Touch 'Em All: Cubs dominate D-backs
The Diamondbacks went into the All-Star break hot as could be after taking three straight games from the NL West-leading Dodgers, but came out in a cold spell as they were swept by the Chicago Cubs this weekend.
It wasn't exactly the start to the second half Arizona was looking for, especially since this series was just weeks after the D-backs swept the Cubs, one of the worst teams in the majors, at Chase Field.
Over the course of the season, the D-backs have been inconsistent and have not been able to get all three facets of their game - offense, defense, pitching - going at the same time. In this series, however, all three facets were switched off.
Arizona is currently sitting at a crossroads in their season.
They cannot afford to lose to, let alone be swept by, teams that they should beat like the Cubs. This stretch to open the second half (although the Reds are a good team) is one Arizona must take advantage of, as the road gets much tougher further down the line.
Starting on July 30, the D-backs have a 13-game stretch that will very likely define their season, as they face the Dodgers, the Phillies, the Pirates and the Nationals. Because of that tough stretch, extra emphasis has to be added to games like the three the team just lost.
When October comes, and the D-backs are on the bubble for the playoffs, this series against the Cubs will be one the players will look back on with disgust, as they really blew a great opportunity.
As the Diamondbacks struggle, trade rumors will just get louder and louder as we come closer to the July 31st trade deadline, something I'm sure Justin Upton isn't looking forward to.
I can't comprehend why the Diamondbacks would even consider trading J-Up, and I'm hoping the "rumors" were just started to motivate the 24-year-old slugger.
Upton finished fourth in the NL MVP voting last year, and I don't think there is any way GM Kevin Towers would ever get anywhere close to equal value for him. Unless the D-backs management knows something about J-Up that no one else does, I can't see any reason why they would move him… but that's just me.
Towers gets paid the big bucks for a reason, so I suppose we should sit back and trust him to make the right move for the team.
Series Report Card
Record: F Arizona could not have started off the second half in a worse way, as the Chicago Cubs swept them; Chicago owns the fourth worst record in baseball.
Offense: F The Diamondbacks offense, which was on life support at the end of the first half, seems like it is D.O.A. here in the second half. They scored a run in the first inning of Friday's game, and then it was 14 innings until Chris Young's solo shot on Saturday provided the team's second run of the series. Aaron Hill supplied the only movement on the scoreboard Sunday with a solo shot in the 8th off of Shawn Camp. In all, Arizona scored only three runs in 27 innings in this series in Chicago. The D-backs have understandably hit well at home, as Chase Field is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. However, the team has struggled mightily at the plate on the road. The team's road batting average (.242) is good for 22nd in the Majors, while their 153 road runs are good for 27th in the Majors.
Don't let those numbers completely fool you; the Diamondbacks can win without hitting on the road. Last season, the team had the 27th best road batting average (.239) in the Majors. It's just a matter of some timely hitting and getting runners around to score that has been the difference this season. The team was just 4-for- 34 with runners on base in this series.
Defense: C+ Arizona's offense was not the only part of the team that sputtered out of the second half gate, as the defense also didn't start off too well, either. The D-backs had an error in each of their first two games, and had quite a few near-gaffes at other points during the series. It is worth noting that the team's defense did look better on Sunday, as there were several nice plays made by almost every member of the team's defense.
Pitching: B The Diamondbacks' pitchers were straight up outdueled by the Cubs pitchers in this series. On Friday, Ian Kennedy had one of, if not his worst outing of the season, as he gave up six earned runs in five innings to fall to 6-8 on the season. Kennedy has given up at least four earned runs in four of his last six outings, straying further and further from the pitcher that D-backs fans knew last year. Joe Saunders pitched decently in his return to the rotation, giving up three earned runs in six innings. On Sunday, Trevor Cahill struggled early, but settled in nicely; unfortunately the offense couldn't help Cahill out. The bullpen looked pretty good in this series, and for the most part, the pitching as a whole wasn't too bad. But you can't expect any pitching staff to win games with only three runs of support behind them.
Managing: B- Kirk Gibson knows the players are frustrated; he is frustrated just like they are. His plan to fix the problems seems to be simply to sit back and weather the storm. He believes that they team will turn it around eventually, and the team just needs to buy in to that process and get back on the same page. I'm giving Gibby a B- because he's doing the best he can, especially with so many trade rumors swirling around the club. However, I didn't really like the move to put Stephen Drew, a man with three RBI, in the clean-up spot on Sunday.
Play of the Series: This award goes to Chris Young for his diving catch in center field in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday. The catch saved a run and was really the only highlight of the day, or the series for the D- backs.
Player of the Series: After the overall horrendous play of the Snakes in Chicago, this reward is going to remain vacated until the next series, as there was no player truly deserving of the award.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award: This award, as it has so many times this season, goes to Justin Upton. He hit .000 in the series, going 0-for-10 at the plate and seeing his batting average drop to .264.
Best Moment of the Series: The best moment of this series was seeing it end. I don't like saying this about the team, but watching three abysmal games like the ones the D-backs played this weekend is tough to do. Hopefully the change in locale from Chicago to Cincinnati will serve the team well going forward.
The Road Ahead: The Diamondbacks head to Cincinnati for a four-game series with the Reds. They'll be relying on their All-Star Wade Miley on Monday to break them out of the funk they have opened the second half in. Miley will be up against Bronson Arroyo of the Reds.