The Diamondbacks could only chalk up Saturday’s frustrating loss to the nature of baseball. It came in dramatic fashion in front of almost 20,000 fedora-wearing fans at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
Starting pitcher Zach Davies shut out the host Pirates for 7⅔ innings, his season high for longest outing. But closer Mark Melancon, who established a Pirates record and led the major leagues with 51 saves in 2015 while with Pittsburgh, couldn’t save the win for the Diamondbacks, serving up a two-run game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth.
The Diamondbacks, three outs from their 13th win at PNC Park since 2017, fell 2-1.
“Sometimes you just don’t understand why things are happening and how they happen in this game. That’s the beauty of it. But we’ve got to rally to find a way to get it done Sunday,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “There’s nothing we can do. We can reflect on what happened. What went right. What went wrong. We will. But yeah, I think we need to start with what Zach was doing out there. He was in total control, changed speeds front to back. It was a really good outing, something we needed (Saturday), just couldn’t close it out.”
Davies handcuffed the Pirates on three hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
After Ian Kennedy got a key final out in the bottom of the eighth, the Diamondbacks were set up to finish off a win and move back to .500. It wasn’t to be, as Jack Suwinski, who came into the game with a .208 average, launched a two-run shot on a full count into the seats in right field.
Melancon (1-6) took the loss for Arizona (26-28).
“I feel like it was the right pitch. It was a tough at-bat and he (Suwinski) was in swing mode. I could tell that it was just probably something a little too close to his sweet spot,” Lovullo said. “So you know, sometimes you got to give credit where credit is due.”
Neither team could come up with a run until the sixth, when with one out, Ketel Marte doubled and Christian Walker reached base on a throwing error. After David Peralta struck out, Pirates starting pitcher Roansy Contreras bounced a wild pitch past his catcher, and Marte hustled home.
Before that, the Diamondbacks couldn’t solve Contreras, who made just his fourth career start on Saturday. Contreras struck out eight Diamondbacks and held them to four hits in 5⅔ innings.
Two of those came from Marte, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
“The kid pitched well,” Marte said in Spanish, of Contreras. “It happens in baseball. Our closer, he threw a good pitch and his guy just put a good swing on it.”
Walker pulled off a double play by letting a pop fly drop near him in the second inning. Walker flipped to Marte for the out at first base, then Marte eventually put the tag on the Pirates’ Michael Chavis, who was caught in a rundown between first and second bases.
Lovullo said the rare double play in that fashion is a product of defensive work in spring training.
After the second inning, Davies did not allow another baserunner for the next five. He finally ran into trouble in the eighth with two outs, walking Tucupita Marcano, giving up a pinch-hit single to Daniel Vogelbach and then walking Michael Perez to load the bases.
“That’s what’s great about baseball is, you know, you can win those games and you can lose those games,” Davies said. “So just being able to get deep into the ballgame and give the team a chance. That was my goal.
“Just getting ahead of guys early, putting them kind of in defensive counts and trying to get them to put the ball in play off contact,” Davies added. “But just being able to see that I could locate what I wanted to and sequence off of that.”
The walk to Perez prompted Lovullo to relieve Davies and bring in Kennedy to get one out. Kennedy threw fastballs for strikes, the last one hitting 94 mph to strike out Ke’Bryan Hayes swinging.
Melancon came on in the ninth to close out of the game, but he gave up a leadoff single to Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates. Then came the winning home run.
Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.