D-backs' catcher was hit in face by pitch two weeks before dinger
By Steve Gilbert and Carson Mason
Chris Iannetta was just looking for a way to keep the game going as he stepped to the plate Friday night with the D-backs down to their final out in the ninth inning, trailing the Brewers by a run.
The D-backs catcher did just that, sending a 1-1 pitch from Brewers closer Corey Knebel over the wall in left-center to tie the game and send it to extras, where the D-backs prevailed, 4-2, in 10 innings at Miller Park.
"I was just trying to get a pitch to hit and extend the game any way I could," Iannetta said. "He gave me curveball low, then he threw another one for a strike. He left a fastball over the plate. I was able to get the barrel to it. Thankful it got out and tied the game."
The homer came exactly two weeks after Iannetta was hit in the face by a 93-mph fastball by Pittsburgh's Johnny Barbato.
An incident like that can be hard for a hitter to bounce back from, but after spending eight days on the concussion disabled list, Iannetta hit the first pitch he saw since the beaning for a home run. It was the only run the D-backs scored against the Padres Clayton Richard that day.
Including his 2-for-4 night Friday, Iannetta is 3-for-9 since returning to action.
"I thought he took a great approach on a pitch that was a 98-mph fastball, and he did it without any reluctance," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "It speaks volumes about who he is. It was a very clutch moment, something you dream about. Obviously he did his job, and the rest of the crew picked it up from there. It was a huge win for us today."
The 98-mph fastball from Knebel was the fastest pitch Iannetta has hit for a home run in the pitch-tracking era (2008-now), eclipsing the previous high of 96.7 mph back in 2013. In fact, coming into that at-bat, Iannetta had hit just .228 with a .331 slugging percentage on fastballs at or above 95 mph.
"It's a good swing on a tough pitch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Iannetta not only drove home a run with his bat, but he saved one with his defense. With two outs in the sixth and runners on first and second, D-backs pitcher Zack Godley uncorked a pitch that bounced in the dirt. Iannetta did a nice job of keeping it from getting too far away.
Iannetta retrieved the ball quickly and flipped it backhand to Godley covering the plate and he tagged out Eric Thames for the final out of the inning.
"It's what you practice in spring," Iannetta said. "Rarely with the timing do you get it to actually work but it was a scenario where it worked out."
Said Lovullo, "It was precision. It was very well done. It looked like a basketball play more than something you retrieve at home plate. They did a great job and they executed and it was a huge moment for us."