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Series Preview # 24: D-backs vs Phillies

Could winning a 4-game series against Phillies raise D-backs into first place in the NL West?

Prince Harry Visits New York
Prince Harry at Harlem RBI baseball youth program
Mario Tama - Pool/Getty Images


They are on a cold streak. In their last two series, the Phillies were swept by the D-backs, and lost to the Cardinals. Their away record is 9 wins and 28 losses. In this 4-game away series against the D-backs, how can they avoid being swept? Ben Lively, their best pitcher, pitches Saturday providing their best chance to avoid a sweep.


The D-backs, Rockies, and Dodgers were streaking towards the best records in baseball. In that context, the series between the D-backs and Rockies was a huge event. The D-backs lost the first game to the Rockies. Torey Lovullo said, “He [Greinke] was in total control of that game." It was a low scoring game and the D-backs lost 3-4. It left uncertainty over which team would emerge as the Division favorite.

If the Rockies had won the second game, even by a close score, they would have emerged as favorites, both by win-loss record and by team psychology. A far better future was realized in the top of the fourth inning: 14 batters, 10 runs, 9 hits, 2 walks, 1 error. Yes, it was fun for D-backs fans. Yes, it was record breaking. More importantly, it defined the D-backs as the Division favorites and it was a prescient event foreshadowing post-season play.

The third game was all Diamondbacks. After 4 innings, the D-backs were leading 9-1. Godley pitched a gem of a game, especially a game at Coors field. After allowing one homer in the first, he was dominant through his first 7 innings. The D-back offense had an 8-run lead by the fourth inning.

The D-backs are back home after winning the series against the Rockies in Colorado. More than a won series against a great team, awesome starting pitching and explosive offense shows they are on the path to playing well in the post-season. The series with the Phillies will be a chance to retake the Division lead.

Pitching Matchups

Friday. Patrick Corbin (92 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9) vs Mark Leiter(93 ERA+, 5.7 SO/9, 6.6 BB/9)

Although May and June were the worst of Patrick Corbin’s career in slugging against his slider, in June he reduced his homers allowed to 2.2 per 9 innings. And yet there is reason to expect he will pitch well against the Phillies. In his last game against the Phillies he allowed 2 earned runs in 6 innings pitched.

Jared Eickhoff was scheduled and on Tuesday landed on the 10-day DL with an upper back strain. In his place, Mark Leiter will start. I expect that the D-backs will score many runs.

Saturday. Robbie Ray (166 ERA+, 11.7 SO/9, 4.0 BB/9) vs Ben Lively (132 ERA+, 3.7 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9)

For the Phillies, the only above average starting pitcher is Ben Lively, who starts on Saturday facing Robbie Ray. This pair faced each other Sunday. Lively pitched 6 inning allowing 3 ERs, while Ray pitched 5.1 innings allowing 4 ERs. The D-backs bullpen allowed no runs, which allowed the D-backs to pull ahead and win.

Sunday. Randall Delgado (137 ERA+, 8.5 SO/9, 1.6 BB/9) vs Jeremy Hellickson (94 ERA+, 4.1 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9)

In order to give Walker an extra day rest, Delgado will pitch Sunday, moving Zack Greinke to Monday and Taijuan Walker to Tuesday. Delgado stepped up from the bullpen to start four games when the team needed him. He returned to the bullpen. After two appearances as a reliever, he is needed for a spot start. I feel confident he will pitch well.

On Tuesday against the Cardinals, Jeremy Hellickson pitched his best game of the season. He improved his ERA+ from 89 to 94. Despite his effort, his team lost extending their streak to 4 losses.

Monday. Zack Greinke (152 ERA+, 10.3 SO/9, 1.8 BB/9) vs Nick Pivetta (98 ERA+, 9.8 SO/9, 4.0 BB/9)

With an extra day rest, Zack Greinke should be the dominant pitcher. And the Phillies don’t have a hitter as good as the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado.

Nick Pivatta may have made an adjustment in his approach. After averaging 0.9 strikeouts per inning, in the last two game he struck out 19 batters in 13 innings. If he is to be a starter in the long term, the Crashburn Alley roundtable participants said he needs to lower his walks and consistently locate his fastball.

State of the Season: Beautiful Colors

Red: The D-backs are solidly competing. Winning feels good! Cheering for a contender is fun! Having hopes and dreams for post season games brightens every day with beautiful red.

Orange: The team is winning games despite some injuries. Coach Ron Gardenhire has made an impact after his return from cancer treatment. The orange edges give contrast to the bright red success.

Yellow: Bright yellow pitching is like finding an amazing ninth wonder of the world. D-backs ERA+ is the best in the Majors.

  • In many ways, Zack Greinke is pitching the best season of his career.
  • Zack Godley made the most of his opportunity to crack the rotation.
  • Mike Hazen’s acquisition of Taijuan Walker showed foresight and looks like genius. Fernando Rodney was a great acquisition, too.
  • Dan Haren has added vital gold gilt to the game plans.

Green: The D-back offense is vivid green, like the Green Lantern’s power ring. RBIs are part of it. Lamb and Goldschmidt lead the Majors (ranking one and two) in RBIs. Excellent base-running is part of it. The D-backs' 25 comeback wins are the most in the National League. Pinch hits are part of it. Two out hits are part of it.

Blue & Indigo: I look forward to seeing D-backs in the All-Star game. Even better, Paul Goldschmidt is contending for a much deserved award of NL MVP.

Violet: Ultra-violet light has high energy! I strive to write with high energy. This season, the team is soaring with eagles. Let the Myna birds squawk!

Mental Habit of the Series: Deal With Embarrassment

As a fan, I cringe when I see D-back players do three things. The first is Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop (TOOTBLAN). Aggressive base-running adds wins and also adds TOOTBLANs. The second is blown saves. Prior to this season, it seems the D-backs had more blown saves than they deserved. The third is strikeouts. Especially this season, D-back players don’t like to strikeout.

Many years ago in little league baseball, I was embarrassed by a TOOTBLAN. For me, the best response was to smile and admit it was an awful experience. Maybe it’s part of what made me likeable. On the other hand, MLB baseball players are a “horse of a different color.” They need a different response.

What happens when I am embarrassed? The obvious is that I am uncomfortably self-conscious because of what happened and/or because the behavior of people who saw what happened.

After I’m self-conscious, two things often happen. 1) the embarrassment escalates with a monotonically increasing systolic and diastolic blood pressure (and my face flushes). 2) my emotional brain thinks of non-logical ways to avoid that feeling in the future. Certainly, successful baseball players have better responses than me.

The habits that make baseball players successful lead to mostly great results AND some undesired results. Successful baseball players don’t want to change their habits because of the relatively few times when a potentially embarrassing result happens. Therefore, it is vital that they have a different response. Let’s think about what they do.

I saw a rare event. Runners in scoring position, no outs, and mighty Paul Goldschmidt struck out. Something interesting happened next. A silent and introspective Goldschmidt walked to the dugout, where everyone ignored him. What was going on? Maybe I was looking at a winning mental process!

Does it make a difference how many people saw my strikeout? Maybe when teammates ignore the strikeout, it helps avoid embarrassment because the player perceives fewer people were watching. Because he respects his teammates whether they watched carries weight.

However, there is more to it than that. Normal thinking will not deal with embarrassment. Something different is needed.

Perhaps baseball players could benefit from an idea in another area. Veterans with PTSD deal with emotions stronger than embarrassment. A study of treating PTSD veterans showed that yoga, yogic breathing, and meditation were effective after previous treatments were not effective. I wondered whether these methods could deal with embarrassment.

Why were yoga, yogic breathing, and meditation effective? Emma Seppala wrote that those actions can tune a person into uncomfortable emotions. That result opens the door to engaging emotions and dealing with emotions such as embarrassment. Dealing with embarrassment is better than letting it escalate and possibly impact successful habits.

After a strikeout, my conclusion is that the baseball player is in some kind of thoughtful/meditative state that allows him to deal with his embarrassment and render it harmless. Not interrupting his thoughtful/meditative state would be a second good reason for teammates to ignore Goldschmidt immediately after his rare strikeout.

In summary, successful baseball players immediately deal with embarrassment. It is the mental habit of the series.

“Research I conducted with veterans suffering from trauma…. Though the veterans are at first wary of being present with the emotions, feelings and memories that can arise during their first yoga, yogic breathing, and meditation practice, they report that over time those distressing inner experiences start to actually wane and heal. Best of all, they feel empowered.” Emma Seppala

“A study by Norman Farb from the University of Toronto published in Cerebral Cortex, however, suggests a radically new view: there are different ways of paying attention. While the prefrontal cortex may indeed be specialized for attending to external information, older and more buried parts of the brain including the “insula” and “posterior cingulate cortex” appear to be specialized in observing our internal landscape.” Emma Seppala