By Mark Carlisle
After what had been a quiet game, the Diamondbacks’ offense surged in the seventh inning Saturday, scoring five runs to erase a 5-1 Dodger lead and beat Los Angeles 6-5 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Yasmany Tomas capped off the inning with a two-run double to right.
“We built an inning and we capitalized on it,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We had a great approach. We stayed in the middle of the diamond and Yaz with the big blow with a two-run double to the opposite gap. Those are great moments for a hitter, and it just tells you that these guys are thinking, they’re engaged and their direction is aligned with the possibility of a more successful at-bat.”
Tomas, once a full-time starter in the Arizona outfield, spent all of last season in Triple-A, where he struggled.
The D-backs’ other run came on a solo homer from Double-A shortstop Domingo Leyba in the first.
Matt Andriese, gunning for a spot on the regular-season roster, pitched a solid start. He was near-perfect in the first two innings except for an otherwise easy fly ball that left fielder Abraham Almonte lost in the overcast sky. It was ruled a hit — the only one Andriese conceded on the day.
After great control in the first two frames, Andriese started the first batter of the third with three straight balls and ultimately walked him. On his next and final batter, Andriese struggled with control throwing in a different direction. After forcing a slow grounder back to the mound, Andriese’s throw to second pulled the shortstop off the base.
Andriese was replaced and both runners he left on base scored, giving him a stat-line of two runs allowed in two-plus innings. Because his error, only one run was earned. He also struck out a batter. He threw 31 pitches, 21 for strikes.
“I thought he threw the ball very well, very fluid motion,” Lovullo said. “He’s through the ball. He was aggressive on both sides of the plate with his fastball. I thought there was a good swing-and-miss changeup.”
Andriese, 29, performed better than in his first spring outing last week, where he allowed four hits, including a home run, in two innings against Oakland. He said in-game experience is critical to prepare for the season.
“There’s nothing really you (do to) can replicate it,” Andriese said. “You know, you’re just out there. The first outing’s kind of get the jitters out of the way, kind of see the hitter for the first time and then today it kind of felt like I was more locked in, kind of back into a rhythm like a normal game.”
Despite early home run and the monster seventh, it was an overall quiet day for the Arizona offense, which only had five hits in 28 at-bats. While Tomas and Socrates Brito both had doubles in the seventh, the five-run inning was helped along by two walks, a hit-by-pitch and an error.
Only three sure regular-season starters appeared in the lineup for the D-backs Saturday. Eduardo Escobar went 1 for 3 with a strikeout. David Peralta went 0 for 2 with a walk. He’s still looking for his first hit of the spring in nine at-bats. Steven Souza had the worst day at the plate, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, bringing his spring total to 2 for 13.
Christian Walker, who will likely make the roster at least as a pinch hitter and may split time at first with Jake Lamb, cooled off from a hot start to spring. He went 0 for 3 with a walk after starting 6 for 9 with a homer and two doubles.
Emilio Vargas, who allowed one run over two innings, earned the win, and Bo Takahashi, who pitched two scoreless innings, got the save. Both are Double-A pitchers.
While the D-backs played the Dodgers in front of a sellout crowd, their second of the spring, some D-backs were in playing in another game Saturday.
The D-backs played the Angels in a B-game at Tempe Diablo Stadium Saturday morning. Lovullo said Zack Greinke, Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano all pitched and did well, through Greinke did allow a home run.
“I think everybody that went there threw the ball extremely well. So, pleased by that,” Lovullo said.
Triple-A infielder Ildemaro Vargas took a foul ball off his right knee in the game, but Lovullo said the team wasn’t overly concerned about the injury and that Vargas is day-to-day.
Andriese, who came to the D-backs in late July last season in a trade with Tampa Bay, is on the bubble to make the Opening Day roster. He’s pitched as both a starter and reliever in his four-year career. He had a 5.26 ERA overall in 2018, but a 9.00 ERA with Arizona.
D-backs fans likely most remember Andriese for contributing to a nightmare final month of the 2018 season, in which the Snakes went 8-19 and dropped from first place in the National League West to eight and a half games out of the playoffs by the end of season.
Andriese finished 2018 with three horrible appearances. He gave up 13 runs in 4 1/3 innings for an ERA of 27.00. Batters hit .577 against him during that stretch.
Some grace should be granted as the worst of his appearances, giving up seven earned runs in a 1 1/3-inning relief appearance, came at Coors Field in Denver, the most hitter-friendly park in the majors.
Prior to that collapse, Andriese had been a fine reliever for the D-backs, with a 3.68 ERA over 14.2 innings across 11 games. Andriese has a 4.64 career ERA and 14-15 record as a starter and a 4.38 career ERA as a reliever.
Behind Greinke, Robby Ray and Zack Godley, the final two rotations spots aren’t certain. The favorites are Luke Weaver, who came over in the offseason in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis, and 30-year-old rookie Merrill Kelly, who pitched the last four seasons in Korea, are the favorites, but Andriese, Matt Koch and Nick Green are all candidates as well.
Kelly pitched at Arizona State and Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.
Green, acquired through the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees, must remain on the D-backs’ active roster or they must offer him back to the Yankees for $50,000. He can also pitch in long relief.
Koch has a better in-season argument for making the roster than Andriese. He had a 4.15 ERA last season across 14 starts and five relief appearances last season. If they don’t make the roster, Andriese and Koch will be top options for a spot starter when pitchers get hurt throughout the season.
It’s still to be seen which, and how many, of four catchers will make the roster. Newcomers Carson Kelly and Caleb Joseph and returners Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy all have a shot. Most teams roster two catchers, but Lovullo has been known to keep three.
Joseph caught Andriese’s start Saturday. Andriese said he was familiar with the former Oriole, having played against him in the AL East, and felt good rapport with Joseph in his first game throwing to him.
“We were definitely on the same page today,” Andriese said. “I threw a bullpen to him a couple weeks back, but just the relationship to have (with the catcher) is very important. You know, feeling comfortable. And kind of the catcher’s understanding of what you want to do early in the count or late in the count, I think that’s very important.”