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Preview #84: Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers

The D-backs get a boost as this crucial series starts, in the return of A.J. Pollock.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Lineups

A.J. Pollock - CF Logan Forsythe - 2B
David Peralta - RF Corey Seager - SS
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Justin Turner - 3B
Chris Owings - SS Cody Bellinger - 1B
Brandon Drury - 2B Chris Taylor - LF
Chris Iannetta - C Enrique Hernandez - CF
Daniel Descalso - LF Yasmani Grandal - C
Ketel Marte - 3B Yasiel Puig - RF
Patrick Corbin - LHP Clayton Kershaw - LHP

I'm keeping my expectations manageable for this series, and the fact that the D-backs took the series over the Rockies - extending their lead to 4.5 games - helps with that. For this isn't a series the Diamondbacks "must" win. It would certainly be nice if they did, to be sure, but I'd settle for anything bar a sweep, against a side that has been incandescent of late. You know how good the D-backs have been recently? Winning at a .700 clip over their last 30 games? Well, over that time, Arizona have actually lost a game in the standings to Los Angeles. They've been the two best teams in the majors, which is part of what makes this series so interesting.

That said, particularly in tonight's contest, the advantage appears to lie strongly with the Dodgers. If these games had been seen by Torey Lovullo and Mike Hazen as particularly crucial, we might have seen the D-backs skip Corbin due to yesterday's off day, and give us Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke instead. It seems almost as if the team weighed the balance and decided not to go all-out in early July, preferring to take advantage of the extra rest for their starters. Given games count as much now as ones played in late September, it's an interesting tactic. I can see the point, but should we end up losing the division by one game to the Dodgers... tonight might be one we would like to revisit.

The D-backs do get the boost of having A.J. Pollock back in the line-up, for the first time since May 14. The team has gone 31-13 in his absence, which is good. But as shoewizard mentioned on Twitter, we've not been getting the production out of the lead-off spot which Pollock provided. Here are the stats for everyone with more than 10 PA at the top of the D-backs order this year, in descending order of OPS.

D'calso 8 31 27 5 6 0 5 0 0 4 8 .222 .323 .481 .804
Pollock 37 163 154 26 46 2 11 11 2 9 29 .299 .337 .455 .792
Blanco 29 129 115 26 28 2 7 7 1 14 28 .243 .326 .383 .708
Owings 5 24 22 3 6 0 2 0 0 2 1 .273 .333 .364 .697
H'baker 5 17 14 2 2 0 2 0 0 3 3 .143 .294 .286 .580
Fuentes 6 23 22 2 4 0 0 1 0 0 7 .182 .182 .273 .455

Outside of Descalso, who has not much more than a handful of appearances, no-one else has come close to hitting as well as Pollock. Blanco has done well in terms of walks and reasonably well for power - but I'm still glad to see him back, and am keen to see what he does in this series.