PHOENIX -- Thursday night at Chase Field, the D-backs and their visitors traded gappers and long balls. All that got them was a stalemate through seven innings. Then in the eighth, Conor Jackson scampered home on a wild pitch that bounced a few feet away from home plate to decide a topsy-turvy National League West game more reminiscent of a battle on the diamond in August.
"I saw an opportunity, and I took it," Jackson said afterward, straight-faced.
In taking both games of the two-game set from the Giants with the 8-7 victory, Arizona collected its first consecutive victories since successful days on May 4 and 5 in Houston. Interleague Play begins Friday against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, though postgame Thursday night, the D-backs weren't ready to talk American League East baseball. "This does show everyone what this team is capable of," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We can play a little bit when we put our minds to it, when we maintain our approach and make it tough to get 27 outs." Hinch was talking attention to detail because of the game-changing, eighth-inning play that transpired: With the score knotted in the home half of the frame, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt bounced a 1-2 curveball to batter Mark Reynolds that skidded away from catcher Eli Whiteside, allowing Jackson, who led off the inning with a double, to head homeward. Jackson said that Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval positioning himself away from the bag allowed for his lengthy lead and that the two-strike count on Reynolds made the risk of being tagged out plenty worth it. While Affeldt (2-3) was tipping his cap a clubhouse away, Hinch marveled: "That's a heads-up play. Being in the game every pitch ... it's grueling, it's mentally exhausting, but if you want to be a good team, [those are] the plays you make when you need to." Plays -- plural -- because Jackson scoring doesn't happen without Justin Upton, whom Affeldt intentionally walked in the eighth to pitch to Adam LaRoche, breaking up a would-be inning-ending double play with a hard slide into second base and LaRoche legging it down the first-base line to ensure Reynolds' at-bat would even occur. Hinch stuck with Aaron Heilman, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, on the mound in the final inning because he liked the matchups. Who wouldn't: Heilman entered the game holding left-handed hitters to a .147 batting average and the Giants' Sandoval and Aubrey Huff were due up. And Heilman (1-1), Arizona's most dependable reliever in a beleaguered bullpen, came through, inducing two flyouts. After Heilman walked pinch-hitter Matt Downs, however, closer Chad Qualls entered and promptly struck out Juan Uribe for his seventh save. The late-inning little things, as Hinch called them -- the smart, opportunistic baserunning and the confidence-building bullpen performances -- were necessary because (spoiler alert) five fifth-inning runs against Giants starter Tim Lincecum weren't enough. Arizona advanced runners into scoring position in three of the game's first four innings before erupting in the fifth. Stephen Drew tripled home Kelly Johnson and Jackson, tying the game at 2 in the fifth. Upton, the ensuing batter, lifted a sacrifice fly to center field, which pushed Drew homeward for the home team's 3-2 advantage. Two batters later, after LaRoche drew Lincecum's fifth walk, Reynolds drove his 100th career home run, a two-run blast to left field. Reynolds became the fourth-fastest third baseman to reach triple digits and broke a third-place tie with first-base coach Matt Williams in the franchise record books. "He wasn't controlling the fastball like he can, like he has in the past," said LaRoche, who went 2-for-4 to raise his season average to .274. "We took advantage of it." Fortunately for the Giants, D-backs starter Rodrigo Lopez was "less than his best," too, according to Hinch. Immediately after the D-backs' five-run frame, Lopez yielded consecutive solo home runs to Uribe and John Bowker, cutting Arizona's advantage to one. It was the sixth time this season a D-backs pitcher had allowed consecutive home runs. Huff's two-run double off reliever Carlos Rosa later in the inning gave the Giants their temporary 7-5 advantage. The D-backs tied it back up in the seventh when pinch-hitter Chris Young drove home Reynolds on a double to left-center, setting up an eventful and, for the D-backs, crucial eighth inning. "Hopefully this game will be a stepping stone and starting point for us right now," said Jackson.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.