Touch 'Em All: D-backs drop series to Nationals
As so many have this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell to the Washington Nationals, dropping two of three games to the National League East leaders at Chase Field this weekend.
The D-backs were shut down by Stephen Strasburg on Friday, were victimized by their own mental errors on Saturday, and bounced back to overpower the Nats on Sunday.
"We always stay optimistic," Kirk Gibson said after Sunday's victory. "If you get discouraged, it's a guarantee you'll fall."
The foremost reason for the Diamondbacks' struggle is shoddy play by their defense. Arizona had four errors in three games this weekend, and they've averaged an error a game over their last ten contests.
On that note, the D-backs' new third baseman Chris Johnson isn't making matters any better. He may be ripping the cover off the ball (for now), but his 17 errors (two in this series alone) are second-most among third basemen and fourth-most in all of baseball; a stat that cannot be overlooked.
One of the biggest complaints I used to hear about Ryan Roberts was that he was terrible in the field, and couldn't reach first base on a throw without one-hopping it. Let's pause and make a comparison.
Player A) .244 BA, 7 HR, 9 Errors, .950 Fielding %
Player B) .281 BA, 13 HR, 17 Errors, .935 Fielding %
Player A is Ryan Roberts. Player B is Chris Johnson. So what the Diamondbacks are gaining at the plate, they are losing in the field with Johnson. Not to mention that Johnson has never been involved in the playoffs or any kind of postseason race before. Ryan Roberts batted .350 in the postseason last year, which was behind only Chris Young and Paul Goldschmidt on the roster.
I'm not saying that trading Ryan Roberts was the wrong decision, I just want to make sure people err on the side of caution when annointing Johnson as the D-backs' third base solution.
But I digress…
Series Report Card
The Nationals came into Chase Field riding a six-game winning streak, a streak they extended to eight games before it was snapped with Arizona's victory on Sunday. The D-backs are still in the NL West division race, but need to go streaking themselves to get within range of the Dodgers and Giants.
After what was a very sluggish start to the series, Arizona bounced back offensively and hit well on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, the team managed only three hits and one run off of Stephen Strasburg and company. However, the following two days saw the D-backs get many timely hits on their way to scoring 12 runs over the next two games. It is important to note that when the offense gets rolling like it did over the weekend, it isn't just one or two people carrying the team with their bats; everyone chips in. For instance, Saturday Paul Goldschmidt went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, but Justin Upton, Aaron Hill and Miguel Montero were able to pick him up. The next day, Jason Kubel and Johnson struggled, but Goldschmidt picked them up. When Arizona's offense is at its best, it acts as a cycle in which different players step up and carry the team on different days.
Continuing their recent trend, the defensive aspect of the Diamondbacks game was littered with mistakes and errors. If it were not for the multitude of errors, like Chris Johnson and Miguel Montero's back-to-back errors in the fifth inning on Saturday, Arizona may have won the game that night. They get a D, not for defense, but for desultory, a word that more accurate defines their defense.
Patrick Corbin continues to impress. Since being called back to the majors, Corbin has pitched in three games, and pitched at least six innings in each. In those 19 innings, Corbin has allowed twelve hits and four runs. Of course the most important stat is that in each of those three starts Corbin has earned a win. Wade Miley wasn't at his best on Saturday, but he still didn't pitch too poorly. If the defense behind him didn't have three errors, Miley might have earned a win instead of taking a loss. Trevor Cahill, much like Miley, didn't pitch his best on Friday, but was able to get pretty far into the game. Cahill struggled with his location, as he had a hard time keeping the ball down. J.J. Putz continued his stellar second half as he converted his 22nd save opportunity on Sunday afternoon.
Kirk Gibson's decision to insert Chris Young into the leadoff spot with Stephen Drew out of the lineup on Sunday paid dividends. Young walked twice, had a hit and scored two runs, setting the table for a productive offensive day for Arizona.
Play of the Series:
Paul Goldschmidt's two-out, two-run double that opened up the game in the third inning on Sunday. Yet another example of clutch hitting from perhaps the most clutch Diamondback this season.
Player of the Series:
Patrick Corbin, for his win on Sunday. Seven innings pitched, two earned runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts against perhaps the best team in baseball.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award:
Mike Zagurski. He gave up four earned runs in one inning on Friday, just a day before being sent down to the minors. Come on man!
The Road Ahead
The Diamondbacks head back out on the road, as they go to St. Louis for a three-game set with the Cardinals. Ian Kennedy takes on Joe Kelly in the opener Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.