Well, an annoying start to the second half was underway with being swept out of Atlanta by a team that was under .500. Now the Arizona Diamondbacks will take on the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio in hopes of turning things around and getting back to their winning ways. Fortunately we will have our two best pitchers going for us who haven’t pitched in approximately 72 days, so there is a good chance that we will be able to get some wins here. Let’s see what we can expect from this midweek series with the Reds!
Game 1: Robbie Ray vs. Sal Romano
Robbie Ray will finally pitch again, having last pitched on July 6th against the Dodgers in Los Angeles when he went 6 innings striking out 13 batters and allowing just one run. He didn’t pitch in the All-Star game, so he has literally 11 days of rest since his last start. Hopefully that will fill his tank for the second half because we are really going to need some help to get back on track. Sal Romano will be making his third career start, and the 23-year old righty has been pretty average in his first two starts. He has a 4.50 ERA, good enough for a 102 ERA+ and 8 K’s in 8 IP. His first two starts were against the Brewers and the Rockies, so hopefully we can put up some runs against the young hurler and win game 1.
Game 2: Zack Greinke vs. Tim Adleman
Game 2 will pit our ace against another below replacement level starter in Tim Adleman, so we should have the pitching advantage in these first two games. This is what we are paying Greinke the big bucks for, and he has been delivering big starts all year long. We need to stop the losing and win these first couple of games in Cincinnati, so look for Greinke to be the anchor of this staff and play like the All-Star that he is. He is 11-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 131 K’s in 116.1 innings pitched, so he is at or near the top of the league in most of the important pitching statistics. Adleman on the other hand has been struggling this year and has an ERA that is sitting just below 5.00 in 88.1 innings. He strikes out a lot of batters, but he also walks a lot of batters and gives up a lot of Home Runs. Ideally this is the type of series where our offense can get back on track and ignite the fire that seemed to have been burned out the last couple of weeks.
Game 3: Taijuan Walker vs. Luis Castillo
Taijuan Walker appears to be fully back after his DL stint with a blister on his pitching hand, and he will play a very important role in the success of this team in their push for the playoffs. His last start against the Reds however, was an unmitigated mess. He gave up 5 runs and 3 BB’s in just 5 IP back on July 8th, which was ended up being a loss (not surprisingly). Hopefully after a nice little break for the All-Star game, he had some time to work on some things and pitch in the same way that he did in Atlanta last week where he gave up just two runs on 5 hits, with no walks over six innings. Luis Castillo is only slightly more experienced than Sal Romano, and has had just five starts in his major league career so far. The bad news? … One of those starts was against the Dbacks and he pitched 6.2 innings of amazing baseball where he struck out 8 batters, and allowed just 3 hits and 1 walk. Hopefully the second time around the Dbacks offense is able to see him better and know what to expect.
Despite a horrendous pitching staff, the Reds actually have played well on offense and have some really good players this year. They are averaging a respectable 4.78 runs per game in 2017 which is well above average for the league, and they have a lot of talent up and coming. Also, if the Reds were a winning team, a lot of people would actually be talking about Joey Votto as a potential MVP candidate because he is playing out of his mind this year (this is my surprised face). In addition to Votto, players like Adam Duvall, Scooter Gennett, Billy Hamilton, and Scott Schebler are helping to lead a young offense. As a whole, they hit a lot of Home Runs and steal a lot of bases, and can be very dangerous if you aren’t careful (which we saw a few weeks ago at Chase Field).
The Diamondbacks on the other hand have hit a huge rut and are struggling mightily to get anything going. Some thought that the All-Star break would present a fresh start for a group that looked lethargic and not focused, but so far that has not proven the case. It is already July 18th, but the Dbacks have only scored 33 runs this entire month (11 games) which is averaging only 3 runs per game. To put this into perspective, even with this major offensive slump they are among the league leaders in runs per game with an average of 4.95/game. The 3.00/game that they have been averaging in July is more than a full run worse than the worst offensive team in all of baseball (the Padres), who are averaging 3.60/game for the season so far. That is just how bad they have been doing.
This lack of offense unmistakably coincides with the return of A.J. Pollock, because the offense has averaged just 2.55 runs per game since his return. Now this seems counterintuitive, because he is a phenomenal athlete and offensive player, and I’m not implying that there is any causation here. No causation, but there is an undeniable correlation. Despite the struggling offense, Paul Goldschmidt has been marching his way towards his best attempt at NL MVP, and he is currently on pace for career highs in:
- Home Runs
But we can’t rely on our hometown superhero forever, and if the rest of our offense continues to struggle, teams will just start walking Goldy again. A struggling Cincinnati pitching staff seems like the perfect time to break loose and regain some confidence.
This series comes at a relatively crucial time in the Diamondbacks season. The series at hand is well within reach, and should be an easy win for a team that has playoff ambitions. They have their two All-Star starting pitchers and the pitchers for the Reds are not doing that great (*outside of Castillo). I don’t normally say that a sweep is needed, and I am having a really hard time saying that right now. But I think that if there were ever a series where a sweep felt extremely important, this is it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and hopefully we head into the weekend with a 56-39 record and feeling much better about our beloved team!