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Snake Bytes, 6/22: Jolly Rogered

The D-backs stormed aboard the Pirates’ ship under cover of darkness and took them by surprise. This one was over early.

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The Sunday Post Moves Last Newspaper Journalists Out Of Fleet Street Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images


[AP] Alex Avila hits home run in Diamondbacks’ win over Pirates - Ketel Marte and Alex Avila each hit two-run homers and the Arizona Diamondbacks scored eight runs in the first three innings to power their way to a 9-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. Marte’s blast capped a three-run first, while Avila’s shot in the third extended the NL West-leading Diamondbacks’ advantage to 8-0. Jon Jay doubled in each of the first two innings, the second of which drove in two runs. The center fielder is hitting .340 in 13 games since being acquired June 6 from Kansas City in a trade.

[AZ Central] Jon Jay ignites offense as Diamondbacks trounce Pirates - “I’m just trying to go out there and be myself,” Jay said. “I just try to keep it simple. We’ve got a great core group of guys here. I’m just trying to be a complement to the group we have already.” He’s done more than that. Perhaps a lot more. “He’s come in and he’s been unbelievable for us at the top of the lineup,” Mike Hazen said. “Almost every day he’s getting on base a couple of times and he’s just sparking us in so many different ways. He’s giving us professional at-bats. That’s something that we weren’t putting together consistently during that rut in May, which we’ve come around to doing now. It’s all sort of adding back up together again.”

[dbacks] Avila comes alive as D-backs beat Pirates - “It’s definitely not easy,” Avila said. “Physically, it’s about as hard to hit as ever in this game. That definitely takes a toll mentally. But not so much that you don’t believe in what you’re capable of, but just the ‘when is it going to end?’ Because you know it’s going to end at some point. It’s just like, when is it going to?” As Avila’s struggles intensified, so did the chatter from fans and on talk radio that the D-backs should get rid of him, or at least play him sparingly. Lovullo, though, refused to let any of that influence his thinking. His patience was rewarded Thursday. “For me, it was still early in the season,” Lovullo said. “He’s been a proven hitter before. He’s done it before. I knew that he was relaxed enough to believe that he could still do it.

[The Athletic] What Alex Avila learned from a long-awaited productive day at the plate - There’s no guarantee a two-hit day is the end, although it did raise his average 15 points. Avila’s last multi-hit game was a 3-for-4 performance, with another home run, against the Phillies. He went 4 for 62 — for a .065/.183/.065 line — from then until Thursday. The hole he’s dug for himself is deep, and Avila knows the climb out will be gradual and methodical. “I’ve got around 100 at-bats,” Avila said. “It might take me another 100-150 at-bats to get the numbers to where everybody expects them to be.”

Team News

[] Shelby Miller to make first 2018 start Monday - Miller made four appearances in extended spring games at the team's Salt River Fields Spring Training complex and four Minor League rehab starts -- two for Double-A Jackson and a pair for Class A Visalia. "Not assuming my first one back [in the Majors] is going to be perfect," Miller said. "Command was the last thing for me to come back, but I think that's there right now. I feel good. Everything out of the stretch and out of the windup feels solid. I think I'm in a good place overall. I wouldn't be here if everyone didn't think I was ready to pitch here."

[Arizona Sports] Hall: Koch demotion more about schedule than performance - “We’re in a stretch now where we’re going through the longest period of time of the season without days off, so we really needed some bullpen help. The plan was, regardless of how he threw the other day in Anaheim, to option him down so we could get an arm up here,” Hall said. “Matt Koch is going to be fine. He has proven that he can be in the rotation. He has proven that he is a major league pitcher and he is going to be back and he’s going to impact this team for sure."

[The Athletic] How did John Ryan Murphy become such a potent offensive weapon in Arizona? - Surprisingly, not a ton has changed —while there might be some minor tweaks here, it’s not as if Murphy is a brand new guy when swinging a bat these days. His stance appears slightly more open in the clip from 2016, but some of that is the camera angle. His hands aren’t positioned much differently and there’s no big, new leg kick, though his hips are a bit more open in 2018 when his front foot comes down. The swing through contact looks extremely similar. Still, the results speak for themselves. Murphy is hitting the ball hard with more frequency in 2018 and he’s also getting under the ball more, elevating his launch angle in the process.

[SI] Ketel Marte is emerging as a key hitter for the Diamondbacks - We’ve seen players improve their performance simply by getting more aggressive on pitches in the zone. Two of the best recent examples of that on a macro level are two of the players right behind Marte on the June slugging percentage leaderboard, Freeman and Ozuna. Both of them went from good to great hitters by abandoning their previous patience, which doubled almost as a vice, and attacking more pitches in the zone. We’re seeing the same approach from Marte in June. If the increased aggressiveness on pitches in the strike zone proves to be the foundation for his midseason turnaround, there’s good reason to believe he can keep it going the rest of the year.

[] How will Robbie Ray affect D-backs' rotation? - When Ray returns, he could replace Buchholz in the rotation, or it's possible that Miller might need some time in the bullpen as he regains his arm strength. Arizona could also move one of the other starters to the bullpen, as well. Another option (that doesn't sound likely) is the D-backs going with a six-man rotation. We floated that idea by manager Torey Lovullo on Tuesday, and he didn't seem to like it. Buchholz has been very good this season for Arizona, registering a 2.94 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in six starts.

[AZ Central] GM Mike Hazen: Diamondbacks could slow-play any deadline deals - “It’s hard to talk about what changes or upgrades or improvements need to be made to the club until you see the club in action,” Hazen said Thursday afternoon. “And we haven’t seen the club in action all year." Hazen doesn’t expect the club to be overly active on the trade front over the next few weeks, unless a deal materializes that the Diamondbacks can’t refuse. More than likely, though, he thinks the team will let things play out closer to the deadline, perhaps waiting to see what needs arise, either due to lack of performance or injury.

[The Athletic] Have the Diamondbacks unlocked the secret of turning bad pitch-framers into good ones? - All three current Diamondbacks catchers agree that the organization talks about framing improvement as much or more than any other organization they’ve been in. Murphy likened it to the Yankees, with whom he progressed through the minors. Murphy was a very raw catcher back then, he said, but the Yankees always harped on the defensive side of things before worrying about getting their catchers to hit. “I was lucky enough to be in an organization where it was stressed at the highest level,” Murphy said. “Catching was the only thing that mattered. At least, that’s what it felt like to a catcher.”

[AZ Central] Taijuan Walker buys Paradise Valley home - Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Taijuan Walker just purchased a new Paradise Valley home for $2.69 million. The right-hander’s new house has four bedrooms, a den, fitness room, casita, 20-foot ceilings and huge glass retractable doors to the backyard. The backyard includes a pool, spa and built-in barbecue. Walker and wife Heather got a deal on the house, too. The price was recently reduced by $120,000. [Hat-tip: edbigghead]

And, elsewhere...

[USA Today] Baseball is bad right now, and the trend will be hard to reverse - It’s a shame Eddie Gaedel isn’t with us anymore. This is his time to shine. You remember Gaedel. He was the 3-foot-7 slugger hired by St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck as a publicity stunt to bat against the Detroit Tigers in the second game of a doubleheader in 1951. He couldn’t hit. He couldn’t run. He had no power. He certainly would have struck out if he ever took the bat off his shoulders. But, oh, how he could draw a walk. Gaedel would have fit right in today’s game of baseball, where fans are staying away in droves, scouts are covering their eyes in disbelief and baseball executives are running for cover.


[] MLB’s strikeout rate is soaring, and baseball is still good - Except there’s a problem with this narrative: I watch a lot of baseball, and it’s fine. It’s enjoyable! And it really doesn’t seem that different. Sure, there are more 97-MPH monsters after the fifth inning, and there are more dingers, and sometimes both of those can make me roll my eyes, but for the most part, baseball seems mostly the same.

[HPE] Kill the (robot) ump! - Let's assume someone seriously wants to create a robot umpire or sports referee. Is it possible to build an accurate and trustworthy augmented reality solution today? Or must we wait for the technology to catch up? The fact that computers can make faster and more accurate decisions than human beings shouldn’t distract us from recognizing that making a call is imposing judgment on the physical world. [Hat-tip: asteroid]