October 5, 2022

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Fueled by cafecito, D-backs give the ball a jolt

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MIAMI — Could it be the cafecito? Probably not, but it’s not out of the question.

The D-backs, many of whom have been drinking little cups of the Cuban coffee in the clubhouse pregame, were no strangers to shots Tuesday — of both the coffee variety and the home run type.

The victory marked the second consecutive game in which the D-backs hit the first home run of the season off the Marlins’ starter, this time Trevor Rogers, after David Peralta went yard Monday in the first inning against Pablo López.

This time it was Walker, who had been raking all of batting practice (it seemed like almost every swing he took was a home run, landing anywhere from left field to right-center). Walker drove the first pitch of the second inning, a 95.6 mph fastball in the middle of the zone, over the batter’s eye a projected 435 feet.

The long ball was Walker’s team-leading sixth of the season.

“The battle was going to be getting [Rogers] over the plate,” Walker said. “If I could lay off the fringe stuff and lay off the heater in, the changeup down. Just try to get something over the heart of the plate.”

Walker’s strategy worked and was one that seemed to be employed by some of his teammates. Of Arizona’s nine hits vs. Miami, five (including the team’s two home runs) came against fastballs.

So the D-backs continued to pounce on Rogers’ pitches; Florida native Smith, whose family was in attendance, hit his second home run to lead off the third inning.

Smith is one of many Arizona batters who hitting coach Joe Mather refers to as “naturally gifted” at seeing pitches. That talent was on display in that first at-bat Tuesday, when Smith took a fastball up and inside for a ball before knocking a middle-up fastball deep to right-center field, where it bounced off the second deck.

Having multiple players who are able to see pitches when they are in the batter’s box is key, according to Mather, and fairly rare. But even more important than that talent is how Arizona’s players have “trusted the process” this season.

“It’s not something they haven’t heard,” Mather said pregame. “But they have stuck with it. They haven’t come out of themselves; they stayed through a hard time early in the season where, you know — we’re still climbing out of that average-wise. But they stayed true to themselves and they’ve trusted it. And really, the credit goes to them for holding onto it and not trying to change and then [coming] back, because you eventually come back to who you are.”

Smith went 1-for-4 on Tuesday. And Walker is already more than halfway to his home run total from last year (10).

But while much of the lineup is finding success, the D-backs left eight runners on base.

“We’re just settling in to be honest,” Walker said. “There’s a lot of pressure around getting off to a good start every year. And not that like you know, the pressure got to us or anything but you know, the handful of games early didn’t go our way. … This is who we thought we were, this is who we know we are. We can be this team every day. The bullpen has been great, offense has been good. We just want to keep it going.”

Oh, and about that cafecito? Walker hasn’t tried it yet, but others have.

“Maybe a little boost,” Carson Kelly said pregame. “It’s always fun. They’ve always had it here, and I mean, it’s always fun to have a little, a little shot of cafecito for before you go out there.”

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