PHOENIX (AP) — Long after his day was done and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season had ended, Taijuan Walker was still in uniform in a clubhouse abuzz with teammates saying their goodbyes to one another.
in a thrilling 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres,
He didn’t have time to change, having taken extra time with his family to celebrate his return from Tommy John surgery.
“It was fun. I had good time out there,” Walker said. “It was a little emotional when I first walked out there. Two seasons just straight rehab. Just trying to get through it.”
Walker’s return was one of the highlights of Arizona’s 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Another was Tim Locastro beating out an infield grounder to drive home the winning run in the ninth inning.
Locastro bounced one deep into the hole at shortstop with two outs, and Luis Urias skipped a throw to first on what would have been a close play, allowing Christian Walker to score from third. Stefan Crichton (1-0) pitched the ninth for his first major league win.
Matt Strahm (6-11) gave up three hits and the decisive run for the loss.
“It turned into hit the ball and run,” Locastro said of his approach on the winning at-bat. “I don’t know it that was ideal, but it worked.”
Walker, reinstated from the 60-day injured list earlier in the day, made his first start for the Diamondbacks since April 14, 2018, and pitched a scoreless inning. He missed almost two full seasons after Tommy John surgery.
After striking out the Padres’ Eric Hosmer to end the first, he walked back into the dugout to embraces from every teammate.
“He came out on that field as good as we could have expected,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “He worked hard to make today happen before the season was over.”
Manny Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres before the season, was 2 for 4 including a hustle double to left-center in the ninth inning. He finished the season with a .256 batting average, the lowest in his career, and 150 hits, also a career low for a full season.
Machado spoke to his teammates in the Padres’ clubhouse immediately after the game, offering a positive message.
“It’s just us keeping our heads up. There’s a lot of things that we learned this year. The season didn’t finish off how we liked. We lost six in a row and our manager is gone … at the end of the day you have to keep the focus on the bigger picture, which was the overall season.”
Machado, asked to put his season in perspective, said he didn’t set any personal goals. Instead he focused on the relationship he built with his teammates.
The Diamondbacks finished 85-77, a three-game improvement from 2018 and good for second place in the NL West. The Padres (70-92), who fired manager Andy Green on Sept. 21, made a four-game improvement from last season’s 66-96 record.
The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the fifth against Alex Young, who relieved Walker. Young escaped and ended his outing with four scoreless innings.
The Diamondbacks had runners on first and third in the sixth after Urias’ throwing error and Eduardo Escobar’s single. Walker grounded into the double play to end the inning.
Before the bottom of the fifth inning, the Diamondbacks doffed their caps and applauded the crowd in appreciation of the fan support this season.
“This group formed an incredible bond,” Lovullo said. “There’s a very tight knit group that sits in that clubhouse every single day that’s leading me to think very good things are in the very near future for this organization.”
MANAGING TO THE END
Rod Barajas, who took over for Green, said he plans to speak with general A.J. Preller soon about his future.
“I love it in San Diego. I love my players. I love this team. Hopefully the future is here in San Diego,” Barajas said. “The mind works. Those eight games (as manager) validated that I can do this.”
MAKE IT ANOTHER 2-MIL
The Diamondbacks finished over the 2 million mark in total attendance at Chase Field for the 22nd straight season, the club’s entire existence. With Sunday’s crowd of 45,446, Arizona’s final attendance count was 2,135,510 for the season, a decrease of more than 100,000 from last season.
WORLD CUP WINNER
Jessica McDonald, a Phoenix area native and member of the U.S. Women’s national soccer team that won this year’s Women’s World Cup, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Jones caught it, wearing his USWNT jersey.
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