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Series Preview # 4 : Dbacks @ Dodgers

The best defense is a good offense!

Puig works on being a good teammate.
Puig works on being a good teammate.
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images


Who is new? Three players on the 25-man roster joined the Dodgers after the end of last season: Logan Forsythe(second base), Sergio Romo (relief pitcher, All-Star), and Franklin Gutierrez (bench player, Gold Glove). On Monday, Gutierrez injured his left hamstring and was placed on the 10 day DL.

Which Dodgers are stars? Corey Seager, shortstop, is awesome. Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw is amazing. Their closer Kenley Jansen shuts the door well. In summary, they have nine All-Stars on their 25-man roster, while the Diamondbacks have six All-Stars.

Their weakest area is pitching. Four of their opening-day roster’s starting-pitchers are not to be feared by Dbacks hitters: Kenta Maeda, Brandon McCarthy, Hyrun-jin Ryu, and Julio Urias. Their new relief pitcher, Sergio Romo, is average, and their bullpen pitchers are very hittable, except their closer.


The Dbacks lead the Majors in runs scored. Offense is the big reason why they could win this series with the Dodgers. In the last two weeks, many Dbacks players have made winning impacts. Their mental game is better this season!

After winning the opening series against the Giants, 3 wins to 1 loss, the Dbacks swept the defending AL champion Indians! The Dbacks are an exciting team to cheer for!

Could the Diamondbacks steal a surprising series win against the Dodgers? They should! Even a split, 2-2, would cause the baseball world to notice!

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Zack Greinke (2.31 ERA, 7.7 SO/9, 1.5 BB/9 vs Clayton Kershaw (3.46 ERA, 9.7 SO/9, 0.0 BB/9).

Zack Greinke was on his own schedule in spring training. It was good. So far he pitched better this season than last season when he gave up 11 earned runs in his first two games. Looking toward this game: against Greinke the Dodgers with the highest career OPS are Corey Seager (silver slugger in 2016), Joc Pederson, and Justin Turner. Zack Greinke is up to the challenge!

Clayton Kershaw is a 6-time All-Start and 3-time Cy Young winner. Nevertheless, the Dbacks have reason for hope. After two games, admittedly a small sample size, his ERA is twice as high as last season. Against Kershaw, the Dbacks with the highest OPS are Brandon Drury, AJ Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt. All three are hitting well this season. Maybe Goldschmidt’s well-known plate discipline can yield him Kershaw’s first walk of the season!

Saturday. Patrick Corbin (1.80 ERA, 3.6 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9) vs Kenta Maeda (6.30 ERA, 8.1 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9).

Patrick Corbin had a quality start in his last appearance: 6 innings with zero earned runs! Although his strike-out rate is lower than last season, he is pitching well. Against Corbin, the Dodger with the best career OPS is Justin Turner, who has the highest batting average on the Dodgers this season.

Kenta Maeda has started twice this season and given up 7 earned runs. Can the Dbacks score 7 runs against Maeda? We’ll see. Against Maeda, Brandon Drury has a career OPS of 1.750 and Jake Lamb has a career OPS of 1.367.

Sunday. Taijuan Walker (4.91 ERA, 7.4 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9) vs Alex Wood (1.59 ERA, 7.9 SO/9, 9.5 BB/9). Wood is likely but no official announcement at time of writing.

Taijuan Walker had a problem controlling his pitches in his last appearance. Will this game show the Dbacks won the trade for Walker? Influencing your answer should be this season’s great play by Brandon Drury at second and Jeremy Hazelbacker in the outfield.

In July of 2016, Alex Wood had anthroscopic surgery to fix a posterior elbow impingement. In his last start he walked 5 and struck out 4 in 3.2 innings. Interesting - will walks or strikeouts be more important in this game? Paul Goldschmidt has a career OPS of 1.409 against Wood.

Monday. Robbie Ray (2.19 ERA, 10.2 SO/9, 5.8 BB/9) vs Brandon McCarthy(3.00 ERA, 6.0 SO/9, 1.5 BB/9).

Robbie Ray’s fourseam fastball has well above average velocity according to Brooks Baseball website. His first start was one out short of a quality start. His second start was 6.2 IP with zero earned runs!

Brandon McCarthy missed 2015 and most of 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. Also, he had a hip injury. His Cutter is blazing fast according to Brooks Baseball website. Which pitcher will have the better stuff - Ray or McCarthy?

Impact Players in an Extraordinary Two Weeks

Perhaps more than any other player, Brandon Drury stood out. Extended from last season, his 9 game hitting streak was awesome. That consistency is beyond ordinary. On 8 April against the Indians, he scored 3 runs and hit two RBIs.

Normally impact happens in won games, with rare exceptions. The exception this time is Archie Bradley’s inspired relief pitching. He pitched 3.1 innings with 7 strikeouts and zero runs against the Giants on 3 April. Team spirits were uplifted, although the game was lost. Six days later, he pitched 2 innings with zero earned runs, making an impact.

Five relief pitchers have pitched at least one inning with no earned runs in multiple games : JJ Hoover on 2, 6, & 8 April, Randall Delgado on 6 & 7 April, and Tom Wilhelmsen on 4 April(loss) and 7 April, and closer Fernando Rodney 5 & 9 April. Plus a single game by Jorge De La Rosa on 5 April.

Greinke pitched the first quality start of the season against the Indians, with 6.2 innings pitched , 1 earned run, and 6 strikeouts. The next game, Patrick Corbin pitched 6 innings with zero earned runs, making it two quality starts in a row. On 11 April, Robbie Ray pitched 6.2 innings with zero earned runs.

Ninth inning heroics happened on 2 April that led to Chris Owings hitting a walk off RBI. After earlier hitting a 2 run homer, in the ninth A.J. Pollock singled. Daniel Descalso pinch-hit an RBI. Jeff Mathis doubled.

Four came-from-behind wins.

  • 5 April. Yasmany Tomas hit an RBI double to tie the game. Jeremy Hazelbaker hit an RBI double to take the lead.
  • 6 April. Paul Goldschmidt hit a homer to tie the game. Jake Lamb hit a 3-run homer to take the lead.
  • 7 April. Paul Goldschmidt hit a 2-run double to take the lead.
  • 8 April. David Peralta hit a go-ahead homer. Yasmany Tomas hit an RBI triple to pile on.

The pattern was broken on 9 April, when the Dbacks led the entire game. Daniel Descalso hit an RBI single to take the lead. Chris Owings piled on with a homer.

Again on 11 April, the Dbacks led the entire game. Jake Lamb hit a three-run triple.

State of the Season

What’s important will change during the season. In April and May, I will look at three items.

1. Wins. In the first ten games, the Dbacks have 7 wins. This is a darn good place to be because April’s schedule is tough (and so is August). If the Diamondbacks complete April with at least 12 wins in 27 games, the team looks like a serious contender. I will be bouncing off the ceiling with 14 wins, and the Diamondbacks are likely to be playing in the post-season.

2. Injuries. If the team avoids any injuries beyond the 10-day DL, that is encouraging. In the first ten games, there have been zero significant injuries.

3. Callups. If no callups from the minors are needed beyond the bullpen, that is encouraging. In the first ten games, there have been zero callups.

Mental Habit of the Series: What Am I Thinking?

Min Soo Pata is an awesome yoga instructor. She taught me that thoughts enter through the front door of my mind, and leave through the back door of my mind. It’s up to me whether I serve them tea and cake, or instead recognize them without reacting and let them leave. Her idea is important to me because thoughts enter my mind all the time, and I sometimes react when wisdom would tell me not to react.

Uplifting and empowering thoughts don’t always announce their arrival with music, and can leave without being noticed. For example, “Baseball writers add joy to the world.” Because that thought empowers me, I serve tea and cake.

Insightful thoughts pleasantly say hello, say something sorta crazy in a good way, like “Dbacks will win more than enough this season.” Then, I ponder in hopes an insightful revelation will arrive to tell the story. One insight was when I predicted 84 wins this season.

When I write, my mistakes are in the spotlight. Self-critical thoughts are too common-place. When I am striving to improve my baseball writing, those thoughts are like Herkimer Diamonds. When I feel pressure to get something completed immediately, such as my tax returns, I throw those thoughts into an old chest and shut the lid!

Caveman thoughts barge in, say something is wrong and bad, and sit down with a grunt. For example, “Unfair errors ruined Delgado’s relief appearance.” If it’s a temporary setback or if it’s not important, I think, “It is what it is.” If it is important, I think about perspectives – mine, another person’s, and the truth. Caveman thoughts can be powerful. Yet more often they weaken me.

Having tea and cake with caveman thoughts can cause players to say interesting things. Let’s look at three examples.

1. Dodgers’ first baseman Adrian Gonzalez played in the World Baseball Classic. After he did not agree with the organizers, he had thoughts. He said, "They're trying to become the World Cup, but they're not even close to being the Little League World Series."

2. On April first, the Brewers cut relief pitcher Tyler Cravy. He said “It would just be nice to have the honesty straight up front instead of… ‘Sorry, we have other plans.’ He said, “It says a lot about the integrity, or lack thereof, of the guys running the show, but what are you going to do? All you can do is put up numbers [2.03 ERA over 13.1 IP] and sometimes that’s still not enough….

I’m just not sure I want to play for guys who treat you like this.” He said he might seek “a 9 to 5 job where I get treated like a human, at this point.”

Later that day, Tyler Cravy said, “My comments to the media today were a result of pure, raw emotion, just minutes after I was told I had been cut for a reason I’m still not aware of. Did I say some things I shouldn’t have?

Probably. Did I say some things that offended people? Probably? …I’m human, and I spoke up for myself when I felt I was being treated unfairly….I don’t plan on quitting….”

3. In 2016, Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig’s struggles were legend. Many things were written about Puig, likely some true and some not true. In 2017, Puig talked to the media about what happened and how he has put it behind him.

In January of this year, Yasiel Puig said, "It was not good to experience going to Triple-A, but that was my fault, coming in late, not going to the meetings on time with my teammates and coaches, and that was the reason."

In March of this year, Yasiel Puig said, "My goal in Spring Training is to keep working every day, coming early every day, do my job in the cage and that's why I feel better. I work a lot, I want this season to do what I didn't do last season. Be a good teammate, come early, listen to coaches and manager, that's my hope to do great in baseball."

Any caveman thoughts likely left his mind quickly in 2017, and he served tea and cake to insightful thoughts about how to be more successful.

Tea and cake partner with great talk! Steve Gilbert’s article had this to say:

“…against Matt Moore, the D-backs had just one run to show for their efforts. During that time, though, there was constant conversation on the bench about Moore's release point, the angle of his pitches, how to approach him, what was working and what wasn't.”

Torey Lovullo, Dbacks Manager
Torey Lovullo, Dbacks Manager
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"’I'm really impressed with the amount of talk between guys about what they want to do, the amount of support they're offering to one another,’ D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.”