It’s rare this season that Diamondbacks’ right-hander Trevor Cahill pitches with a lead.
After the D-backs pushed across two runs against Pirates’ starter Francisco Liriano to forge a slight advantage in the third Sunday afternoon, Cahill then took the mound with that infrequent advantage. Though his dreadful season thus far, Cahill usually found himself behind, behind big and early. Yet, in recent starts, his numbers have improved and so have his results.
Against the Pirates, Cahill raised his game to another level and a level unfamiliar to both the Arizona organization of its fans. Cahill turned in easily his best performance of the season, and one the best since arriving in the desert. In the process, the bullpen could not preserve a win for Cahill but the Diamondbacks were able to survive with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings before 26,913 in Chase Field.
As stunning was Cahill’s effort, the ending provided just as much drama.
In the last of the 10th with Tuffy Gosewisch on third and Nick Ahmed on first, Andy Marte grounded to shortstop. Jordy Mercer gloved and flipped to Jayson Nix at the bag at second but Nix’s relay throw a sliding Ahmed in the left hand. That enabled Gosewisch to score the game-winner and provide the Diamondbacks with their seventh walk-off win of the season.
“There was no dirty play here and I was trying to break up the double play,” said Ahmed. “Marte did a good job of putting the ball in play and the relay throw from Nix hit my arm.”
For his part, Gosewisch took off with the crack of the ball from third and came across with the winning run.
“I was crossing the plate and didn’t see the play,” he said. “I thought it was a routine double play and had my head turned. I didn’t know what really happened.”
In the end, the Diamondbacks came away with their 14th win of the season scoring at their last at-bat. The win extended their unbeaten streak to 5-0 in extra innings games played in Chase Field.
If the Diamondbacks managed to pull this one out, a collective thanks from the team goes to Cahill.
Displaying an effective change-up, throwing his signature sinker for strikes and exhibiting overall command, Cahill appears to enjoy a resurgence. In gaining his second no-decision in his last four starts since a return to the rotation against the Cubs July 18, Cahill has allowed no more than three earned runs in any one of these starts and. His confidence appears on the rise.
Cahill’s signature moment Sunday came in the seventh and transpired when most pundits thought his afternoon ended just before organist Bobby Freeman’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
The Pirates had a runner on second, two outs and left-handed pinch hitter Pedro Alvarez came to the plate. Manager Kirk Gibson had left-hander Oliver Perez in the bullpen and came out to the mound prepared to lift Cahill. The anticipation was Gibson would go the lefty to face Alvarez but left the hill with Cahill still pitching.
The strategy paid dividends because Cahill threw five straight change-ups and stuck out Alvarez.
“I knew (Alvarez) hurt us in the past but I didn't want to come out,” Cahill said. “Also, I realized the bullpen was hurting. I wanted to ball and wanted to go after (Alvarez). I thought I was in control and when you’re in control, you feel more confident.”
Overall, Cahill displayed what is considered his signature sinker and he used that effectively to reach a seven strike-out effort. That was one below his season-best and that recorded on April 13 against the Dodgers.
Cahill left after seven sterling innings and held a 2-1 lead. That quickly came apart in the eighth when reliever Brad Ziegler imploded for the second game in succession.
On Sunday, he allowed a lead-off single to right by Josh Harrison to start the eighth and a double from Gregory Polanco. That created second-and-third and no outs situation. Andrew McCutchen tied the game at 2-2 with a sacrifice fly and Diamondbacks subsequently pulled off a double play to end the frame.
Then, the bizarre 10th inning and Ahmed’s game-winning slide.
REACHING A MILESTONE
The next hit for second baseman Aaron Hill will be the 1,300 in his major league career.
With first baseman Paul Goldschmidt sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken left hand, Hill is now the club leader in hits.
When Goldschmidt went down, he had 122 hits and Hill has 100. Catcher Miguel Montero is third with 90 hits.
After going 0-for-4 against five Pirates‘ pitchers Sunday, Hill is now batting .250 (100-for-400) for 105 games.
TIME FOR INTER-LEAGUE PLAY
Following a day-off Monday, the Diamondbacks’ home stand continues this week with a visit from the American League Central Kansas City Royals.
In for three, the set opens Tuesday night when lefty Wade Miley (7-7, 4.14 ERA) takes to the hill against Royals’ left-hander Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.42).
For Wednesday night, righty Josh Collmenter (8-5, 4.07) opposes right-hander Yordano Ventura (8-8, 3.50) and on Thursday night, lefty Vidal Nuno (0-2, 3.07) squares off against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (7-9, 4.50).
The Colorado Rockies then move in for three this weekend and conclusion of the current home stand.