Pavin Smith, Christian Walker homers spoil Greinke's return to Arizona

Theo Mackie
Arizona Republic
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Standing on the pitching mound and staring out towards left field, Zach Davies had to wonder if his memory was looping.

For the third time in four batters, a pitch had left his right hand and been blasted into a pair of neighboring sections beyond a helpless David Peralta. Four batters later, a fielders’ choice made it 4-0 and the Diamondbacks’ night teetered on the precipice of disaster.

This Diamondbacks’ team, though, has a knack for averting those crises.

In their last homestand, they reversed early 2-0 and 3-0 deficits. In Chicago on Saturday, they turned a late 4-0 hole into a 7-6 win. On Monday, they repeated the trick, coming from behind to win, 9-5, and move to 22-22 on the season — their 10th comeback victory of the year.

“I just don't think we give up,” Pavin Smith said. “We see 4-0 and maybe last year, you'd be like, ‘Ah, well, this is gonna be a long game.’ But just from the get go, we didn't let it get us down and just went out there and attacked.”

Manager Torey Lovullo attributed the recent comebacks to a mindset of chipping away, a refrain he repeated even when the offense struggled in April. First baseman Christian Walker credited the team’s poise.

“I think we're just confident that it's just a matter of time,” Christian Walker said. “We're gonna score some runs.”

On Monday, the Diamondbacks provided that response immediately. Daulton Varsho led off the bottom of the first by ripping a double into right field, Smith followed up with a homer and Walker delivered his 11th long ball of the year, cutting the deficit to one before the Royals had two outs.

For the third time in as many starts against the Diamondbacks since being traded away in 2019, Royals’ starter Zack Greinke struggled early and often. In those games, he’s allowed 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings.

“I think we know the things that he likes to do and the areas he likes to attack,” Lovullo said.

Certainly, that was the case in the first inning. Smith said he was sitting on a fastball on his home run, while Walker was anticipating a slider away after Greinke opened the at-bat with a similar pitch.

The Royals responded in the top of the second, when Davies failed to cover third base on Whit Merrifield’s stolen base attempt against the shift. That led to a pair of throwing errors that enabled Merrifield to score, a comedy of errors reminiscent of last year’s 52-110 team.

From there, it was all Diamondbacks — although they had a scare moment in the fourth inning, when Davies took a 112.4 mph comebacker off his right shin, forcing him out of the game. Although X-rays came back negative, Lovullo acknowledged “a little bit of concern” that he won’t be able to make his next scheduled start, which would likely see Tyler Gilbert recalled from Triple-A Reno.

In the short term, Arizona’s bullpen picked up the slack. Across the final 5 1/3 innings, J.B. Wendelken, Caleb Smith, Noe Ramirez, Joe Mantiply, Sean Poppen and Luis Frias combined to allow four hits and no runs.

“They went on lockdown and that's what they do,” Lovullo said. “They pick one another up.”

The offense did the rest. They scraped two runs across against Greinke in the third to tie it before Ketel Marte delivered the big blow in the fourth, slapping a first-pitch changeup down the left-field line to score two runs. After a slow start to the season, Marte has an OPS of 1.009 over his last 20 games.

Three innings later, the Diamondbacks used four singles to plate two insurance runs, preventing the need to use closer Mark Melancon. He and setup man Ian Kennedy were the only two relievers who did not appear Monday.

Postgame, that created a conundrum for Lovullo, who met with staff members to discuss possible moves to bring fresher arms into the bullpen on Tuesday. That, though, is a much better problem to have after a win.

Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at theo.mackie@gannett.com and on Twitter @theo_mackie.

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