Hale says situational hitting success tied to staying with scouting report
By Andrew Erickson
SEATTLE -- The D-backs entered Wednesday's series finale against the Mariners hitting just .245 with runners in scoring position, good for 21st in the Major Leagues.
Including Tuesday night's 8-4 win over Seattle, Arizona has scored more than five runs in a game just twice since the All-Star break, and struggles with situational hitting have been a large reason why.
Tuesday, however, was precisely what manager Chip Hale had been looking for.
With runners in scoring position, the D-backs stayed patient against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma, waiting for pitches up in the zone instead of chasing splitters in the dirt. The D-backs had their most productive offensive night in five games -- eight runs on 12 hits -- and they did it with just three extra-base hits.
Left fielder David Peralta converted with runners on base with hits in the first and third innings to give the D-backs a 2-0 lead, and the rest of the offense followed.
"I think it's contagious. When everybody's hitting, you want to be getting there and driving guys in as well. We've talked about it in the last week or so, we've kind of scuffled around areas of driving guys in with less than two outs from third base," said shortstop Nick Ahmed, who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs on Tuesday. "It's a situation where we felt we could be a little bit better, and [Tuesday] night was a good start to that."
In the eighth Tuesday, Oscar Hernandez bunted to put runners on second and third. Ahmed hit a sacrifice fly to right in to score Jake Lamb and the next hitter, Ender Inciarte, singled to left-center to plate Chris Owings. Arizona extended its lead to 8-3,and did so through not doing too much with runners on base.
"I think when we're not succeeding in that spot, we're trying to change something and instead of just trying to drive the ball in the middle of the field," Ahmed said.
On Monday night, Lamb drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th with sound situational hitting, staying on a fastball on the outside corner just long enough to get a ball in the air to center field for a sacrifice fly. After the game, Lamb said he pretended there were no runners on base and just looked for a pitch he could hit. He got one and hit it where it was pitched, and Arizona came away with a favorable result.
Hale said that situational success stemmed from staying with the scouting report, a task that becomes more difficult against pitchers like Felix Hernandez, the Mariners' Wednesday starter.
"When you face a guy like this, you have to cash in on every opportunity you get, so the situational stuff becomes important," Hale said. "You have to bunt guys over and throw a little hit-and-run in there and try to execute."
Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.