Touch 'Em All: D-backs drop series to Angels
The Diamondbacks knew their American League West interleague road swing against two of baseball's elite teams, the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, was going to be their toughest test of the season thus far. Unfortunately, they failed to answer the call.
The D-backs were the victims of two consecutive shutout victories by the Angels to close out a rocky six-game road trip.
"We knew it was going to be a tough trip," manager Kirk Gibson said following Sunday's loss. "We'd hoped for better results."
The team left Arizona with a five-game winning streak, and return home having lost four of six games on the road, including those back-to-back shutouts. The offense, which scored 37 runs during that five-game winning streak, completely shut down in the four losses on the trip, scoring a combined one run in those four games.
A major issue with the team's meager offense during the course of the season has been the production coming from the hot corner. Since being called up -- supposedly to be the everyday third baseman -- Josh Bell has hit a paltry .154 with one home run and three RBI.
With the trade deadline looming, just a little over a month away, the Snakes need to decide if Bell or Ryan Roberts will be the long- term answer at third this season. If not, the team must seek out another viable option, as the virtual non-existence of the third base bat is a major contributor to the struggles of the offense.
Though the team only won one of three games against the Angels, the pitchers performed well enough to win all three games, if the offense had come alive. The D-backs hurlers gave up only three runs in the entire series, and when that happens, you expect to win.
You don't expect a Major League Baseball team to get shut out two games in a row, but this squad has been riding the roller coaster up and down all season.
Postgame on Sunday, Gibson said the guys weren't doing anything different than normal -- they were just struggling at the plate.
This season it has been a story of all or nothing offensively for Arizona. If one or two players are swinging the bats well, then the whole team seems to be hitting. However, if no one gets going, the entire offense seems to struggle.
Overall, I think after this series defeat against the Angels, the D-backs surely feel like a golden opportunity was lost.
Series Report Card
Record: C+ After departing Arlington with a 1-2 record, Arizona would need to take two games from the Angels in order to leave the tough road trip at .500. They failed. Now the D-backs head back to the desert two games under the even marker.
Offense: C- The offense carried its strong performance on Thursday into the game on Friday, tagging former Diamondback hurler Dan Haren for five earned runs on eight hits. However, the squad was one-hit on Saturday by Ervin Santana, continuing the team's trend of being inconsistent offensively.
In Arizona's last 12 wins, they have scored at least four runs. However, in their last eight losses, the team has scored no more than two runs. So while there have been some very good starts from D-backs pitchers over the last few weeks, it is clear the team goes as the offense goes.
Gibson's squad cannot afford to tally offensive lapses as it did over the weekend. The D-backs compiled a string of 21 straight innings without scoring a run, stretching from the seventh inning on Friday through Sunday and heading into the upcoming series with the Mariners. There is really no excuse for being shut out two games in a row.
Defense: A- The Diamondbacks defense continued its good play of late, completing another series without any major defensive lapses. Paul Goldschmidt's error at first base in the fourth inning on Sunday was the only error in the series, and the play was just as much Ian Kennedy's fault, as his throw to Goldschmidt could have been much more accurate. I can't fault Justin Upton for being unable to find a fly ball in the sun in the seventh inning on Sunday. Still, the team's 32 errors on the season are the fourth-highest in the majors, and tops in the National League.
Pitching: B+ Arizona's starting pitching was very good in this series. Trevor Cahill pitched his best game of the season on Friday as the D- backs won 5-0. Each of the last 3 games Cahill has delivered his best performances of the season. On Friday he went seven strong innings allowing only three hits with no runs. On Saturday Joe Saunders faced his former team for the first time and pitched well, giving up a two- run home run to Mark Trumbo for the only runs allowed in the ball game. Unfortunately for Saunders, the offense didn't back him up, and the Angels got the win.
Ian Kennedy pitched extremely well on Sunday, earning the second complete game of his career, but he still got tagged with the loss. A 21- game winner last season, Kennedy has now lost seven of his last nine starts. On Sunday, he deserved better. Overall, the starting pitchers' ERA was 3.05 on this six-game road trip, which is a relatively solid number -- especially against two potent offenses.
Managing: A Kirk Gibson tried to mix and match his lineup coming into the game on Sunday, in an effort to spark his anemic offense. Unfortunately for Gibby, the team's bats remained ice cold and just would not heat up for the rubber game.
Play of the Series: The play of the series came in the sixth inning of Friday's game as Aaron Hill took a two-out Dan Haren pitch over the fence for a three-run home run that would seal the game for the Diamondbacks. The Angels intentionally walked clean up hitter Miguel Montero to get to Hill, and Hill made them pay.
Player of the Series: Trevor Cahill, who tallied another great outing on Friday, earned player of the series honors. In Cahill's seven strong innings, he notched eight strikeouts, and led the Snakes to their only win in the series against the Angels. Cahill now has three straight victories, following a dismal five-start winless streak.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award: This award goes to the entire Diamondbacks lineup on Saturday, as they were one-hit by Santana. Santana was 3-7 with a 5.74 ERA heading into Saturday, and only Justin Upton was able to manage a hit off of him. Sure, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but the D-backs came one J-Up swing away from being no-hit.
Best Moment of the Series: The best moment of this series was seeing it end, as the last two games were increasingly difficult to watch. I enjoy a pitcher's duel as much as the next person, but eventually some runs have to be scored. It will be a welcome relief for the team to come home after really struggling in Anaheim.
The Road AheadThe Diamondbacks return home to Chase Field to take on the Seattle Mariners in more interleague action. Ace Wade Miley will look to get his eighth win on Monday against Hector Noesi. The Mariners are now 29-39 on the season, fourth in the AL West. The six-game home stand presents a great opportunity for Arizona to get back over .500 for the first time since early May.