Kole Calhoun’s defense overshadows base crash in Diamondbacks win


Kole Calhoun played 1,038 Major League Baseball games. Now in his 10th year as a great player, there is little he hasn’t seen in a diamond.

Anthony Rizzo shooting him straight in the face, however, was new. A similar scene unfolded last year, when he head butted a ball thrown by Colorado Rockies wide receiver Tony Wolters to avoid being sent off on second base. But on that play, Calhoun had time to pause, observe Wolters’ throw, and intentionally reach for his head in his path.

On Sunday, with goals loaded and one out in the 6th inning of the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs, Calhoun didn’t have that kind of weather. Instead, he instinctively hit the ground, allowing Rizzo’s throw to beat Nick Ahmed to home plate.

“I don’t think anyone has given a whim in their career and I’ve had the opportunity to do two,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know why I didn’t, honestly.”

With Ahmed at home, the Diamondbacks rally – which came with the score tied at 2 – still had life. The bases, it seemed, were loaded for Eduardo Escobar, one of the few consistent appearances in the Arizona squad.

Instead, Calhoun, who returned from surgery for a hamstring tear last week, lay down on the floor, taking his marks and making sure he hadn’t hurt himself. again. When he arrived he saw Cubs wide receiver Robinson Chirinos raising his hands. In a moment of temporary confusion, Calhoun grabbed his helmet, giving Chirinos enough time to turn the double play on first base.

Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Kole Calhoun lands a dive on a line hit by Chicago Cubs Jake Marisnick in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

“Obviously I should have gotten up and gone straight to the first one – I don’t know, I was just a little caught off guard,” Calhoun said. “… I’ve never been to this place. A really, really weird piece.

Luckily for Calhoun, the Diamondbacks scored two runs in the eighth and ninth innings, making one of the strangest games of his career a unique footnote in their first win after the all-star break. “Now it’s easy to laugh,” Calhoun said with a smile.

Instead, his highlights of the afternoon came on the pitch. With the game still scoreless at the start of the inning, Calhoun made two excellent plays to help starting pitcher Merrill Kelly keep pace.

In the second inning, with one out and Jason Heyward in first place, Cubs center Jake Marisnick scored a line in right field. Rather than giving up the single, Calhoun leapt into the air, risking an extra base hit to trap the ball with his glove outstretched.

“It’s fantastic when he dives,” said Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. “It looks like Superman over there.”

For Calhoun, it’s an instinctive confidence built over a lifetime of playing on the right ground, perfecting routes to each type of flying ball.

“You take pride in your defense and you play hard and try to get everything you can,” Calhoun said. “When you are proud of these things, they come out and appear. “

A round later, Calhoun’s defensive ability resurfaced. Rizzo made the Cubs’ toughest contact early on, awarding a ball for the right corner of the field. Sprinting to the edge of the warning track, Calhoun reached out and made a backhand grip before crashing into the chain link fence.

For the Diamondbacks, Calhoun’s defensive prowess set the tone for an afternoon in which the Cubs struggled to get anything against Kelly, who pitched the ninth inning for the first time in his career. For Lovullo, however, this comes as no surprise.

“He’s that kind of defenseman,” Lovullo said. “He is. He’s a game-changer in so many ways and had two great games that saved us today.


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