Touch em All: D-backs power through Astros
To say that the Diamondbacks needed to beat the Astros is a rather large understatement. Prior to the start of this series, Arizona was 0-8 in their last eight games against sub-.500 teams.
So of course, a sweep, and utter domination of the Houston Astros was welcomed with open arms by the D-backs, as they have been guilty of playing to the level of their opponent in the past few weeks.
The opening of the offensive floodgates was exactly the cure that the team needed.
The Arizona offense has been very inconsistent this season as it has been white-hot and ice cold at different times during the course of the campaign. But what the numbers show is that it is not the offense, but the pitching that is the big problem right now, even with the team having just swept the Astros.
The Diamondbacks have been almost incapable of winning games this year when they score less than four runs in a game. In fact, of their 47 wins, 45 of them have seen Arizona score at least four runs. In total, the D-backs have scored at least four runs 57 times so far this season, which means they have lost ten games when scoring four or more runs.
Looking a little bit deeper into those games, the Arizona pitching staff has given up 80 runs through those 10 losses, or eight runs a game. The D-backs starters' ERA this season is 4.25, which is 20th in baseball. While so much focus is placed on this team's offense, with the struggles of Justin Upton and the success of Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel, it seems that the pitching may be a bit overlooked.
Arizona just does not have a starter that truly strikes fear into an opponent, as Ian Kennedy did last season. Sure, Wade Miley has 11 wins now, but he isn't untouchable, and he certainly isn't on par with the other top starters in the NL West such as Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain.
Last year, the Diamondbacks had a 3.80 team ERA, which was 14th in the majors. If they want to have any shot at making the playoffs, they'll need to get on a roll on the mound, and soon.
But I digress…
Series Report Card
Arizona did what they needed to do, as they swept the Astros at home over the weekend, pulling them within one game of the .500 mark at 47-48 on the season.
Wow. Honestly, I don't know what else to say besides 'wow'. Just one week removed from scoring three runs in three games in Chicago, the Diamondbacks scored 33 runs in three games at home against the Astros. Included in that total were 17 extra base hits, six of which were home runs. Of those six home runs, four came off of the bat of Jason Kubel in a span of six plate appearances. The team's seven- run sixth inning on Sunday was the highest run total in any inning this season. It's just about impossible to find anything wrong with the D-backs' offensive performance in this series, so I won't even try and nitpick. Obviously Arizona will not be able to keep up this ridiculous run scoring pace, but it would be nice to see more timely hits and two-out runs like the team had in this series. Oh, and for those who questioned the Jason Kubel signing, he has more home runs in July (10) than Justin Upton has all season (8). However, Arizona's star right fielder has been picking up his play of late, as he is currently quietly on a six-game hitting streak.
Although the offensive outburst managed to hide it, the somewhat sloppy play of the defense will not be overlooked here. The team made three errors in this series, continuing a stretched of sloppy defense that started in late June. I'm not sure if it is due to Kirk Gibson's revolving door infield that has seen so many different player combinations, but they need to figure out what it is and put a halt to it.
The D-backs pitching was pretty good in this series, as the starters only allowed six earned runs all series. Wade Miley earned his 11th win of the season on Saturday, which has him tied with Cole Hamels for fifth in the NL. It's important to note that while the starting pitching and the back end of the bullpen are solid, the Snakes have a giant question mark in the middle relief role. With Bryan Shaw being sent down after another terrible outing, the relievers leading up to David Hernandez and J.J. Putz are left up in the air. It seems that for now the team will have a platoon of pitchers - Ziegler, Saito, Breslow, Zagurski - to fill that void. Arizona last season was a team built around the pitching staff, both starters and bullpen; the 2012 team needs to get back to that.
Kirk Gibson gave Justin Upton his first day off since June 6 on Sunday, and he couldn't have picked a better time for it, as the Diamondbacks' offense was on fire regardless of who was in the batters box. Gibson and Kevin Towers also made the right decision to send Bryan Shaw down to Triple-A Reno, as he has been unable to get out of the rut he has been in for the last month.
Play of the Series:
This award goes to Chris Young, for his three-run home run in the sixth inning on Sunday. The home run came after an error allowed the inning to continue, and CY made the Astros pay, as his home run set off the start of a seven- run inning.
Player of the Series:
How could it be anybody but Jason Kubel, who hit four home runs within a six at-bat span over the weekend. Kubel's 71 RBI lead the NL, he also has 10 home runs in 15 games in July, which leaves me wondering why this man was not an All-Star.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award:
This award goes to Bryan Shaw. The relief pitcher had yet another terrible performance on Friday, and he has since been optioned to Triple-A Reno to try and right the ship. Hopefully he can and he'll be back up later in the year… But for now, come on man!
Best Moment of the Series:
The best moment of this series for me was seeing Jason Kubel jack his fourth home run of the weekend on Sunday. I know everyone in the ballpark was thinking the same thing, "can he hit another?" Sure enough, he did. It was great to see.
The Road Ahead:
The Diamondbacks continue their home stand with a three- game series at home against the Rockies. Arizona will look to get back above .500 in the series, as they have Ian Kennedy on the mound against Jonathan Sanchez to start off the set on Monday.