The Arizona Diamondbacks catcher deserves more attention
Chris Iannetta might have put himself firmly in the national spotlight on Friday night in front of 34,000-plus at Chase Field.
Down 9-8 after a home run by rookie Christian Walker, Chris Iannetta stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. All he had to do was hit a fly ball to bring home the tying run.
Instead — the veteran backstop decided a sacrifice fly was not enough — and crushed a hanging fastball into the seats in left-center field for a grand slam and a 12-9 Diamondbacks lead in the sixth.
Iannetta went nuts. The crowd went nuts. David Peralta, Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez greeted him with high fives at home plate. His other teammates in the dugout could not wait to high five him and take his helmet off.
The fans did not stop clapping and before Iannetta could even realize what was happening, he stepped out of the dugout and acknowledged the fans.
Curtain call No. 1 was in the books.
I wasn’t even paying attention, Iannetta said to MLB.com. Luckily it was over before I even knew what was happening. It was an awkward feeling.”
It was his second home run of the game. He hit a three-run homer in the first inning after the Marlins had taken a 2-0 lead and drove in another run with an RBI single in the second.
J.D. Martinez’s four home run game at Dodger Stadium is hard to top, but Iannetta might have delivered the moment of the season.
Think about it. The Diamondbacks are fighting for a postseason spot and home field advantage in the N.L. Wild Card Game. Ace Zack Greinke got battered around and the Marlins offense did not look they were going to let up.
But Iannetta’s home run changed the momentum of the game, got the crowd back into it, and with some help of the middle relievers, the Diamondbacks came out on top, 13-11. It was surely the craziest game of the season — by a wide margin.
Goldschmidt, Greinke and Martinez are the real MVP’s of this team for a reason. But, here is why Iannetta is the dark-horse MVP of this team.
The 34-year-old part-time catcher made history in many ways on Friday in Phoenix.
Here are some nuggets about his performance
- Iannetta finished the game with a career-high eight RBI, one shy of the club record of nine set by Erubiel Durazo on May, 17, 2002 against the Phillies.
- He recorded his third career multi-homer game and fifth career grand slam.
- He is the only player in the majors with more than 7-plus RBI game this season, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
- He is one of 11 players with 15-plus RBI over two games and the 21st player since 1913 with multiple 7-RBI games.
- He is the 10th catcher since 1913 with two or more home runs and eight or more RBI in a single game.
- Iannetta’s eight RBI are the most by a catcher over the last 10 years since the Dodgers Yasmany Grandal drove in eight on May 7, 2015 at the Brewers.
Remember the old adage that catchers cannot be major run producers? That idea died a long time ago.
This is not the first time Iannetta has delivered at the plate when his team needed it the most.
Eight of Iannetta’s 16 home runs have tied or given the Diamondbacks the lead. Five were go-ahead jacks and three tied the score.
That is the definition of getting it done when it matters most. In 54 at-bats with RISP, Iannetta has driven in 24 runs and in 102 at-bats with runners on base, he has driven in 32.
He is 3-for-3 this season with the bases loaded with one home run and nine RBI and with men in scoring position and two outs, Iannetta is hitting .320 (8-for-25).
That is the definition of clutch folks.
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CI’s overall value
Here are some more offensive numbers for ya’ll to chew on:
- In his last nine games, Iannetta is hitting .387 (12-for-37) with two home runs and nine RBI.
- In his last 11 home games, he is hitting .405 (15-for-37) with three home runs and 11 RBI.
- His 16 home runs are tied for the second most in a single season in his career (2009). Iannetta hit 18 in 2008.
- In his last 18 starts, Iannetta is hitting .364 (24-for-66) with nine extra base hits and 13 RBI.
- Thirty one of his last 54 hits have gone for extra bases and 51.5 percent of his hits this season.
I think he took to hitting fifth well. Iannetta belongs in the middle of the lineup because he is a bonafide run producer.
But his value does not stop with his offense. He has done an amazing game catching the starters, including working with Zack Greinke after his personal catcher, Jeff Mathis went on the disabled list.
In 601.2 innings (74 G/66 GS) behind the plate this season, Iannetta has a catchers ERA of 4.04. Iannetta needs to improve throwing out attempted base stealers, but he has generated plenty of extra strikes for his pitchers.
Talk about a pickup by general manager Mike Hazen.
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