Arizona Diamondbacks (21-22) @ St. Louis Cardinals (28-16)
The last time I spoke with you the Diamondbacks were in a tailspin, heading toward another 2014-like season after getting swept by Phillies and having lost 7 of their last 9 games. Oh how a week can change things. If you haven't heard, the Diamondbacks have now won 6 of their last 7, after winning 2 of 3 against the Cubs. Now, the D-Backs are third in the NL West, 5 games back of the Dodgers, and just 3 games out of a wild card spot. Over the past 7 games, the offense has been very consistent, never scoring below 3 runs. The pitching has also been solid, allowing 4 or less runs in 5 of the last 7. By the way, did you know the Diamondbacks are 4th in the Majors in runs scored? This was very surprising to me, and I am thrilled to see it.
Remember when everyone (okay, maybe just ESPN and other tv places where sports are discussed) was worried about the Cardinals after Wainwright went down for the season? The Cardinals laugh at you, ESPN. They hold the best record, and the best run differential (+55) in the NL. This success has been caused mainly by a 2.88 team ERA, the best in all of baseball. The Cardinals offense has also been strong, with 5 guys batting .295 or higher. Lately though, the offense has been feast or famine, scoring either 2 runs or less or 6 runs or more in 8 of the last 10 games. Their best hitter this season, Matt Carpenter, has been hot lately, batting .421 with 3 doubles in his last 7 games.
Diamondbacks reliever Matt Stites is set to throw an extended spring training game Monday, but will not be back to the big league club for this series. Third baseman Jake Lamb is targeting a June 1 return, and will not return from his foot injury in time to play St. Louis. One guy we may see return is reliever David Hernandez, who has been sidelined recovering from a 2014 Tommy John surgery. According to Chip Hale, Hernandez will likely join the big league club this week, though when in the week is unknown.
The Cardinals have a pair of outfielders, Jason Heyward and Matt Holliday, day-to-day for various reasons. Heyward was not in the lineup Saturday and Sunday with tightness in his left hip, and Holliday was scratched from Sunday's game with a left forearm contusion. Both of these guys are primary bats in the Cardinals lineup (though Heyward has struggled mightily this year) and if they are either absent or not 100%, the Cardinals will receive a huge blow. Outfielder Jon Jay is also likely to return to action Monday. He has been on the DL with tendinitis in his left wrist.
- The Diamondbacks pitching has been very good as of late. In the last 7 days, they hold an ERA of 3.30
- The offense has been very good too. 6 guys have hit .285 or higher in the last 2 weeks. This offense has been led by Ahmed, Tomas, Pollock, and Goldy, who have combined for 31 RBIs over this time period.
- Matt Holliday has been in a bit of a funk lately. He has batted just .237 in his last 11 games.
- The Cardinals bullpen has been phenomenal lately, with an ERA of 2.25 in the last 7 days.
- Mark Trumbo is slumping. In his last 7 games, he has a batting average of .182, a slugging percentage of .273, and no RBIs
Every pitcher should be good to for the first game of the series. No reliever on either team exceeded 20 pitches Sunday, and no reliever has thrown 2 days in a row.
Game 1: Chase Anderson RHP (1-1, 2.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) vs Carlos Martinez RHP (4-2, 4.08 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Chase Anderson continues to be the best pitcher in the D-Backs rotation, and is showing no signs of slowing down. In his last 4 starts, he holds an ERA of 1.03. He has been throwing his 2 seam fastball a lot more than he did last year, throwing it 28% of the time, compared to last year when he only threw it 18% of the time. I would definitely attribute some his success this year to developing that new pitch.
In his first year as a full time starter, Martinez has been solid, allowing 2 runs or less in 6 of his 8 starts. His ERA is inflated by 2 starts where he allowed 7 runs in each of them. He throws very hard, with an average fastball velocity of about 94.5. This game looks like the one the D-Backs have the best chance of winning.
Game 2: Archie Bradley RHP (2-1 4.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) vs Jaime Garcia LHP (0-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)*
Who is the real Archie Bradley? The one before he got hit my the line drive or the one after? I'd say the true Archie Bradley is closer to the post-line drive guy. Why? Archie only has 2 pitches. He throws a 92 MPH fastball 77% of the time, and a curve 22% of the time. That's it. He was supposed to have worked on his changeup, which he has thrown 7 times, but apparently he doesn't have enough confidence to throw it. When a team knows it can just sit on a fastball, they will light you up.
Garcia made his first start of the season last Thursday against the Mets where he went 7 innings and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits. Due to injuries, Garcia has not made 10 starts in a season since 2012. When Garcia has been healthy, he has been good with a career ERA of 3.49. According to pitchf/x, he throws six different pitches, so he will try to trip up D-Backs hitters with a lot of velocity and pitch type changes. Something the D-Backs may be able to exploit is walks. In his only start this year, he walked 5 guys in 7 innings.
Game 3: Josh Collmenter RHP (3-5, 5.19 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) vs TBD
Josh Collmenter is an average pitcher. He is not a top of the rotation arm, though I guess nobody really expected him to be. This year, all his pitches have lost about 1.5 MPH, something he could not really afford to do. In his last 4 starts, he has allowed 4+ runs in 3 of them. Collmenter has pitched only once in Busch Stadium, where he came on in relief to pitch 4 innings and allowed 0 runs.
For the Diamondbacks, I'd say it's the bullpen. Over the last week, the bullpen has an ERA of 2.84. If they can keep the ERA around there and not revert to previous form, this team will be fine.
For the Cardinals, I'm going with Jason Heyward. He still has not lived up to his potential, and has just batted .235 with 4 homers this year. If he breaks out this series, the Cardinals have a scary offense.
- Which Diamondbacks are the real Diamondbacks: the team against the Nats and Phillies or the one against the Marlins and Cubs?
- I'd say it is closer to the team against the Marlins in Cubs. The pitching just isn't going to be as bad as it was against Washington and Philadelphia all year.
- Can Nick Ahmed continue to hit?
- Yes. Now that his BABIP is somewhat normal, that average should keep on climbing.
Hmm, this is a tough one to predict. The D-Backs have been playing so well, but they are also going up against arguably the best pitching staff in the MLB. The optimist in me wins out though. D-Backs win 2 of 3.
*Garcia has made just one start this year, where he went 7 innings.