Touch 'Em All: D-backs lose ground in St. Louis
The Diamondbacks are heading in the wrong direction.
The Dodgers, who lead the NL West, took three of four from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who happen to be one of the four teams above the D-backs in the Wild Card race. The other teams above Arizona are the Braves, Giants and Cardinals.
The Braves aren't going anywhere, so a scramble for the extra playoff spot is about to ensue. With Melky Cabrera missing the rest of the regular season due to his suspension, the Giants seem primed to fall off. The Pirates have been struggling of late, leaving the door open for other teams to enter the picture.
Which are the two "other teams" the door has been left open for? The D-backs and Cardinals.
This is why this series with the Cardinals was one of the few extremely important series left on Arizona's schedule. The Snakes entered the series with St. Louis four games behind the Cardinals in the wild card race and six games out of the final Wild Card spot.
While the D-backs are still six games out of the wild card, St. Louis is now five games in front of them. Meanwhile, Kirk Gibson's squad sits 5.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West.
Luckily for Arizona, they were able to salvage the third game of this series by doing something they have only done four times all year: win when scoring three or fewer runs.
Keep in mind that the 5.5 game deficit in the division makes winning the West a much easier task than winning the Wild Card because Gibson's team has 15 games left against the Dodgers and Giants.
However, Arizona does not play St. Louis, Pittsburgh or Atlanta again, so catching them will be quite difficult.
That is why this series was so important.
Series Report Card
The Diamondbacks had an opportunity to make up a lot of ground in the Wild Card standings and they failed to do so.
This was the worst offensive series the D-backs have had since the first series after the All-Star break against the Cubs. In that series, Arizona scored three total runs in three games. In this series they scored six runs in three games. Like I mentioned before, they have only won four times all season when scoring three or fewer runs in a game, the latest of those being Thursday. As much as this speaks to the pitching staff, it also speaks to the offense's absolute inability to come back in close games this season. Last year this team never appeared to be out of a game, and even if they trailed late you would just know they were going to make a run to try and get the win. Not this year, not even close, which is why Thursday's victory was almost unbelievable. The stats show that the squad simply isn't getting it done in the late innings. In the seventh inning or later, the Snakes have a .230 batting average, which ranks 24th in the Majors. Their .298 on base percentage ranks 26th, which means they aren't even getting themselves on base to have a shot at moving runners around. Their 128 runs in the seventh inning and after ranks 27th in the Majors, and is only 12 more than the last place Rays in this category. Just so you can understand how monumentally different these numbers are from last year's, I'll put them next to each other:
These number show just how rare the two ninth inning runs Arizona scored on Thursday were. No D-back really had a good series at the plate in St. Louis; the team batted .202.
This is really starting to get pathetic. The Diamondbacks had four more errors and at least one in every one of the three games. However, even though the team's defense has been sloppy of late, it was so good at the start of the season that they are now just leveling out to about where they were at last year; .984 fielding percentage now, .985 last season. Ian Kennedy had two of the errors in this series in about five minutes during his start, but still those errors may have cost the team a chance to win that game.
Trevor Cahill had a very solid start on Thursday, in what was one of the best team pitching performances the D-backs have had all season. Yes this team has had a few shutouts, but being able to hold the Cardinals in check and keep the team in the game to make a late comeback is something that has been missing this season. J.J. Putz has been quietly phenomenal during the second half of the season. He is seven-for-seven in save opportunities, has a .000 ERA, and his .086 batting average against is fourth among pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched since the break. Ian Kennedy had another tough outing on Tuesday, as he is now 10-10 on the season. Joe Saunders also struggled in his start, giving up five runs in six innings pitched. The good news was that the bullpen, outside of Bryan Shaw, was flawless in this series.
I really like Kirk Gibson, and I really like his style of managing. That being said, I think it is time to start questioning how effective he is when dealing with his players. No matter how many times he says poor defense is unacceptable, it continues to happen. I'm really wondering just how much the players are buying in to what he is trying to sell them in the locker room. Get it fixed, Gibby.
Play of the Series:
Chris Young's solo home run Thursday that eventually would win the game for the D-backs. I was shocked enough that Paul Goldschmidt tied the game, but when CY hit the back-to-back bomb -- off of Jason Motte, no less -- I was ecstatic.
Player of the Series:
Paul Goldschmidt. He didn't have a great overall series at the plate, but his two home runs put him in position to win this award.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award:
In his last four major league appearances, over 3.1 innings, Bryan Shaw has given up 10 runs. Three of them came in the eighth inning on Tuesday; not OK.
The Road Ahead:
The Diamondbacks head to Houston to take on the Astros. Derrick Hall told Doug & Wolf on Thursday that the team was "licking their chops" for this series. It's sweep or bust for me, and I'm sure the team shares my sentiments. The Astros are terrible; if Arizona can't wipe the floor with them they don't deserve to make the postseason.