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Ketel Marte breaks franchise record in Diamondbacks’ loss to LA

PHOENIX – There just isn’t much margin for error when you’re playing the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Diamondbacks already knew that, of course. But they got a reminder of it on Tuesday night. Despite a solid start from Robbie Ray, a scoreless performance from the bullpen and another two hits from Ketel Marte, Arizona fell by a final of 3-2 in front of 27,927 fans at Chase Field.

For Marte, the two hits mean he has delivered eight straight multi-hit efforts. That’s a new franchise record, breaking the previous mark of seven that was held by none other than Luis Gonzalez.

Enrique Hernandez took Ray deep to lead off the game, but the D-backs’ lefty settled in after that. In fact, he threw just 71 pitches through the first five frames and didn’t even allow another hit until the sixth inning. Problem is, that hit was another homer – this time off the bat of Justin Turner.

“Well that’s the first curveball I think that Turner’s hit off me,” Ray pointed out later. “So it’s just tip your cap.”

The third hit Ray allowed was a long double to the very next batter, Alex Verdugo. And then Chris Taylor followed with the fourth hit of the night – another double to drive Verdugo in. That gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, and that’s all they needed.

Arizona hung around though. Matt Andriese and T.J. McFarland combined for 2.2 shutout innings and Nick Ahmed fought his way into scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, before Carson Kelly grounded out to end the game.

“Our guys are fighting as hard as they possibly can through the 27 outs,” Lovullo said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s just tough when you come up on the short end of that type of game, you know? It was a very emotional game. The crowd was into it.”

To be fair, saying Kelly simply “grounded out” to end the game doesn’t really tell the whole story. He made LA closer Kenley Jansen throw him nine pitches, fouling off strike three four separate times. And even the out itself was a weird one, as Jansen essentially bounced the ball to home plate, but Kelly’s check swing made accidental contact.

“Carson was taking some really good swings and he just bounced the ball and it probably threw him off a little bit,” Lovullo explained. “I haven’t seen a finish like that ever.”

The loss snaps Arizona’s three-game winning streak and sets the stage for Wednesday’s contest to decide the series.

Prior to the game, Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Kyler Murray and Arizona Coyotes first rounder Victor Soderstrom threw out the first pitch. Murray has a well-documented history with baseball, having been selected by the Oakland A’s with the ninth pick of the 2018 draft. Soderstrom does not, so he literally used a hockey stick to shoot the ball to home plate.

After the game, Lovullo noted that Jake Lamb is being activated and Domingo Leyba is being sent down to make room. He also confirmed Alex Young will get the start and make his Major League debut on Thursday.

Diamondbacks to start LHP Alex Young on Thursday

The Arizona Diamondbacks are starting Triple-A Reno pitcher Alex Young on Thursday, manager Torey Lovullo announced after Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Young is expected to be called up by the D-backs, 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station‘s John Gambadoro said Tuesday.

Young is a 25-year-old left-hander who has yet to make his MLB debut since being drafted in the second round by Arizona in 2015.

Arizona could use another arm as it has struggled to get quality starting pitching from their fifth spot in the rotation. Top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier has been hurt, as has Luke Weaver. Lovullo told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Tuesday that Zack Godley will go back to the bullpen.

Young owns a 6.09 ERA in 20 appearances in Reno this year, eight of those appearances being starts. He has thrown 54.2 innings and has a 1.683 WHIP. In fairness to Young, the Aces play in a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. 

His ERA in eight starts this season is 5.79 in 32.2 innings pitched.

Young isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Illinois native attended Texas Christian University and had a 1.29 ERA in his first season of professional baseball. In nine starts with Double-A Jackson last season, Young had an ERA of 3.91. It was 5.96 in Reno last year.

Diamondbacks to reinstate Jake Lamb from IL, option Leyba

The Arizona Diamondbacks are reinstating infielder Jake Lamb from the injured list, manager Torey Lovullo announced after Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He will be taking the place of Domingo Leyba on the 25-man roster, who the team will option.

Lamb has been in Triple-A Reno participating in rehab games coming back from a strained quadriceps, having not played since April 3 and taking only 15 at-bats in 2019.

The All-Star in 2017 hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 runs, only to see his stats drop off drastically in 2018, a season in which he played 56 games while struggling with injuries.

Lamb, who can play at first and third, started three of his four games at first this season, where Christian Walker has taken over everyday duties.

Walker was on a tear once he took over for Lamb, at one point hitting .314 in early May before he submarined after hitting .208 in the month overall. Walker, though, has recovered nicely in June, posting a .297 batting average prior to Tuesday’s action. That includes four home runs and 12 RBI. On the season, Walker is batting .265 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI.

As for third, where Lamb has played for most of his D-backs career, Eduardo Escobar has been terrific, hitting .280 with 17 home runs and 59 RBI.

Escobar is able to play second base, which would shift All-Star hopeful Ketel Marte to a full-time role in center field. In the 70 games Marte has started, 39 have come in center while the other 31 were at second base. Marte, however, is coming off a groin injury. His two starts since coming back from the injury have been at second base.

In his first major league season, Leyba has had one at-bat in four straight games as a pinch hitter, with one hit.

Devin Booker’s departure closer than you think if Suns pass on Russell

Vile is the business that preys on its most passionate customers. Basketball fans in Phoenix are especially gullible, an organization that once filled us with civic pride; putting Phoenix on national television; rarely missing the playoffs under Jerry Colangelo.

But Devin Booker is not a sheep. He knows our collective history is much different than his personal history in Phoenix, where he has won 23, 24, 21 and 19 games in four fruitless seasons.

He has never been to the playoffs, once a birthright for basketball fans in the Valley.

What truly great player has ever won less out of the gate?

The Suns have tanked a lot of games in recent years. Booker has been injured for a lot of those games, and both could’ve pushed harder for the bottom line. So to Booker and the Suns, it’s not as bad as it looks. And that’s a fundamental problem around here.

Either way, it won’t be much longer before Booker has missed the playoffs long enough. Especially if the Suns pass on a chance to acquire D’Angelo Russell, thumbing their noses at an All-Star point guard and one of Booker’s closest friends.

That would be indefensible. As much as we all love the heart of Kelly Oubre Jr., he is not a game-changer like Russell. And that’s when Booker starts to see writing on the wall. Namely, an Exit sign above the front door.

Remember, Booker was a No. 13 pick. He didn’t start a game in college. He flourishes on big stages, from Boston to Mexico City. He’s only been an All-Star Game sideshow, and yet he won the 3-point shooting contest in his first try. He is yearning for the next level of league-wide recognition. And the only thing holding him back is the team he plays for.

Like Kawhi Leonard (15th pick), Steve Nash (15th pick) and Giannis Antentokounmpo (15th pick), Booker’s naked ambition is one of his greatest attributes. He has all the psychological triggers that marks some of the NBA’s greatest players: he relishes attention, loves the art of trash-talking, scores effortlessly, gets better constantly and the words that come out of his mouth would probably shock you.

That’s the way it works with the maniacally successful athletes. They’re polished, ruthless and frighteningly insatiable. They are gifted/burdened with a dark heart. That’s why we watch them, sometimes with jaws agape.

But the Suns are threatening to sell Booker short, and the dangers are immense.

Booker, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are threatening to become the next generational Super Team in the NBA. The city that lands two of those players will be NBA champion within five years.
It could be Phoenix. But that would require bold maneuvering and whimsical spending.

It could be Minnesota. But that would require Booker tapping out, staging his unhappiness, hiring Rich Paul as his agent and demanding a trade out of Phoenix.

It’s not only possible. It’s closer than you think. Especially if the Suns pass on Russell. Especially if Booker knows that Russell was yearning to play alongside him in Phoenix.

To the contrary, signing Russell, if possible, would pacify Booker forever. The Suns would’ve given him his money and his best friend in the league, making up for their appalling lack of structure and stability in Booker’s early years, just as he was attempting to make a name for himself in the NBA.

And this could be the moment we all dreaded, when the Suns do something really awful, like passing on a chance to Russell. And then Booker begins to turn that same maniacal fervor against the Suns, only his new desire is to get out.

Because they never gave him a team worthy of his talent. Or our passion.

The Suns are advised to never let that happen. No matter what it might cost in luxury taxes.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Murray throws, Soderstrom hits first pitch at Diamondbacks game

Two different approaches for two different athletes.

The Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray threw out the first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Tuesday night affair against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He was joined by Arizona Coyotes first-round pick Victor Soderstrom, who instead used his stick to deliver the ball.

Murray’s rookie teammates were all out to support Murray and attend the game.

“My first time out here, being in Arizona now — obviously now I’m a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks,” Murray told Fox Sports Arizona.

The Cardinals’ No. 1 overall pick will begin training camp a month from his first pitch on July 25, running through all the way to August 17. Sandwiched between those dates are two preseason games and the annual Red & White Practice that takes place on August 3.

As for Soderstrom, the Coyotes’ prospect development camp got underway right after the draft. The Coyotes traded up for Soderstrom, moving up from 14th to No. 11 to select the player general manager John Chayka had ranked third overall.

The 28-hour stretch that could make D-backs’ Ketel Marte an All-Star

PHOENIX – Ketel Marte is quietly having an impressive season. Fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks are well aware of it, but now we’re about to find out just how much everyone else is paying attention too.

Starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, fans are able to vote for Marte as the National League second baseman. He’s up against Ozzie Albies of the Braves and the Brewers’ Mike Moustakas for the honor. Voting concludes Thursday at 1 pm Arizona time, with the winner being named the NL starter.

This is a different voting process than the one Major League Baseball has employed in years past. Marte, Albies and Moustakas were the top three in the primary voting at the position, setting the table for this 28-hour window that will determine the starter.

Albies had the most votes in the primary, but now the slate gets wiped clean. And a strong case could be made that Marte is having the best season of the trio. His 20 home runs are nine more than Albies and just two behind Moustakas, and he leads the way in runs (53), RBI (51) and by a considerable margin in average (.312).

Speaking at a press conference before Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers, Marte stressed how making it to an All-Star Game has been a dream of his since he was with the Mariners, noting that he’d gladly accept an invite to the Home Run Derby too, if asked, and would bat right-handed.

Marte enters Tuesday riding a seven-game multi-hit streak, tied with Luis Gonzalez for the longest in franchise history. In fact, nobody in baseball has gone longer than eight straight games since Mark Grace had nine consecutive multi-hit efforts from Sept. 27, 1995-April 5, 1996.

The 25-year old can also put the fact that he has toggled between second base and center field this season on his resume. And if he manages to hit one more pitch over the fence left-handed in the next 11 games, he’ll become the first player in history with double-digit home runs from both sides of the plate before the All-Star break. So no big deal — just, you know, baseball history.

Coyotes add center depth and more with trade for Carl Soderberg

PHOENIX — When the Arizona Coyotes signed defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin to a one-year contract this offseason, it meant the team had eight NHL regulars from last season under contract for 2019-20 on their blueline.

That’s probably one too many, creating a “logjam” while the Coyotes still looked to add to their forward group. The overcrowding was alleviated on Tuesday when general manager John Chayka traded Connauton and a 2020 third-round pick for center Carl Soderberg.

“Kevin Connauton’s an unbelievable character guy,” Chayka said. “I thought he brought a lot to our room and a good person without a doubt. So it’s a tough trade to make in that sense, but in the other sense of our logjam on the back end, we’ve got a number of defensemen.

“We’ve got some young guys coming up that we feel strongly about and it just was a bit of a numbers game. So for us, he wasn’t going to be a player that was going to be able to fit in and play a role, so to make better use of his cash, we were able to include him in this deal and hopefully it’s a good fit for him in Colorado. But ultimately for us, it wasn’t going to be a fit here for next year.”

Enter Soderberg, a 33-year-old center who scored 23-26-49 last year in Colorado with a 12.2 shooting percentage. Those same numbers on the Coyotes in 2018-19 would’ve put him first on the team in goals, first in points and fourth in shooting percentage.

He’s on the final year of a deal that carries a $4.75 million AAV cap hit, per CapFriendly. By losing Connauton’s $1.375M cap hit, the Coyotes’ net cap increase is only $3.375 million. On a cost-per-point basis, that figures to be a better value than how the market has trended early this offseason with contracts to other forwards.

“It just felt like the ability at a low cost, in both asset and cash, maintains flexibility for us through the offseason here if there’s other opportunities for us that arise that make sense,” Chayka said. “I think our group, basically we need to score more, so you can add another dynamic scorer and we’re looking into that and considering those options, but another way to look at it is we’ve got a guy that stabilizes things that can eat a lot of tough minutes, and that’s going to free up some of our younger dynamic players to be more productive and be put in even better situations to be able to score more, as well.”

In other words, the Coyotes gave up relatively little in both the trade and in the cap space to get a dependable, durable center that plays well defensively and has offensive upside.

Missing only seven games in the past five seasons, Soderberg has not only dressed for so many of his team’s game but has been on the ice quite a bit, even in his age-33 season. Last year, Soderberg averaged 17:27 time on ice, the second-highest of his career.

He also had the second-highest relative Corsi-for percentage of his career, despite his defensive zone starts percentage being north of 60 percent.

“Just looking through all the alternatives and through the cost to acquire players whether it was asset-wise or cash-wise, we have a strong desire to keep our core group of players together here and feel strongly about a few of our prospects,” Chayka said. “So we’re looking to keep that together but add to our team and add to our group. So the ability to get a veteran, 200-foot player, can play center, versatile guy, can play up and down your lineup, obviously scored 20-plus goals. He’s a stabilizer for us and that made a lot of sense.”

Chayka and Soderberg both noted Tuesday the player’s familiarity with being a net-front presence. Sean Tierney’s Charting Hockey shows this shot map for Soderberg last year, with the larger symbols representing goals:

“Carl’s game is a simple game,” Chayka said. “He makes plays, he breaks up plays in the D zone, he closes quick in the D zone. Once the puck starts moving north, he’s going to the middle of the ice and goes straight to the net and he stops. So just obviously he’s a big body, in unbelievable shape, he’s strong, he’s a horse through the middle of the ice and when he’s in the offensive zone, he goes to the net.”

And Chayka suggested that because the team has several centers now — Derek Stepan, Christian Dvorak, Brad Richardson, Nick Schmaltz, Soderberg and possibly Barrett Hayton — Soderberg may not be tasked with as much defensive responsibility as in years past.

That wealth of centers also does two things for Arizona: It allows them to carry multiple centers on a single line and it provides depth in the event of injuries, which the Coyotes suffered to the extreme degree last year.

“I don’t see us having too many or a logjam or anything like that,” Chayka said. “I think it will play itself out. In the event we do have some injuries, we’ve got great contingencies in place so that our lineup continues to be strong.”

From Soderberg’s perspective, he joins a Coyotes team that chased Colorado in the standings late last year; The two teams played high-stakes games against one another down the stretch.

“I think their style of playing is pretty much like my game,” Soderberg said. “It’s hard, competitive, good defensively, structured. So they were always hard to play against and it was very hard to win games for us last year against them.”

He also reunites with two of his former teammates from the Swedish national team, defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

QUALIFYING OFFER DEADLINE

Tuesday was the deadline for NHL teams to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.

Chakya did not rule out a possible return of Nick Cousins and/or Josh Archibald at the right price, but said those players will get a chance to test the market. Lawson Crouse was qualified. Goaltender Hunter Miska (minors) was not.

Diamondbacks expected to call up LHP Alex Young from Triple-A

The Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to call up pitcher Alex Young from Triple-A Reno, 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station‘s John Gambadoro said Tuesday.

Young is a 25-year-old left-hander who has yet to make his MLB debut since being drafted in the second round by Arizona in 2015.

Arizona could use another arm as it has struggled to get quality starting pitching from their fifth spot in the rotation. Top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier has been hurt, as has Luke Weaver. Manager Torey Lovullo told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Tuesday that Zack Godley will go back to the bullpen and the team will need a starter for Thursday.

Young owns a 6.09 ERA in 20 appearances in Reno this year, eight of those appearances being starts. He has thrown 54.2 innings and has a 1.683 WHIP. In fairness to Young, the Aces play in a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. 

His ERA in eight starts this season is 5.79 in 32.2 innings pitched.

Young isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Illinois native attended Texas Christian University and had a 1.29 ERA in his first season of professional baseball. In nine starts with Double-A Jackson last season, Young had an ERA of 3.91. It was 5.96 in Reno last year.