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The Strike Zone

Pitchers' duel turns into blown save extravaganza in Arizona

Though they didn't have a baserunner until the sixth inning, Arizona rallied against Aroldis Chapman to beat the Reds. [Norm Hall/Getty Images] Though they didn't have a baserunner until the sixth inning, Arizona rallied against Aroldis Chapman to beat the Reds. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Mike Leake was chasing a perfect game, but Patrick Corbin took care of that. Corbin was chasing his 10th win, but Jay Bruce took care of that. Heath Bell was fitted for the goat horns, but Aroldis Chapman took care of that. In a pitchers' duel that got wild and woolly in the ninth inning as both closers failed, the Diamondbacks beat the Reds, 4-3, on Jason Kubel's walkoff two-run single.

Saturday's battle between two of the NL's best teams was a tight one all the way, befitting a pair of pitchers who came in ranked among the league's top 10 in ERA, with Corbin sixth at 2.28 and Leake 10th at 2.64; additionally, Corbin was trying to join the Tigers' Max Scherzer by becoming just the second pitcher since 1997 to start a season 10-0, and the first National Leaguer to do so since the Padres' Andy Hawkins in 1985.

The Reds took a 1-0 lead on the Diamondbacks in the second inning when Bruce led off the second inning by pounding a 93 MPH 0-2 fastball from Corbin to deep right-center field, his fourth homer in as many games and his seventh homer in his last nine. Here's the GIF:

bruce

ESPN Home Run Tracker estimated the monster shot's distance at 472 feet, which ties it for the third-longest of the year, three feet short of Mark Trumbo's 475-footer on Apr. 29.

For a while, it looked like that might be all the runs the Reds would need, as Leake cruised through the first four innings on just 37 pitches. He was still perfect through five after winning a six-pitch battle against Kubel for his only strikeout of the evening. He was one out away from completing his sixth perfect inning when Corbin sliced a double down the left-field line. That turned the lineup over, and two pitches later, Gerardo Parra hit a cutter that didn't cut 407 feet into right-center field to give Arizona a 2-1 lead.

Both teams mounted scoring threats in the later innings. The Reds put two on with one out in the seventh, but Zack Cozart grounded into a double play. The Diamondbacks put two on with two out in the eighth before Martin Prado hit into a fielder's choice. The Reds had the best opportunity of either team to score when Derrick Robinson hit a one-out triple in the eighth, but Corbin recovered to strike out both Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto for his fourth and fifth strikeouts of the evening.

Through those eight innings, the two pitchers combined to allow just seven hits and three runs. Neither had broken the bank, pitch-count-wise, with 92 pitches thrown for Leake and 104 for Corbin. With the latter just two off his season high and due up second in the bottom of the eighth, however, manager Kirk Gibson opted for pinch-hitter Eric Hinske, who grounded out.

Bell had converted 12 of 13 save opportunities since J.J. Putz went down with a strained elbow ligament on May 7, but he came in having allowed home runs in four straight games, inflating his ERA to 4.40. He kept up his streak, walking Brandon Phillips, falling behind Bruce 3-1, and then serving up a straight 94 MPH fastball that the red-hot Red pulverized 442 feet to right-center for his second homer of the game, eighth of his past nine games, and 18th of the season, a surge that has carried him to fourth in the NL.

Gibson hooked Bell in favor of Brad Ziegler, and the Reds continued to threaten, with Todd Frazier walking, then getting caught stealing second base, but winding up safe on an error by Didi Gregorious, and reaching third on a groundout. Manager Dusty Baker opted for pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan instead of Leake, a good hitter for a pitcher (.254/.283/.325 career), but Hannahan lined out.

Even with the possibility of continuing with Leake, it was tough to fault Baker for turning to Chapman, who hadn't allowed a hit in five straight appearances or a run in 13 straight. No streak lasts forever, though, and after yielding a single to Paul Goldschmidt, Chapman fell apart. A wild pitch advanced Goldschmidt to second, and Chapman walked Miguel Montero on seven pitches — all four balls were 100 MPH or above — and Cody Ross on six. He fell behind Kubel, and then left a fastball in the strike zone that the Arizona leftfielder punched into center field for the walkoff win, Arizona's sixth of the season. From MLB.com:

With the win, their fourth straight, the Diamondbacks (41-33) stayed three games ahead of the Giants in the NL West. The Reds (44-32) lost their third straight and fourth out of five, a slide that has knocked them into third place in the NL Central, 3 1/2 behind the Cardinals.
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