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The Strike Zone

Goldschmidt's latest late-inning magic continues remarkable season

Paul Goldschmidt, DiamondbacksPaul Goldschmidt delivered his second walk-off hit in less than a week on Tuesday night. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

In a game where the Orioles' Chris Davis belted his major league-leading 44th home run, Paul Goldschmidt managed to steal his thunder with some late-inning magic. The Diamondbacks slugger belted a game-tying homer in the ninth, then a game-winner in the 11th, and in doing so, took over the National League lead with 29.

Thanks to Davis' two-run homer and a solo shot by J.J. Hardy -- both off Arizona starter Randall Delgado -- the Diamondbacks trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. Goldschmidt led off the inning against Orioles closer Jim Johnson, got ahead in the count 3-1 and then mashed a 95 mph two-seam fastball 386 feet to left-centerfield:

[mlbvideo id="29684945" width="600" height="360" /]

That marked the second consecutive game Johnson blew a save, and his major league-leading eighth blown save of the year. Baltimore has lost seven of those games, which is why it finds itself looking up at other teams in the AL East and wild-card races.

Goldschmidt wasn't done. With the score still knotted at 3-3, he came to bat to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning against T.J. McFarland and connected on a 90 mph fastball that was right out over the plate, sending it 374 feet to rightfield:

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The shot marked the second night in a row the Diamondbacks beat the Orioles with a walkoff homer; Adam Eaton connected off Darren O'Day on Monday night. It was Goldschmidt's second walkoff homer of the week — he did so this past Friday against the Mets — and major league-leading third walkoff homer of the season; the Red Sox' Jonny Gomes is the only other player with more than one. Goldschmidt's four walkoff hits also lead the majors, with Freddie Freeman, Alex Gordon and Russell Martin the only ones with three. The Diamondbacks' four walkoff homers and eight walkoff hits are both tied for the NL lead, the former with the Giants, the latter with the Giants, Mets and Pirates. The Indians lead the majors with five walkoff homers, while the Red Sox lead with 10 walkoff hits.

Even with the dramatic wins of the past two nights, Arizona has work to do if it is to continue playing into October. The team, now 60-57, is just 11-12 since the All-Star break and 31-33 since the beginning of June. The D-backs trail the red-hot Dodgers by 7 1/2 games in the NL West, part of a 17-game swing in the standings since the latter embarked on their historic 38-9 run. The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds give Arizona just a 1.6 percent chance of recovering to win the West, and a 6.9 percent chance at making up its 5 1/2-game deficit in the wild-card standings. Not helping its chances is the loss of Cody Ross to a season-ending dislocated right hip (ouch); his .278/.331/.413 line made him by far the most productive of the team's outfielders.

None of that takes away from what Goldschmidt is doing, however. His pair of homers enabled him to surpass the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez for the NL lead. He also maintained his narrow leads in total bases (242 to Jay Bruce's 233) and RBIs (93 to Brandon Phillips' 90). The 25-year-old slugger is hitting .297/.390/.554, ranking sixth in on-base percentage and second in slugging percentage. He's also second in True Average, the Baseball Prospectus stat that expresses runs created per plate appearance on a batting average scale after adjusting for park and league scoring conditions; his .325 trails only Joey Votto's .331. Meanwhile, his 5.3 Wins Above Replacement is tied for fourth in the league with Votto, behind Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gomez (6.4 apiece) and David Wright (5.6).

Incredibly enough, Goldschmidt is earning just $500,000 this year, his second full one in the majors. He's making the five-year, $32 million extension that the Diamondbacks signed him to in late March look very shrewd. Including a club option, he's under team control through 2019. Considering only the guaranteed portion of his deal, he's an amazing bargain when placed alongside the Reds' Votto, who will make $93 million during that span, as well as the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, who will make $106 million over that time. That's without considering that he's exactly four years younger than the former, and more than five years younger than the latter, meaning that the Diamondbacks will be paying him a pittance for his prime while Cincinnati and Los Angeles pay at least three times as much for their first basemen's mid-to-late 30s.

All of which is to say that even if fans on a national level don't take to him enough to justify the silly "America's First Baseman" nickname with which the Diamondbacks relievers saddled him, he's going to be a cornerstone of the franchise — and probably the NL All-Star team — for years to come. If he keeps up his late-inning magic, a more fitting nickname would be "America's Walkoff King."

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