The Diamondbacks have now slipped to third place in the NL West and have been scuffling in the month of July. They are coming off of a series loss to the Washington Nationals at home, and are now 6-11 this month. However, as bleak as things may seem, there is still plenty of reason for optimism with this team. Don’t forget that they have the fifth best record in all of baseball, have a great pitching staff, and a great offense even if they aren’t firing on all cylinders right now. Truth be told, if this team is still destined to make the playoffs, I would much rather them struggle now than in September or October. The Dbacks have played 8 games this month against teams with a better record than theirs and they are 3-5 in those games, which is respectable if not expected. So while it seems like the sky is falling to some, the only series that I have been disappointed with this month was the Atlanta series last week. And conveniently, they have a chance to redeem themselves because our next series is against those Braves at home. Let’s see what we can expect this coming series!
Game 1: R.A. Dickey vs. Zack Greinke
In a matchup of two former Cy Young Award winners, we will see two veterans with very different styles. R.A. Dickey was a prototypical college pitcher and was expected to do great things when he was drafted 18th overall by the Rangers in 1996. He was a part of the US Olympic team that won bronze that year, and was on the front cover of Baseball America for the Olympic preview. This is an important note, because a team doctor with the Texas Rangers saw the cover and said the Rangers should examine Dickey further because his right arm looked odd in the picture. This examination revealed that he had no UCL whatsoever, and his $810,000 signing bonus was rescinded and instead an offer of $75,000 was set forth. After struggling in the minors and majors for the next eight years, Dickey realized a knuckleball would be his only option to stay in baseball. After refining his knuckleball craft, he had a short period of dominance with the Mets, and has been a league average pitcher and innings eater into his 40’s. The last time the Dbacks faced Dickey (last week), they struggled as Dickey scattered 8 hits across 6 innings allowing just one run. Hopefully the outcome is much different this time around.
Greinke is also a crafty veteran, but is quite different from Dickey. Greinke was also a first round pick by an AL team, albeit a full decade after Dickey was drafted, and won his Cy Young at 25 years old whereas Dickey won his at 37. Zack has been the epitome of an ace this year for a contending Diamondbacks team, and has led the pitching staff to be one of the best in the majors. Zack is 11-4 with a 2.97 ERA across 121.1 innings with 134 strikeouts this year and has been good enough to be worth 3.6 bWAR. His 157 Adjusted ERA+ is fifth best in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Corey Kluber. Greinke had a good showing in the All-Star game, but in his one start since the break he struggled a little against Cincinnati going 5 innings while allowing 3 runs. I think that he will have a great game tonight and get this team back on track.
Game 2: Mike Foltynewicz vs. Taijuan Walker
Mike FordChevyMix is young, but undoubtedly a talented individual. He is a hard thrower and has the size and build of a potential ace, but I wonder if he has the mental toughness to become one. In his last start against the Dbacks, he was visually upset about many different things that happened during the game, and it just reminded me of a little kid throwing a fit because his friend got the grape juice and he had to settle for apple juice. Taijuan Walker will be making his first start since the birth of his son, and congrats to him and his family! This special season and moment reminds me of 2011 when Ian Kennedy pitched a complete game shutout in his first start after his little girl was born. Walker has been impressive in his first season in the desert pitching to a 3.61 ERA across 87.1 innings with 76 strikeouts. He has been around long enough that it is very easy to forget that he is just 24 years old, but this sure looks like it could be a breakout type year for him. Hopefully he gets the “W” in this match up of youngsters.
Game 3: Jaime Garcia vs. Patrick Corbin
Jaime Garcia had one heck of a game last week, pitching a quality start against the Dodgers, getting the win, and hitting a grand slam. This skyrocketed his trade interest as the deadline approaches, but hopefully we can temper that interest by scoring a bunch of runs off of him on Wednesday. His last start against the Dbacks was a very good one where he gave up just one run in 7 innings, but seeing a pitcher for the second time in 10 days is usually detrimental to the pitcher and beneficial to the opponent. Patrick Corbin has been an interesting story this year and has swayed from dominant, to DFA worthy, and back to dominant again. As Michael so eloquently pointed out last week, the development of another pitch has made a huge difference for him lately and will likely continue to play a huge role in his success going forward. I, for one, am extremely encouraged by the signs that I am seeing with him, but I still have that nervous feeling that he could fall back to mediocrity at a moment’s notice. Another month or two of pitching well though ought to take that feeling away.
The Diamondbacks are a pretty good offense that is struggling pretty badly right now. They average 5.05 runs per game this year, but in outside of two offensive explosions against the Reds they are barely averaging 3 per game in July. The success of the recent trade for J.D. Martinez has yet to manifest itself thanks to him being hit in the hand. However, a pinch hit from Martinez last night was a positive sign and hopefully that means he will be back in full capacity soon.
One thing that I think will prove paramount as the season moves into August and September will be the playing time of the starters in the field. Torey has shown an extreme propensity for giving guys days off, and cycling the bench players throughout the lineup on a regular basis. This was alright early in the year, but in my opinion that needs to become far less frequent as the season comes towards the back end. The lineup needs to consistently feature Pollock, Peralta, Lamb, Goldy, and Martinez over the next two months if we want to contend for the first wild card slot. Now, that is not to say days off shouldn’t happen, but isn’t this what we have been giving them days off for up until this point? This is especially important because some of the rest of the offense has shown a certain level of ineptitude at times, and we can’t rollout lineups where Descalso and Marte bat 1-2 and also have Herrmann and Blanco in there too.
The Braves offense is sneaky. While they are not an amazing offense, they are still above league average at scoring with 4.69 runs per game, and they have some pieces that are very dangerous. Freddie Freeman missed a huge chunk of time earlier this season with an injury, but now that he is back he has provided a huge boost to the Atlanta offense. Our pitchers can’t take them for granted, because we can’t have a repeat performance of the Braves series last time out.
The Diamondbacks should have the advantages across the board for this series; better pitching, better offense, and playing at home. However, this Braves team has shown some fight, and they have some good players themselves so I think that winning 2 out of 3 for the Dbacks is a fair and realistic expectation. While this series feels far more dire than it likely is, we do need to get back to winning consistently and this is the series to do it. Go Dbacks!
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