I’m not sure there is any way to describe the start of this Diamondbacks season as anything less than a pleasant surprise. For the first time in approximately a billion years, they currently lead the season series against the Dodgers, they are in first place the latest into the season since September of 2018, and depending on who you ask, are up to a 20.6% chance of making the playoffs. Given the strength of their schedule so far, most would have been satisfied with a mere .500, much less leading the division.
They head to Florida to take on the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are currently at 6-7 on the year, but five of those losses have come at the hands of the Mets. They’ve come away with series wins against the Twins and Phillies when not playing New York.
Game 1 — 4/14, 3:40PM: Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 7.27 ERA/65 ERA+, 2.19 WHIP) vs. Trevor Rodgers (0-2, 6.00 ERA/78 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP)
The start of the 2023 season has been exactly what everyone thought it was going to be for Madison Bumgarner. He’s had two starts so far, both against the Dodgers. His first time out, he was tagged for five runs in 4 IP, in route to a loss. His second start was better in a sense, meaning that he gave up less runs and the team won the game, though he did not factor into the decision. Where he has struggled more than anything is with walks. In the young season, he has already given up ten walks, which has inflated his WHIP sky-high. When your stuff is declining, going out there every fifth day is hard enough without handing out free passes like they’re, well, free.
Trevor Rodgers’s season has started off much the same way. Instead of the Dodgers, he’s faced the Mets twice, but each time they’ve four runs, three earned, off of him. Between that and the Marlins’ anemic offense in those two games, he’s already picked up two losses on the season. As early as it is, his numbers this season already match up fairly closely to his career numbers, so there isn’t much reason to believe there will be much change, at least in this game against the Diamondbacks. Of note, he leads baseball in HBP, having already plunked three batters, two shy of his career high already. Hopefully the team brings extra padding.
Game 2 — 4/15, 1:10PM: Ryne Nelson ( 1-0, 4.91 ERA/95 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP) vs. Braxton Garrett (0-0, 4.70 ERA/101 ERA+, 2.08 WHIP)
Ryne Nelson has been wild, like most of the Diamondbacks pitching staff. In his two starts, he has walked five batters, and, on the flip side, the strike outs haven’t really been there yet. Despite that, he’s been decently effective, limiting the Padres and Dodgers to three runs in five and six innings respectively, and kept the Diamondbacks in contention for both games. Hopefully, he will take advantage of the softer offense to bring his K/9 back up closer to his MiLB career numbers. That would be 10.5 as opposed to the 4.9 he is currently sporting.
Garrett has been in the majors for four seasons now. He’s the type of pitcher that will strike batters out, but is also just as likely to walk them. He also isn’t going to go deep into games. His first two starts against the Mets have been 3.0 and 4.2 innings each. With a WHIP over two so far this season, a little bit of patience will go a long way to giving the Diamondbacks an advantage in this game.
Game 3 — 4/16, 10:40 AM: Zac Gallen (1-1, 4.58 ERA/101 ERA+, 1.19 WHIP) vs. Sandy Alcantara (1-1, 5.79 ERA/80 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP)
Grab some coffee, because this promises to be the most interesting match up of the series. Gallen had a bumpy couple of starts at the beginning of the season, seeming to struggle with fatigue and the pitch clock. However, his third start, with a bit of help from a very generous zone from the home plate umpire, was phenomenal. He held the Brewers scoreless over seven innings, allowing just four baserunners and striking out 11. He definitely looked like the elite pitcher from last season.
Opposing him for the Marlins is the 2022 Cy Young award winner, Sandy Alcantara. He’s a workhorse who pitches into the eighth inning more often than not. He already has thrown one CGSO this season, but his last start against the Phillies was bad. Only four innings long, he gave up a whopping nine earned runs. I wouldn’t count on a repeat performance, so the Diamondbacks will need to bring their A-game to support Gallen in this one.
Despite the difference in record at the moment, I’m not sure that this is a slam dunk series. I’m personally at the point where I don’t expect a win any game that sees Bumgarner take the mound, then in the third game, the Diamondbacks face off against one of the best pitchers in the sport, with a toss up in the middle. This series has the feeling of a trap, where they go into it expecting to continue rolling, take their foot off the gas, and get beat. Coming out strong against the poorly performing Rodgers in game one would set the tone, and give them a cushion in the next two games.
I think they pull it off though, and I’ll say they win two out of three, specifically games one and three.