The Arizona Diamondbacks came out swinging in the first two innings of Thursday night’s 11-6 win over the Washington Nationals on Jackie Robinson Day.
Arizona got things started early against former D-backs pitcher Patrick Corbin in the top of the first with back-to-back jacks from catcher Carson Kelly and second baseman Eduardo Escobar.
The homer marks Escobar’s fifth home run in his last seven games, giving the D-backs a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the opening frame.
“We were really selective,” Kelly said via Zoom postgame. “We stuck to a game plan there and made him throw a lot of pitches, got into good counts and we didn’t miss when we got those pitches. So we did a good job by sticking to our game plan tonight.”
Arizona starter Merrill Kelly would allow four runs — two via a Starlin Castro home run — in the bottom half of the first to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead.
But that’s when the Diamondbacks took advantage of mistakes made by Washington.
With the bases loaded, the Nationals made an error and Corbin proceeded to walk and hit the ensuing two batters to bring in three runs.
Then D-backs outfielder Andrew Young stepped up to the plate to put an exclamation point on the seven-run second inning with a grand slam.
“I think I was just trying to stay on the heater and react to everything else,” Young said via Zoom postgame. “He wasn’t overpowering many hitters in the lineup so I thought I could adjust to it. I think he threw me three changeups in a row and the last pitch was up and elevated so I just kind of went with it. That’s what my approach was.”
That would be it for Corbin on the day, having allowed 10 runs on six hits (three HRs) over two innings of work.
“You climb on the solid starting pitcher for three early runs and then you follow that up with several more the next inning after giving up the lead. … Those innings were built by patient approaches,” manager Torey Lovullo said via Zoom postgame. “We had seven walks, a number of hit-by-pitches and just created traffic. Guys were driving the ball and we were scoring a lot of runs early.”
The game — and Merrill Kelly — would really settle down from there, however, as the next run of the contest wouldn’t come until the bottom of the sixth via a Josh Harrison solo homer.
“He executed his pitches,” Carson Kelly said of his starting pitcher. “We got the count in our favor, we got a lot of first-pitch strikes and he executed his pitches. We were working both sides of the plate and he did a tremendous job giving us a chance to win that ballgame.
The D-backs starting pitcher would finish the night having allowed six runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out five over six-plus innings pitched (96 pitches, 61 strikes).
“I thought the most special portion of the night was Andrew Young hitting a grand slam and it really broke the game open,” Lovullo said. “Merrill was fantastic. I know he got knicked up for four runs in the first — some things that were out of his control took place — but he locked it back in and pitched into the seventh inning.”
The Nationals would muster one more run across the plate on a sac-fly in the seventh, but D-backs’ Pavin Smith would cancel that out with a solo homer of his own in the top of the eighth.
Stefan Crichton would take the bump in the ninth to secure the final three outs and an 11-6 win for the Diamondbacks.
Outfielder Tim Locastro was given a free pass to first after getting plunked with yet another pitch in the top of the ninth.
The D-backs play Game 2 of the 10-game road trip on Friday, with a pitching matchup of Taylor Widener vs. another former Diamondback in Max Scherzer.
First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Arizona time. Catch all the action on ESPN 620 AM.
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