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Snake Bytes, 7/13: Pizza Discontent

Into another tough series on the road against a team with a winning record, go the D-backs. But at least our cheap pizza is safe...

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Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter Apologizes After Using Racial Slur On Company Conference Call Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Recaps

[AZ Central] Diamondbacks' funk continues with loss to Rockies - The past two weeks have not resembled that 2-15 skid from two months ago; unlike before, the Diamondbacks’ offense is now performing at least at a competent level. Their losses have been close, competitive. Of late, their issues have been in the starting rotation, which has produced just two quality starts this month and none in the past week. To that end, left-hander Robbie Ray’s performance on Thursday was encouraging, despite the end result. Ray had struggled in his previous two starts and has yet to find the level of consistency or dominance he achieved for most of last season. But against the Rockies, he threw strikes, used his breaking ball effectively and took a scoreless outing into the sixth inning before the day got away from him.

[dbacks.com] Improved pitching can’t hang with Rox in loss - “That’s about as good as I’ve been all year with all my pitches,” Ray said. “I was mixing, and me and [catcher John Ryan Murphy] got on the same page pretty quickly, and whatever he was throwing down, I was throwing it and it was working.” The offense, though, couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities it had, going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. “We only scored one run, but I felt like we hit the ball really well today,” D-backs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said. “We hit the ball really hard, a lot of times at people. We just had nothing to show for us. They hit a bunch of bloopers that fell for them, and we hit the ball hard. That’s baseball.”

Team news

[The Athletic] Is July becoming another May for the Diamondbacks? - With Miller out with an elbow injury for an undetermined amount of time, bolstering the rotation looks more and more like it could be a priority for the Diamondbacks on the trade market. The Diamondbacks have two starters in the All-Star Game and another who would be worthy of starting a playoff game, assuming Ray finds the consistency he unlocked last year. But the unit beyond those three comes with few guarantees. “I don’t think there’s any concern,” said Ray when asked about the team’s recent downturn. “We know how to play. Every guy in this clubhouse can step up on a daily basis so we’re not really concerned about it. We’re just going out and doing our job.”

[Arizona Sports] Get Manny: For a playoff berth, D-backs need to trade for Machado - The Arizona Diamondbacks are wasting time. Every day Manny Machado is in another team’s lineup is another day playing a game of chicken that the D-backs will lose. There is never a reason to keep under-productive veterans. Jake Lamb, Chris Owings, Jorge De La Rosa, Jarrod Dyson, Shelby Miller and Alex Avila might be wonderful people so this isn’t a personal attack, but they contribute much more to losing than they do to winning. If Arizona’s farm system is so pathetic that there are no options in Triple-A Reno or Double-A Jackson to replace one of the vets, then trade what you have to the Orioles. Not today, not soon — the Machado trade should have happened before July started.

[ABC 15] Diamondbacks to continue Papa John’s promotion, applaud founder’s resignation - The Arizona Diamondbacks plan to continue their promotion with Valley-based Papa John’s restaurants but applauded the resignation of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter in light of the use of a racial slur, the D-backs told ABC15 in a statement Thursday. “We are glad that at a national level, Papa John’s took swift action to deal with the issue. From our team standpoint, our partnership is with local owner/operators in Phoenix and completely separate from the national company. That promotion will continue (the deal that gives 50% off on the day after a D-backs victory),” the D-backs said in a statement.

[Fangraphs] Descalso and Avila Hurl Their Way into Weird History - one has to go back to July 31, 1956 to find a case where a team used multiple position players for two innings or longer. On that day, the Pirates used twin brothers Johnny O’Brien and Eddie O’Brien, both infielders who dabbled on the mound, for two innings apiece in a 7-0 loss to the Cardinals. Johnny was making his fourth of eight pitching appearances that year and 25 in his career, while it was the first of Eddie’s five major league appearances. Via Elias, when Descalso served up the homer to Marquez, it was the first time a pitcher homered off a position player since June 23, 1986, when Giants pitcher Mike LaCoss went yard off the Padres’ Dane Iorg.

[AZ Central] Greinke added to National League All-Star Team - “You guys that saw me pitch in spring training – I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get any outs this year,” he said. “To end up doing as good as it’s been so far, it’s pretty exciting. It’s probably the best support staff I’ve had in my career. (The) defense has been incredible, catchers incredible and then (the) front office gives us good game plans and everything to be prepared for stuff. I needed that this year to have as good a year as it’s been so far.” Greinke said that, with as bad as he was throwing in spring training, he was starting to adjust his expectation level, almost preparing for the worst. His fastball improved from the spring, but still sits only around 89-90 mph, and he’s had to get by without a consistent slider, the pitch that was his best secondary weapon last year.

[Arizona Sports] Bickley: Diamondbacks are a wicked conundrum as All-Star break nears - After 93 games, Zack Greinke’s .294 batting average is the highest on the team. It has a 34-year old relief pitcher with Rookie of the Year credentials. Torey Lovullo insulted one of the most respected catchers in baseball. Clay Buchholz revealed his deep kinship with Donald Trump, who once introduced the starting pitcher to his future wife. And the team’s most marketable star, reliever Archie Bradley, admitted in a radio interview that he once “pooped his pants” before entering a game. This can’t get any stranger. But it will.

And, elsewhere...

[The Athletic] Are position players better at pitching than pitchers are at hitting? - We ask our pitchers to hit much more often than we ask our hitters to pitch, even in today’s age of specialization. Almost all of these hitters are pitching in blowouts — all except whatever the Rays were doing the other day with Jesús Sucre, really — and there’s evidence that the strike zone becomes more favorable in blowouts. Everyone, including the hitters, wants to go home. But, for now, the early evidence has it. Despite Daniel Descalso’s dramatic defeat at the hands of a pitcher, position players have recently been slightly better at pitching than pitchers have been at hitting. Maybe this is another piece of evidence pushing us towards the universal designated hitter.

[Fast Company] Major League Baseball tickets are going biometric in 2019 - Clear, the company that lets people skip the TSA pre-check lines at airports, has announced it is teaming up with Major League Baseball and Tickets.com to introduce biometric ticketing at participating ballparks in 2019. A pilot program will arrive at select venues later this season. The partnership will make use of the API of MLB’s ticketing technology company, Tickets.com, so Clear members can link their profiles with their MLB.com accounts, entering Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park with just the tap of a finger—or maybe even facial recognition technology in the near future.

[SI] The Star That Still Won’t Shine: The Incredible, Unprecedented but Unseen Greatness of Mike Trout - Rarely, and not since the Cubs made Ernie Banks an icon of patience, has a team done less with a player this great than the Angels have done with Trout. One player can’t impact baseball the way someone like James can in basketball, but the truth is that baseball teams with a historically great player tend to be very good at some point. The Angels have been an exception. Twenty-four teams have won a playoff game since Trout broke into the big leagues. His Angels are not one of them. The only time they reached the playoffs with Trout, in 2014, the Royals swept them in the first round.