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Rangers beat Diamondbacks in first meeting since World Series

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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Diamondbacks had a clear, consistent identity for seven months last summer. They were fast, aggressive and perhaps most importantly, they were tenacious. Twenty times they overcame a multiple deficit and turned it into a victory. The nickname ‘Answerbacks’, which they took to the World Series, was not born by chance.

This year the phone rings and no one is home. After Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers, the Diamondbacks are 1-25 when trailing by multiple points. The only comeback came exactly six weeks ago in a win over the Cubs.

“I can’t explain why it’s happening,” Torey Lovullo said.

These kinds of frustrated, searching post-match answers have become familiar this season, for both Lovullo and his players. In the same clubhouse where the Diamondbacks celebrated winning Game 2 of the World Series just eight months ago, Joc Pederson was the last player to become vacant.

“I wish I had the answer to that,” Pederson said. “I would try to fix that and try to score more points throughout the game. But baseball is hard.”

As elusive as the answer is, the problem is becoming increasingly clear. Before Tuesday’s game, Lovullo was asked about the identity of the 2024 Diamondbacks. He acknowledged that it’s “probably not as defined as last year,” but said it would ideally revolve around three principles: defense, pitching and “grinding” quality at-bats.

Finding the Diamondbacks Baseball Brand

The first two have been added in recent weeks. Despite some early defensive issues, the Diamondbacks lead baseball in outs above average. Their bullpen has improved since the return of closer Paul Sewald. Their top starters have pitched effectively, albeit not dominantly. All of this provides a tangible reason to be optimistic that the Diamondbacks can eventually get their season on track.

And yet none of that has translated into consistent wins, as there hasn’t been a worse offense in baseball since late April. The Diamondbacks are particularly dire in the late innings. Starting in the seventh inning, they are hitting just .175 this season.

That all became apparent on Tuesday. There were a handful of nice defensive moments, most notably Eugenio Suarez’s attacking, bare-handed play in the ninth. Brandon Hughes worked a scoreless inning in relief. Brandon Pfaadt was strong in his seven innings, only being bitten by a sweeper he pulled across the plate to Corey Seager.

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Even that pitch, Pfaadt said afterward, was low enough in the strike zone that it was “kind of where we wanted it to be, anyway.” It didn’t matter. Seager pulled the ball to right field for a three-run home run and the Diamondbacks had no answer.

There were a few moments where the match could have gone in a different direction.

Missed opportunities for the Diamondbacks

The first of those moments came in the second inning. After the Diamondbacks’ only two runs of the game, Gabriel Moreno hit a one-out helicopter to shortstop with Jake McCarthy on third. McCarthy was supposed to run on contact and it almost worked. On the first pitch of the at bat, McCarthy scored via helicopter to third base, but that was ruled an error. On the second pitch, Moreno hit the ball to Seager, who has the best arm of any Rangers infielder. McCarthy didn’t stand a chance.

In the sixth, the Diamondbacks loaded the bases for Suarez, who flied out to right. The ball was so deep that Adolis Garcia had to back up what looked like an easy sacrifice fly. Only this time, Garcia released a frozen rope at home plate, nailing Pederson, whose foot shot up and missed the plate.

“I thought it was the right read,” Pederson said. “I mean, it was the right reading. I hit the ball, I just didn’t make the best slide.”

In the ninth, the Diamondbacks had one last chance. Until their final strike, Suarez walked twice and Moreno hit an infield single. But provided with that lifeline, Kevin Newman chased the third strike into his hands.

Even with the chance to write a different script, the Diamondbacks could only put a meek end to another disappointing loss. In the last three innings, they hit one ball out of the infield.

“All you can do is compete, prepare and go out there and try to execute,” Pederson said. “And sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Lately that has not been the case.

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