has held the lead after 11 of 18 innings this series, shooing Rangers ace Nathan Eovaldi in Game 1, only to see Corey Seager hit a one-out, game-tying home run in the ninth inning, Adolis García following with an 11th-inning walk-off job for a 6-5 win.

Undeterred, they put their faith in starter Merrill Kelly and their relentless offensive approach in Game 2.

They took the lead for good when No. 3 hitter Gabriel Moreno hit a one-out homer in the fourth, Tommy Pham banged out the second of his four hits and scored on Gurriel’s single.

It was still just 2-1 in the seventh, the D-backs smarting from Pham getting picked off second an inning before, when Rangers manager Bruce Bochy decided to let Montgomery face another batter – the lefty Thomas, ostensibly starting for defensive reasons.

But Thomas smoked a double to the gap in right center field, and before Bochy could counter, Longoria slapped an RBI single past third baseman Josh Jung, the elusive insurance run finally scoring.

It gave Thomas four hits in two games, and a player shipped to Class AAA after struggling this season found himself in august company as one of six players, Monte Irvin, Jimmie Foxx and Bill Terry among them, to record two hits and a run in each of his first two World Series games.

“It’s pretty cool,” says the 23-year-old second-year player. “Just getting one hit in a World Series, being able to say you played.

“Not only played, but made an impact.”

The rally wasn’t done. Thomas recounts a moment in a recent meeting where Perdomo stood up and told teammates, “I’m willing to bunt in the World Series, to win the World Series.”

And so Perdomo sacrificed himself, for the second time in as many nights. It was the eighth Arizona sacrifice bunt this postseason – more than the six combined from every other playoff team, and matching or exceeding the season total for seven teams.

Corbin Carroll’s RBI single followed.

It was 4-1. It was Diamondbacks baseball, manifesting itself on the biggest stage after they already took down the 92-win Brewers, the 100-win Dodgers, the 90-win Phillies.

“That game showed to the world what we’ve done all year – plug away, play our game and after a tough loss last night, to do that was pretty incredible,” says Longoria.

“I’m here to try and win a ring, man. We’re inching closer to it. And I feel like as we get closer and these games are the most important games we’ve ever played in our lives, everybody is embracing their role.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Diamondbacks’ relentless style squares World Series vs. Rangers

Source: Yahoo Sports

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