ATLANTA — The D-backs came into Tuesday night’s series opener with the Braves riding a four-game losing streak and having dropped eight of their last 10. Their offense was in a funk, and they had fallen from first place to third in the NL West. Once surefire aggressive buyers at the Trade Deadline, there was some talk in the industry that they might consider being less so now.
With all that, the players continued to believe that their first half of the season wasn’t some fluke and that their slump was temporary, but as the losses piled up, it became more and more difficult.
“You can only get kicked so many times before you flinch,” first baseman Christian Walker said after the D-backs’ wild 16-13 victory.
So during their regular hitters’ meeting before Tuesday’s game, a few players spoke up.
“We had some good talks today as an offense,” Walker said. “Just like a mindset switch of, we played a whole half of really, really good baseball, like that’s who we are. So just recommitting to buying into ourselves I think is a good headspace to be in.”
You certainly can’t argue with the results as the slumbering offense collected 16 hits and overcame three deficits to outslug the Braves in front of a sellout crowd of 41,100 at Truist Park.
“This was just a boat race,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “This was everybody full throttle, just get it out there and hang on and just fly by the seat of your pants.”
As he does before every game, Lovullo sat down with his coaches and mapped out a plan for how they would like to see the game go. What pitches they would use in different situations, what matchups they were looking to exploit.
But after watching the D-backs score two in the top of the first, the Braves score five in the bottom half and then the D-backs five in the top of the second, Lovullo knew he was in for a wacky game.
Once the D-backs built an 8-5 lead in the top of the fourth, Lovullo finally felt like Arizona had the game where they wanted it. All the D-backs needed to do was hold the Braves scoreless in the bottom of the fourth and they would be able to catch their breath and he could maneuver his bullpen the way he wanted.
The Braves scored four in the fourth and another two in the fifth.
“Every plan that I had mapped out and all the strategies that we had talked about just weren’t working,” Lovullo said. “At some point, you throw out the playbook and you just want to be the last team standing, and we were, and that’s why I’m so proud of these guys.”
Walker, who had been one of the team’s biggest offensive weapons for the first three months of the season when they climbed into first place, entered Tuesday’s game in a 4-for-44 slump.
It was a tough stretch for someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve and even in the best of times is overly hard on himself.
On Tuesday, Walker finally got to smile as he had three hits, including a pair of home runs, while racking up five RBIs.
“He’s been grinding, and he’s just such a great teammate,” Lovullo said. “And I think he wants to do so well for all the right reasons. And sometimes [he’s] just gotta take a deep breath and remember that you’re a good baseball player and you can do special things at special times. Christian Walker stepped up today.”
It was a historic night for the D-backs, who in their previous 25-plus seasons had never played a game where both teams scored 13 or more runs.
The last time a team secured a win while allowing 13 runs was the White Sox, who beat the Cubs, 17-13, on Aug. 27, 2021.
More important than all of that, though, was the simple fact the D-backs got a win, one they hope can give them a boost going forward and wash away any of the doubts that had crept in.
“I look for push moments,” Lovullo said. “You guys have heard me say that. And this is probably a little bit of a push moment, for sure. But at the end of the day, we’re still a good baseball team. We’ve just had a little rough patch and if you want to call it a cleansing [moment], I guess you could.”