Diamondbacks crush Royals 14-2
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — September callups Jeremy Hazelbaker and Ildelmaro Vargas starred for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the season finale.
Hazelbaker hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning and Vargas drove in four runs as the Diamondbacks routed the Kansas City Royals 14-2 on Sunday.
The Diamondbacks will host the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in the National League wild-card game. The winner will advance to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series beginning Friday in Los Angeles.
The Diamondbacks went from 93 losses in 2016 to winning 93 games this year.
“I’m very proud of the things we did in the course of the year,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We checked a lot of boxes. We did some things that I asked these guys to do from the first game of the season on. I’m proud of these guys for that, and I’m proud to be their manager.
“But we still have a few more boxes to check. Everybody knows that the story is untold. That’s the message that I told these guys. It was a tremendous season that we will look back on and know that we did some special things.”
Lovullo said he did not have a team meeting after the game.
“They’ve heard from me enough,” he said. “I think they’re getting tired of me. I might say something to them over the course of the next two days with the workouts, but they played so well all season long. Relax on the way home, turn off their brains a little. It all starts (over) Wednesday.”
For the Royals, it was an emotional sendoff to four of their star players.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, all eligible for free agency and integral parts of the 2014-15 clubs that went to back-to-back World Series, were pulled in the fifth inning as the Kauffman Stadium fans showed their appreciation by giving them a standing ovation.
It almost certainly will be their final time to play together after being teammates for nearly seven years.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hosmer said. “That’s the thing for all of us. It’s different. I don’t want to say it’s scary, but just different. I’ve just been used to showing up in the clubhouse and seeing these guys faces or Salvy (Perez), the last 10 years of my life I’ve been coming in and playing with.
“These last couple of games, we’re all celebrating what we’ve accomplished here together.”
Hosmer homered in the first inning, his 25th of the season, to match his career high, but that was the Royals’ highlight.
“I think for all of us that came up through the organization and minor league system, it was instilled in us that we were the group that was going to turn this city around and make baseball relevant again in Kansas City,” Hosmer said.
The Diamondbacks scored 10 runs in innings five, six and seven to take a commanding lead.
Gregor Blanco, who played for Kansas City in 2010, had three hits and two walks, scored three runs, swiped three bases and had a RBI.
Vargas, who entered the game in the third inning, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and scored three runs.
Chris Iannetta also homered in the second inning as the Diamondbacks finished with 220 home runs, a season franchise record.
Ketel Marte left in the sixth inning with left hamstring tightness on an infield single.
“It’s a little bit tight,” Marte said. “I’ll be ready for the big game (Wednesday). It’s better to be out of the game today and be ready for the (next) game.”
Royals starter Jason Vargas (18-11) was pulled after four innings plus four batters, allowing six runs and six hits while striking out four and walking four. He was pulled after Hazelbaker’s three-run homer.
Vargas ended up tied for the big league lead in victories.
Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray, who turned 26 on Sunday, was removed after 23 pitches and 1 2/3 innings as Lovullo wants to make sure he is available if needed for the Wednesday game.
“It was to go out there and get my work in,” Ray said. “I felt really good. I felt good coming off the mound. My arm felt great.”
With the victory, Louvullo has a 93-69 record, the best record by a Diamondbacks manager in his first 162 games.
Anthony Banda (2-3), the fourth of eight Diamondback pitchers, picked up the victory.
NOTES: INF Chris Owings, who missed 33 games with a broken right middle finger, will play in an Instructional League game Monday and is a possibility to be added to the Diamondbacks’ postseason roster. ... Royals C Salvador Perez and Diamondbacks OF David Peralta refused to leave the field after the national anthem in a friendly stare down contest. The umpires finally shooed the two into the dugouts with Peralta relenting first. That delayed the start of the game by one minute. ... Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke and Rockies RHP Jon Gray are the Wednesday probables.