Touch 'Em All: D-backs sweep Athletics
Don't look now, but here come the Arizona Diamondbacks.
With the weekend sweep of the Oakland Athletics, the D- backs have now won a season-high five straight games.
Everything finally seems to be coming together for the team picked by many to capture the National League pennant and go to the World Series. The offense, which has been consistently inconsistent, is now one of the hottest offenses in the league. The starting pitching, which had been struggling mightily -- outside of Wade Miley, of course -- is now rolling, winning seven of the last 10 games. The defense has been exceptional the last few weeks, and the back end of the bullpen is performing well, as J.J. Putz and David Hernandez have found their groove.
Talking to the players in the locker room after the sweep, I got the feeling the team is loose and relaxed as they head on the road. Manager Kirk Gibson was cracking jokes, and the players seemed as if a weight had been removed from their shoulders.
And why wouldn't they? The D-backs are back at .500 for the first time since May 5.
I have said before the D-Backs are out of the race in the NL West, and for now at least, I am sticking with that statement. However, I left the door open for the team's wild card chances, and I am glad I did. The D-backs' winning ways of late have them only 3.5 games out of a wild card spot in the NL.
And just ask the St. Louis Cardinals what you can do from the wild card spot.
Looking way down the line, if the D-backs can keep up the strong play, their four-game series at Chase Field with the Dodgers right before the All- Star break could be huge.
And before I forget, the D-backs could be getting better really soon, as shortstop Stephen Drew is looking good in the minor leagues. Add his bat to this lineup and it would go from good to scary good immediately.
If the D-backs can find a way to win one or both of the next two series, things will get very exciting at Chase Field.
Series Report Card
Record: A+ The D-backs earned their first series sweep since Opening Weekend after taking all three games at home from the Athletics. Coming into this series, I heard talk show hosts and analysts wonder if a sweep was at all possible this weekend. The D-backs went out and proved that it was.
Offense: A+ In this series, the D-backs played their best offense of the season. The hitting was consistent, with lots of timely hits and plenty of two-out RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball in the midst of a career-high 17-game hitting streak.
One cautionary note: Too many runners are being picked off first base. Ryan Roberts' pickoff in the fourth inning on Sunday gave the D-backs fifteen pickoffs on the season, the most in the majors.
But of course, there is always more good news. In the month of June, the D-backs as a team compiled the best average in all of baseball -- hitting .302. And the D-backs on-base percentage in June? Tops in the league, at .373.
Defense: A+ The D-backs were in the middle of the longest errorless streak in franchise history during this series (12 games, 115 innings). However, an error committed by catcher Henry Blanco at home plate on Sunday brought an end to that streak. Still, they've been playing absolutely stellar defense the last few weeks, and that has definitely been a catalyst for the team's winning ways. The D-backs currently hold a .986 fielding percentage, good for sixth in the majors.
Pitching: B+ Starter Daniel Hudson failed to make it out of the second inning on Friday in what became the shortest start of his career. However, Josh Collmenter came in Friday to relieve Hudson, and absolutely shut the door on the Athletics, keeping the D-backs in the game and allowing the team to come back and eventually win that night. On Saturday, Trevor Cahill pitched his second straight outstanding game. On Sunday, Joe Saunders also pitched well. Even though the pitchers were facing the notoriously light-hitting A's, the pitchers earn a B+ for the weekend.
Managing: A After benching Justin Upton, Gibson decided to insert the right fielder back into the lineup Friday -- and Upton responded. I noted last series that Gibson's style of managing can wear on the players. But now the players are starting to buy in and the team seems more and more like a contender every night. Gibson said a few weeks ago, when the team was still dealing with injuries, they just needed to have consistency in the lineup in order to start succeeding. Now that there is consistency, the team is winning.
Play of the Series 1A: With two men out, two men on, and the D-backs down 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday, Ryan Roberts stepped into the batter's box. Up to this point, the D-backs were 0-for-25 when trailing after the eighth inning of a ballgame this season. But that dubious streak came to an end, as Roberts hammered a Brian Fuentes pitch over the wall in left center field, handing the D-backs the win in dramatic, walk-off fashion.
Play of the Series 1B: The runner-up for this award, which just barely beat out Montero's grand slam for the 1B spot, was the double play that occurred in the top of the third inning on Sunday. Colin Cowgill lined a ball right at Saunders, who made a great play to catch the ball, and then turned and threw to first for a double play. It was just another example of the stellar defense the D- backs have been playing of late.
Player of the Series: Congrats, Justin Upton. After all the media attention and drama surrounding his benching last week, the D-backs' franchise player answered in a big way this weekend as he went 4-for-11 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Upton responded to his critics and answered the call, which was big for him and the team.
The "Dikembe Mutombo" Finger Wag award: Unfortunately, this goes to Daniel Hudson. I know players will have their bad days, but Hudson's day on Friday was atrocious. After the game, Huddy apologized for his outing on Twitter, going as far to address critical followers, "PS, I don't give a (expletive) about your fantasy team. This is real life."
Best Moment of the Series: The best moment of this series was easily Roberts' walk- off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday. It was the most electrifying moment of the season so far for the D-backs, and if you want to talk about momentum, this could be the spark that helps Arizona climb back into postseason contention.
The Road Ahead
The D-backs head on the road for what will be a very tough six-game road trip. First, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they'll be in Texas to face Josh Hamilton and the Rangers. And then it's on to Anaheim to take on Albert Pujols and the Angels. A .500 road trip would be satisfactory. Anything more than that would be gravy.
- Didi Gregorius, D-backs' shortstop - Friday May 24Doug & Wolf get to know the D-backs' shortstop.
- Daniel Hudson, D-backs' pitcher - Friday May 24Doug & Wolf ask Huddy how he's feeling, how his rehab is going and is he regaining control of his pi
- Josh Collmenter, D-backs' pitcher - Friday May 24The D-backs' pitcher sat down with Doug & Wolf at Chase Field.
- Brad Ziegler, D-backs' pitcher - Friday May 24Doug & Wolf had a great conversation with the D-backs' pitcher.
- Derrick Hall, D-backs President & CEO - Thursday May 23Hall talks to Doug & Wolf about injured players and the upcoming series