September 27, 2022

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Rookie hits leader Beer key to D-backs' rout

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Varsho also logs 3 RBIs, belts 2-run homer as Arizona ends scoreless drought
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WASHINGTON — Though about as far from the desert as can be, the D-backs arrived at Nationals Park on Wednesday mired in a serious drought. They then spent the night breaking out of it in a big way.

Entering play as the Majors’ worst offense statistically, Arizona erupted in a 11-2 win over the Nationals, using a season-high output to snap a three-game skid. The D-backs entered the game scoreless in 15 innings and having managed just one run in their previous 29.

That all changed in the second inning against the Nats, when Sergio Alcántara lifted a sacrifice fly off Erick Fedde. The proverbial floodgates then opened. The D-backs scored thrice in the third and four times in the fourth off Fedde and Francisco Perez, adding three more in the fifth. Arizona leaned heavily on two run-scoring hits from Seth Beer and Daulton Varsho’s two-run homer, but it also saw every starter reach base safely and six players drive in at least one run.

The D-backs’ outpour of support was more than enough for righty Merrill Kelly, who ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 20 1/3 dating to last season before completing six innings of one-run ball for his first win of the year.

“We knew that with the grind upon us, if we kept battling and kept working, something like this was going to take place and we were going to find our way into a big night,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “As long as we’re focused and practicing the right way, I feel like this group is going to have these types of days.”

In short, it was a team-wide breakout, one the D-backs had been waiting on for weeks. Beer’s two-run double in the fourth proved particularly cathartic, marking the club’s first hit with two outs and a runner in scoring position this season. They had been 0-for-34 in such situations previously, and 10-for-75 (.133) with runners in scoring position overall.

“We know that it’s early,” hitting coach Joe Mather said on Wednesday afternoon. “If we’re going to have this kind of stretch, my preference is to do it now, with the whole season to go.”

All told, the team entered this one ranked last in the Majors in runs, batting average and slugging percentage despite ranking second in walks and second in rotation ERA. The white-hot Beer has been a bright spot in an otherwise ice-cold group to begin the year, with Ketel Marte (.200), Christian Walker (.132, two homers) and David Peralta (.214, one homer) all struggling mightily in the early going. Additionally, the D-backs have felt the late-spring losses of regulars Nick Ahmed, Jordan Luplow and Josh Rojas.

“I think everybody wants to be the person who breaks it open right now,” Mather said.

That person ended up being Beer, who leapfrogged Jeremy Pena and Seiya Suzuki to the top of MLB’s rookie hits leaderboards with a three-hit, three-RBI performance. Beer is hitting .438 with a 1.111 OPS through 12 games. And his latest big game came with an added bonus: Beer getting the chance to play in front of his father, Mike, who was in the area on business and drove 90 minutes to attend this midweek series.

“My number one goal coming into Spring Training was to put together quality at-bats,” said Beer, ranked as the club’s No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline. “Leaning on that same approach now, it’s about looking for a good pitch to hit and putting a good swing on it. I’m just trying to dumb it down as much as I can. This game can get really hard if you overthink it.”

For the D-backs’ young lineup, that’s how it’s looked more often than not this young season, leading Lovullo and Mather to both admit that they sensed pressing in the ranks even at this early juncture. After weeks of searching, Wednesday provided the group something to build on.

“[The mood] was considerably different in the fourth inning tonight than it has been for the course of this season,” Lovullo said. “We’ve been in some very grinding types of games, and we like that. But today we got out there and scored those 11 runs, and it was a good feeling. I want them to enjoy it, to feel what they did. They deserve it. But we need to be ready for tomorrow.”

Added Beer: “This is what we’re trying to do every night.”

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