Touch 'Em All: Momentum built in KC?
It can shift in the blink of an eye, or it can slowly start to gain speed like the wheel on a train.
For the 2012 D-backs, their gain in momentum is the latter. After a prolonged stretch of losing, the Diamondbacks split back to back series before taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. They won in two different ways as well which nice to see; first on Friday, the D-backs won with their bats, and then on Sunday they won with great pitching.
The only game the D-backs lost? Well, that was the same game Ian Kennedy (3-4) started. The Diamondbacks ace has struggled mightily this season, which makes me ask, what is wrong with Ian Kennedy?
- All of last year, Kennedy gave up 4 or more runs only 6 times (33 appearances). He has already done so 3 times this year (9 appearances).
- In those 33 appearances, Kennedy gave up 19 home runs. He's already given up 7 this season.
- Last year, Kennedy held a team to 1 or fewer runs scored 16 times, resulting in 13 wins. This year he has done so just twice, resulting in 1 win and is on pace to hold a team to 1 or fewer only 8 times this year.
So what is wrong with Ian Kennedy?
My first thought was that maybe his pitch speed has decreased, but it hasn't. His average pitch speed on fastballs is still sitting right around 90, which is his lifetime average.
So if it's not the pitch speed, what is it?
To be honest, I don't know.
Talking to him in the locker room, he says that he feels great and is healthy. But yet he still consistently tells reporters after a bad outing, "I just didn't have it." I wonder if perhaps the pressure of being "the guy" for a preseason World Series contender was too much for Kennedy.
Some pitchers, like Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, relish the high-pressure spotlight, as evidenced in last year's playoffs. Guys like that know they are "the guy" for their team and can step up and perform with that knowledge in the back of their minds.
However, come playoff time last year, when the nation recognized Ian Kennedy as the ace for the D-backs, Kennedy struggled. Instead of shutting down the opponent and willing his team to victory, Kennedy had two losses with a 4.26 ERA.
Coming into this season, national baseball analysts were talking about Ian Kennedy winning 20 games again. That looks doubtful now; I think the pressure of being the ace of a preseason World Series contender may be too much for Kennedy.
After all, he did start his career struggling with expectations in New York. Hopefully I am completely wrong, but I guess only time will tell for the Diamondbacks' ace.
Series Report Card
Record: B+ The D-backs needed to take this series from the Royals, and they did just that.
Offense: B+ After his 9th inning home run in Colorado, it seems that Justin Upton's bat is waking up. However, the D-backs need that to become contagious throughout the rest of their lineup if they want to make a push in the NL West. It was nice in this series to see Paul Goldschmidt make some solid contact with the ball, if he can get going it would give much needed protection to some of the other hitters in the lineup.
Defense: B The defense continued to be very good, the D-backs need it to be like that if they are to make a run at the NL West this year.
Pitching: B Wade Miley was fantastic on Sunday, he is currently the ace of the Diamondbacks staff and has forced himself into this rotation even when Daniel Hudson comes back. I've already gone into the struggles of Ian Kennedy, but it was nice to see Joe Saunders have a good outing after he had struggled the past few times he had pitched. On the bright side, J.J. Putz looked great on Friday and Sunday. I think if he can get some consistent work out of the bullpen he should be just fine.
Managing: A- I loved the move to bring back Chris Young as a DH. While it didn't necessarily pay off on Sunday, Chris Young had a two-run double on Friday that was big the team's win.
Play of the Series: The play of the series was Chris Young's two-run double on Friday. Not only was it big in terms of that game, but it reminded everyone what the D-backs had been missing while their starting center fielder had been out.
Player of the Series: The player of this series was Justin Upton, he went 4-for-9 with 4 runs scored and two RBIs in the series. I must say, it is nice to finally give this award to Justin Upton, with him as the catalyst the D-backs have a shot, albeit a small shot, at making a comeback in the NL West.
The "Wily Mo Where are you?" Award: Last year, if you remember, the story of interleague play for the Diamondbacks was none other than Wily Mo Pena. He had 5 home runs in 46 at-bats with the team and really gave them a boost in interleague play. In this series, outside of Chris Young's run scoring double on Friday, the Arizona designated hitters went hitless.
Best Moment of the Series: The best moments of this series for me occurred on Friday and Sunday, as I got to watch J.J. Putz have two shut down ninth innings. If the back end of the D-backs bullpen is right, the Snakes just need to get a lead after 7 innings and they can forget about the next two. That makes winning ball games a whole lot easier, especially in the hot days of summer.