PHOENIX — Somewhere around the series with the Dodgers in late April, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo felt things were beginning to turn with his team.
Off to a 6-10 start, the D-backs dropped the opener of the Dodgers series before winning the final two games. They then split four games with the Cardinals, swept three from the Marlins in Miami and took two of three from the Rockies.
“I think the Dodger series was something that was a good feeling for this ballclub,” Lovullo explained. “They’re a good team, they’ve had a lot of success inside of this division. I feel like when we played some really good baseball through the course of those three games and we ended up winning two of three from them that was something that I think we all enjoyed, and I think we felt like, ‘You know what, we’re alright, we’ve just got to keep playing hard every single day.'”
The D-backs suffered through a miserable 2021 where they went 52-110, one game shy of the franchise record for losses in a season.
While Lovullo went out of his way to not mention last year to his team once they reported for Spring Training, a slow start to the year certainly had to conjure up some bad memories.
“I feel like there’s always a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves to get off to a solid start,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “Everybody wants to start off with a bang. But, you know, baseball is one of those games that the harder you try, the harder it is. So I feel like we’re just sticking to what we know. Everybody’s playing their role. We put a lot of time and effort and reps into getting better and playing good defense and things like that.”
One of the reasons the D-backs could keep playing good baseball is that their best player, Ketel Marte, has come alive both at the plate and with his glove at second base.
Marte was responsible for the decisive run with his solo homer in the sixth, and he polished the game off with a nifty double play turn in the ninth to seal the victory.
“I enjoy watching Ketel play,” Walker added. “His confidence is unmatched. That’s something that I really try to learn from him. He’s a great player. It’s not a matter of if he’s going to figure it out. It’s a matter of when. We’ve seen that guy do it day in and day out. It’s good to see him get that swagger back a little bit and get that confidence back. I think we can all feed off of that, for sure.”
Marte signed a contract extension during Spring Training and the front office made no secret about the fact that he was the player they intend to build around.
There is some expectation that comes with a contract like that, and much like when he signed his first contract extension in 2018, Marte may have put too much pressure on himself to deliver.
“Early on I was trying to do too much,” said Marte of his slow start at the plate. “But that’s what we’ve been working on little by little. It’s only natural that when someone tries to do too much, things don’t come out the right way.”
Now, though, things are coming out right both for Marte and the D-backs.