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Series Preview #40: Giants @ Diamondbacks

Two fringe wild card contenders face off for a four game series

This is what the NL Wild Card Race Looks Like

The San Francisco Giants come to town starting tonight for a critical four game series with playoff implications. That’s an amazing statement when you think about it, as the DBacks are just 61-60, one game ahead of the Giants who are 60-61. But such is the wacky world of the 2019 NL Wild Race where 7 teams are within 5.5 Games of each other in the standings. A 3-1 series loss for either team, while not quite yet a knockout blow, would put either of them down on the canvas for a 10 count.

To the consternation of many, the DBacks have just a 7-6 edge in the season series. On Jun 27th the Giants started the Day 34-45, 11 Games under .500 and the baseball world expecting them to sell at the trade Deadline. However they hosted the Diamondbacks for a four game series on their turf and split the series two games a piece. They then proceeded to go 19-6, to get to two games over .500 and climb into the Wild Card race. Madison Bumgarner , Will Smith and Jeff Samardzija are all still Giants, and still pitching well.

August has been an up and down month for the Giants so far however. They started the month 1-6, but are 4-2 in their last 6. So are they hot, cold, or just bobbing along as another mediocre team clinging to fading Wild Card Game hopes ?

Their offense has just an 86 OPS+ for the year, but has been much better since July. Over the last 14 days splits their hottest hitters have been Kevin Pillar, Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, and Pablo Sandoval. (EDIT: Panda is on the IL as of the 14th, so not playing this series)

The bullpen has been a strength for the Giants this year as they lead the NL in both Bullpen ERA (3.76) and Bullpen FIP (3.97). The DBacks rank 5th in Bullpen ERA (4.38) and 6th in Bullpen FIP (4.36).

However for the month of August, and despite yesterday’s game in Colorado, the Dbacks actually have the better bullpen numbers for the month, 3.33 ERA vs. 3.83 for the Giants. Splits Here They may need a fresh arm for this series though, as the pen was taxed in the Rockies series, working 15 innings in the three games. Torey tried to spread it around as evenly as possible however, as can be seen here

The Diamondbacks for their part have won 3 of their last 4 series, and are 7-5 since since the trade deadline. Despite 4 errors in yesterday’s series finale loss to the Rockies, the DBacks still rank 2nd in the NL in Fielding % and also 2nd in Defensive Runs Saved. Report Link However the team’s chances were potentially dealt a blow when starter Robbie Ray had to leave yesterday’s game after just two innings with back spasms. He will get an MRI today and manager Torey Lovullo is hopeful he will not miss too much time. We’ll look to update his status further this evening.

The timing for an injury to one of your top starters can never be good, but especially troublesome now. Lately the Diamondbacks starters have been struggling as a group with a number of short outings from multiple starters.

At the plate Ketel Marte continues to be the team’s best hitter and a peripheral MVP candidate. Yesterday’s 4 hit game drove his OPS+ up to 140 on the year. Nick Ahmed is coming off a great series in Colorado and has been the top hitter by OPS over the last 14 days. Eduardo Escobar continues to slump however and his Batting avg is down to .273 and OPS+ down to 116. The RBI total is nice and all, and he does have 5 HR for the month so far, but he needs to start hitting and getting on base again if the Diamondbacks are to remain in this Wild Card race. Last 14 Days Batting Splits

Starting Pitching Matchups

Dereck Rodriguez is having a true Sophomore slump. After posting a 6-4 Record and 2.81 ERA in his rookie season last year, he started this year in the Giants rotation. However he was demoted to the bullpen after 8 starts and a 5+ ERA. He worked out of the pen for a month, and has been optioned four times this year. His velocity has been down a tick and his HR/FB rate has more than doubled and his BABIP has risen 30 points. He was good in his last minor league start however, so we’ll see. DBacks Hitters vs. Rodriguez H2H

Alex Young had a little of the rookie shine knocked off him in his last outing against the Dodgers in LA. He worked just 3.1 IP, and gave up 4 runs on 5 hits 3 Walks, 2 K’s, and a HR. He and the team will hope for a rebound and perhaps a repeat of his MLB debut back on June 27th when he held the Giants to 1 run in 5 innings. Keep an eye on his peripherals and BABIP though. The .198 BABIP is not sustainable, so he’ll need to K a few more and walk a few less to maintain a sub 4.00 ERA going forward.

In year 4 of a 5 year, $90M deal, Jeff Samardzija is having his best year as a Giant in terms of ERA . However he may have been a bit hit lucky this year, as Peripherals and BABIP suggest. He’s been hot lately though. In his last 4 GS, 24 IP he’s allowed just 3 Earned Runs and a .148 B.A. against. DBacks hitters vs. Samardzija H2H

Mike Leake has allowed 31 HR on the year, the most in the majors. Never a big strikeout guy, he depends on not walking batters, keeping the ball down and inducing groundballs and double plays. But his GB% is down to 47%, (From 53% a couple years ago) and his HR/FB rate has zoomed to over 19% after being around 13% most of his career. He’s been steadily losing velocity on his Fastball, from 93 in 2015 all the way down to 89 this year. And that fastball has been getting absolutely hammered. There may not be an easy fix here. Fingers crossed the Dbacks coaching staff and Dan Haren can help him come up with something to turn it around. Giants hitters H2H against Leake

No starter listed for the Giants at the moment. I will update the preview when I have it.

Merrill Kelly is in a slump, no two ways about it. After being a pretty dependable innings eater through the first half of the season, over his last 4 starts he’s managed just 19 innings, giving up a whopping 24 runs on 32 hits, including 8 home runs. He’s only walked 5 batters, but his command in the strike zone has completely deserted him. He’s been leaving pitches over the heart of the plate and he just doesn’t have the stuff to get away with that. Without fine command on the edges Merrill Kelly is a Pinata. Hopefully he finds that command he had earlier again, soon.

Madison Bumgarner continues to be one of the best starters in the game. While his career ERA+ of 122 is not as eye popping as some others, combined with his durability that still makes him an “Ace”. He goes deep in games, throws strikes, and when he is on, will dominate, as the Diamondbacks experienced June 30th when he shut them down to the tune of 1 run on 4 hits, 0 walks and 9 K’s in 7 innings. His big game ability and dominance when it counts the most still appear to be intact, as does his stuff. His velocity and movement seem to be about the same as it was before he had the recent spate of injuries the previous few years. Tough customer any way you slice it, and he still is a threat at the plate too, despite his batting numbers being down a bit this year. (just 1 HR)

Rookie Zac Gallen only went 4 IP in his 2nd start for the Diamondbacks, but it was in Coors field. He gave up 9 hits, but only walked 1, and struck out 3. He limited the damage in a game the team won 9-3. He’ll be asked to do more than that on Sunday however, especially with the potential for a spot starter filling in for Robbie Ray on Monday against the Rockies, the DBacks can ill afford a short outing the day before.

A series victory would be great here, but the odds favor a 2-2 split for two fairly even teams.