The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming off of something that even the 2013 D-Backs could not accomplish: winning three consecutive series. What's perhaps even more impressive is the fact that this recent stretch of great play has actually been on the road, with Arizona going 6-3 on the nine-game road trip through San Diego, Milwaukee (who held MLB's best record), and Chicago. After dropping the first game against the White Sox, the Diamondbacks have taken two in a row and now have taken four of their last five games and are 7-3 in their last ten games.
After struggling on Friday night in a 9-3 loss that saw the Diamondbacks give up a seven-run fourth inning, they came back on Saturday behind Wade Miley, who picked up his first win since early April after giving up two runs in seven innings of the 4-3 win. Rookie right hander Chase Anderson followed that victory up Sunday with an impressive major league debut, giving up a run on two hits in 5.1 innings of a 5-1 win. With their current stretch of play, the Diamondbacks currently sit at 15-25 on the season, and are ten games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
Washington sits in the midst of a very crowded NL East, where first place and last team and last place team are separated by four games, but are off to a solid start behind first-year manager Matt Williams. Williams, who was Arizona's base coach last season, has benefitted from baseball's sixth best pitching team ERA (3.15) and has seen strong outings from young arms such as Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. Despite their strong overall performances, they have struggled on the road, dropping to 18th in the major leagues in ERA (4.23) when outside of Nationals Park. Their offense, which was projected to be explosive with bats such as Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth, has been decimated with injuries and is just 18th in the majors in runs scored and batting just .252 as a team.
The Nationals come into the series looking to cap off their six-game road trip that they opened by getting swept in Oakland, where they were outscored 21-4 over three games. Washington is 19-18 on the season, 2.5 games behind Atlanta for the lead in the NL East. They're 8-9 on the road this season, and have won just three out of their last ten games coming into their trip to Phoenix. Despite their success on the road (12-10), the Diamondbacks are still a league-worst 3-15 at home this season.
On The Mend
Diamondbacks left fielder Mark Trumbo remains on the 15-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his foot. Trumbo is expected to meet with a doctor about his injury sometime this week, according to the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman remains on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb injury, and was expected to have another X-ray on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.
Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday after a MRI revealed a strain in his quad. LaRoche was a vital part in a depleted Nationals lineup, batting .319/.421/.504 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 32 games.
After first baseman Adam LaRoche was placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Nationals called up left fielder Tyler Moore on Sunday from Triple-A Syracuse. Moore, who is expected to fill LaRoche's role in the middle of Washington's lineup, is hitting .182/.250/.394 with two home runs and three RBIs in 19 games in the major leagues this year.
Marshall and Anderson: Youth and Innocent
Ignorance is bliss.
Prior to the Diamondbacks' series against the Chicago White Sox, they made a series of moves to call up right handers Evan Marshall and Chase Anderson from Triple-A Reno and Double-A Mobile. And while these two young arms are far from the sole reason why the Diamondbacks took two out of three games in the series, they certainly were amongst those that contributed.
Marshall, who was called up amidst Mike Bolsinger's struggles, proved to be effective and composed in his first major league outings, going 1-0 with 2.1 perfect innings in his first two major league appearances. Marshall has been more than dominant in 2014, whatever the level, and went 0-1 with a 0.54 ERA over 16.2 innings in 14 appearances for Triple-A Reno this season.
Anderson was brought up with the injury of J.J. Putz, bringing up the young right hander all the way from Double-A Mobile. While there were some concerns about how Anderson would respond in his major league debut in the place of Bolsinger, he was stellar. The rookie right hander gave up just one run on two hits in 5.1 innings Sunday, picking up the 5-1 win. Anderson went 4-2 with a 0.69 ERA in six starts for Double-A Mobile this season.
Game 1, Monday 6:40 PM PT: RHP Jordan Zimmerman (2-1, 2.92 ERA, 2.89 FIP) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (1-2, 3.44 ERA, 4.01 FIP)
Zimmerman has been the Nationals' best statistical pitcher this season, leading all starters with a 2.92 ERA. He hasn't given up a single earned run in his last two outings, his last one being a rain-shortened four innings against the Dodgers. He's actually been hurt by the defense around him, as his fielding independent pitching (FIP) is actually below his ERA. Collmenter gave up five runs (one earned) in the first inning his last time out, as he gave the Diamondbacks the opportunity to come back and win against the Brewers. He ended up giving up the five runs (one earned) on eight hits over 5.2 innings. Collmenter is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA at Chase Field this season.
Game 2, Tuesday 6:40 PM PT: RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 3.42 ERA, 2.49 FIP) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.89 ERA, 4.66 FIP)
Strasburg has been red hot as of late, overcoming a shaky start to 2014 with a 2-0 record and 1.37 ERA over his last four outings. Last time out, he gave up two runs over a season-high 7.1 innings in a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is also striking out batters at an alarming rate, punching out hitters 64 times is 47.1 innings pitched. After his own shaky start, Arroyo himself has been rounding into great form, not giving up a single run in his last two outings and going 7.1 scoreless innings against the Brewers his last time out. Despite his successes on the road, Arroyo went seven innings and gave up two runs in his last start at Chase Field.
Game 3, Wednesday 12:40 PM PT: RHP Doug Fister (0-1, 10.38 ERA, 11.16 FIP) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-6, 5.66 ERA, 4.00 FIP)
Fister struggled in his first start of 2014, giving up five runs on nine hits in 4.1 innings in a loss to the Athletics. It was his first start of the season after a lat strain cause him to miss the first five weeks of the season. McCarthy appeared to be rounding into shape heading into his start against the White Sox (two earned runs in 14 innings pitched), and started off well with three perfect innings, but had it all come undone with a seven-run fourth inning. McCarthy wound up giving up seven runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings in the loss.
This is an interesting series to pick, particularly with the different pitching matchups and with how these teams have been playing as of late. I think that Zimmerman is flat-out just a better starting pitcher than Collmenter, and that while the Nationals lineup has been depleted, Collmenter will not be able to pitch well enough for the win. Tuesday can be tricky, but I think (optimistically) that the Bronson Arroyo we have seen the last couple outings can be the same pitcher we can expect to see as the season progresses. I simply have not seen enough from Fister to expect anything from him on the road, and I feel that McCarthy's horrid fourth inning against the White Sox is just a simple relapse to his earlier ways, and that he should be able to get back on track. I think that there are cases to be made for the Diamondbacks to take two of three from Washington, as well as one to get swept. Because of this, I'll stick in the middle with taking one of three games.