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Series Preview #37: Diamondbacks @ Giants

Let the battle for third place begin !

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Arizona Diamondbacks
Madison Bumgarner to take on his former team
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks are coming off their third straight series victory, taking two of three from the Rockies in Colorado. At 53-61 they’ve already won more games than last year’s total of 52, and are just 4 games back of the San Francisco Giants for third place in the NL West. The Giants are winners of 6 of their last 8 games having just completed a three game sweep of the Pirates thanks to a walkoff two run homer by Thairo Estrada on Sunday. This stretch has gotten them back to .500 at 57-57, but they’re still 6 games out of the Wild Card.

The D-backs hold a 6-3 advantage in the season series so far, outscoring the Giants 45-38. But four games on the road in San Francisco against a possibly resurgent Giants team is likely to be more of a challenge.

The strength of the Giants this year has clearly been the starting rotation, ranked 3rd best by Fangraphs, compared to 19th for the D-backs. The bullpen rankings of the two teams might surprise some, as Arizona ranks 23rd and San Francisco ranks 24th.

At the plate, the teams are fairly close in OPS+, 100 for the Giants, vs. 97 for the D-backs. But the D-backs will be without their leader in OPS+, as Ketel Marte is day to day with yet another Hamstring injury. The Giants leaders on offense have been Wilmer Flores, (120 OPS+) Joc Pederson, (126 OPS+) and Austin Slater. (117 OPS+)

The D-backs young athletic roster has notable advantages on defense and base running.

Fielding Runs: AZ +27 (8th) , SFO -34 (29th)

Base Running: AZ +12(1st ) , SFO -3 (22nd)

Pitching Matchups

Monday August 15th, 6:45 P.M. Arizona Time

Returning to pitch in San Francisco for the 2nd time since joining the Diamondbacks Madison Bumgarner will be hoping to get untracked against his former team. Through his first 7 starts this year Bumgarner had a 1.78 ERA and a 4.70 FIP. Over his next 16 starts he’s had a 4.91 ERA with a 4.45 FIP. Regression is a harsh mistress indeed. His last 3 starts have been especially rough, allowing 15 runs on 26 hits, 6 walks and 2 homers while striking out just 10 in 17.1 IP, going 0-2 with a no decision. This will be the second time he’s faced the Giants this year, the first time coming on July 4th at Chase Field.

Alex Cobb continues to lead the NL in groundball rate (61%) with his sinker, splitter and curveball mix. But the defense behind him is not as good as last year, (.328 BABIP against, 26th in MLB Fldg %) leading to an ERA much higher than his FIP. He’s faced the D-backs twice this year, with a loss and a no decision.

Tuesday, August 16th, 6:45 P.M. Arizona Time

Merrill Kelly is coming off a mediocre 5 inning start and a no decision his last time out, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks against the Pirates. Prior to that he was on a 7 start run with a 1.49 ERA, and won pitcher of the month for July. He remains the most valuable pitcher on the team and with Zac Gallen emerging the team is developing a formiddable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.

Jakob Junis has the heaviest slider usage percentage (53%) of any starter in the league. (Min 50 IP as SP). He missed over a month with a Hamstring injury from June 11th to July 16th. The D-backs beat him on July 25th when he was unable to get out of the 5th inning and he was hit especially hard in his most recent start, getting tagged for 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in just 2.1 IP. But he can be tough with that slider so don’t count him out.

Wednesday August 17th, 6:45 P.M. Arizona Time

Unable to hold an early 3-0 lead, Zach Davies gave up 3 runs in 5 innings on August 12th against Colorado in a no decision. The team eventually lost 5-3. It was his 3rd start since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out over a month. Davies will hope to finish the season strong and set himself up for a payday should he decline the mutual option with the Diamondbacks for the 2023 season.

This looks like a mismatch on paper. But the Diamondbacks handed Carlos Rodon two of his six losses this year, most recently on July 26th when they got to him for 5 runs in 6 innings. He’s been lights out his last three starts however, going 3-0 and allowing just 3 runs in 18.1 IP.

Thursday, August 18th, 12:45 P.M. Arizona Time, DAY BASEBALL !

Zac Gallen is coming off a dominating start against the Rockies in Colorado on August 13th, going 7 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits, a walk, and striking out 6. It was his second straight game going 7 scoreless. Over his last 5 starts, 31.2 IP he’s allowed just 4 ER, (1.14 ERA) walked 7 and struck out 31 without allowing a homerun. He’s gone 4-0 with a no decision in as good a stretch as he’s had with the team.

Logan Webb threw 8 shutout innings against the Pirates on Friday, picking up his 11th win. His 58.2% groundball right is right behind teammate Alex Cobb. He’s been more fortunate than Cobb however. Despite having a slightly higher average exit velocity on groundballs compared to Cobb, (86.0 vs. 85.4) Webb’s Batting avg on ground balls in play is just .212 vs. Webb’s .252 GB BABIP. Considering that Webb doesn’t induce any softer contact on grounders than Cobb, it’s anybody’s guess why so many fewer are getting through for hits compared to his teammate.

I expect a competitive series. The Giants are fighting to get back in the Wild Card race while the Diamondbacks young players are hustling and proving they belong.