As soon as the ball left the bat, Diamondbacks’ shortstop Nick Ahmed knew his hit into the left field corner ended this one.
Leaving the plate and heading toward first, Ahmed raised his left arm in triumph, and delivered first career walk-off game winner.
On a night in which a reliever, trying to pick himself off the mat but went down for the count once again, the Diamondbacks created a healthy dose of resiliency and found a way to pull out perhaps their most dramatic win of the season.
In the end, Ahmed’s single in the left-field corner scored Tuffy Gosewisch, who doubled with one out in the 13th inning, with the winning run, and the Diamondbacks defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-4 before 34,498 in Chase Field.
The victory extended the Diamondbacks’ winning streak to five games, their longest since a five game streak from July 3 – July 7, 2013. The win was also their second walk-off of the season, and the other was a RBI single from Ender Inciarte April 10 against the Dodgers.
The win was particular fulfilling because the Diamondbacks were down by two and down their final strike in the 10th inning.
That’s when Cubs’ closer Hector Rondon, who saved nine of 11 save opportunities before Friday, gave up a double to A. J. Pollock and grooved a fast ball to Paul Goldschmidt, who deposited the 2-2 delivery into the left field bleachers to the deadlocked the game.
Then, Ahmed, who was hitting .429 in his last previous six games before Friday, delivered the game winner three innings later.
“This doesn’t happen if Tuffy doesn’t get on,” Ahmed said. “I just wanted to make contact with something in the zone.”
After a difficult start, in which he was hitting around .130 just a few weeks ago, Ahmed said he made a few critical adjustments and the results have been gratifying
“I’m seeing the ball better and staying within myself,” he said “I’ve been working with the coaches and trust the process. When that happens, good things usually follow.”
In the end, it was Goldschmidt who saved the day with that dramatic home run in the 10th inning.
“They had their closer in there and I was fortunate to get the job done,” he said. “I’ve been in that position before and like, four, five times, you fail in that situation. Many times, this doesn’t happen.”
The reference was to the home run, but the offense actually belonged to Ahmed for the game winner, Goldschmidt for the tying home and A. J. Pollock, who continued his hot bat.
If Goldschmidt developed the game-tying dramatics, Pollock’s double in the left field corner with two out in the 10th to set the stage. With a 4-for-6 night, Pollock raised his average from .301 at game time to .316.
With an opportunity to hit for the cycle with a walk-off home run in the 10th, the thought, Pollock said, crossed his mind.
“I knew I was a homer shy, and I was thinking about,” Pollock smiled. “The double was good, and (Goldschmidt) did what he does. The way it ended, with Nick’s hit, that was pretty cool.”
The offensive heroics acted to bail out an unfortunate Addison Reed.
After losing his job as the Arizona closer a week ago, Reed has attempted to make adjustments, and recent accolades have been positive.
Maybe that was the “kiss of death,” because the essence of Friday night’s game with the Cubs was just as disturbing as Reed’s recent escapades.
Stripped of his role as reliever last weekend in Philadelphia, the 26-year-old resolved to right his ship. As a result, manager Chip Hale referenced Reed in various innings and told reporters before Friday’s game that the organization saw improvements.
In the past, Reed had a penchant for giving up home runs late in games, and put the Diamondbacks in a number of precarious situations.
Though he kept the ball in the park in the 10th inning Friday, he did not keep the ball over the plate in a critical situation. By walking Dexter Fowler in the 10th and watching the fleet centerfielder steal second, Reed put the winning run on base.
From there Kris Bryant singled in Fowler and Starlin Castro singled in Bryant for a two-run advantage. Now, Reed’s ERA is an elevated 6.28 for his 15 appearances after Friday’s game.
Then, Pollock doubled with those two outs in the Arizona half of the 10th, and Goldschmidt extended the game.
“A walk-off is always great for a team,” said Hale. “On the bench, the guys stay positive. We keep saying that something good will happen, and stay positive.”
Lost in the win was their approach to Jon Lester, the Chicago starter.
With a no-decision Friday night, Lester’s four-game winning streak was stopped and left with the score 2-2 after seven innings.
If Ahmed knocked in the game-winner, he also took Lester deep into the left-field bleachers for his first homer of the season to tie the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning. The round-tripper was Ahmed’s first blast since he homered against the Pirates on July 31 of last season.