Touch 'Em All: Mariners just what the doctor ordered
A series win over the Mariners was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 30 runs were the most Kirk Gibson's squad has scored in any series this season. Yes, it was the Seattle Mariners, and yes, the D-backs didn't see Felix Hernandez in this series, but after a tough road trip the team really needed to get back on the right track.
While the pitching staff for the Snakes has been the foundation for the mini-run that they have been on of late, the bats have been the most crucial part of the team over the stretch. Just ask the Phillies or Giants of last season the importance of getting run support for your starting pitchers.
So far this season, there have been six instances when the D-backs pitchers have held the opposing team to two or fewer runs and the team has still lost the game. If the offense's surge over the past few weeks -- against both good and bad teams -- continues going forward, Arizona will have a solid chance to make a playoff run.
Looking at this series directly, there isn't necessarily a whole lot to be learned about this Diamondbacks squad. Let's face it, outside of the team's need to keep pace with the Dodgers, this series was essentially meaningless for the D-backs.
However, it is within the fact that this series was meaningless that we learned about what Arizona is made of. Knowing they were facing an inferior opponent, the team could have come out flat and just tried to put a few runs on the board to ease their way to victories.
Instead, the Snakes played with a strong sense of urgency and didn't hesitate to pile runs up on the visitors. This tenacity shows us that the D-backs realize they must win now, and that they are trying with every ounce of their being to do just that.
There have been so many times this season when the offense was great, but the pitching was not, and plenty of others when the pitching was great but the offense wasn't quite there. But on days like Monday, when stellar offense combines with shutdown pitching, the Diamondbacks showed they can be a top-tier team in baseball when they perform.
And don't jump the gun and say the D-backs have only come together against weak opponents, because they haven't. Their choice of which team the offense and pitching come together against is about as random as the occurrence itself.
The next step for Arizona is to get these "combo" performances in a much more consistent manner.
Series Report Card
The D-backs took two of three from the Mariners, however the Snakes were a blown lead on Tuesday away from the sweep, so there has to be some feeling of disappointment for the team. This team cannot afford to waste opportunities like they did Tuesday if they want to make it to the postseason.
The offense is starting to catch fire, even without Justin Upton having a major contribution. In the team's last 10 wins, the offense has scored a whopping 70 runs. However, it is important to note that the D-backs haven't faced any dominant pitchers in those victories (Dan Haren, 4-7, 3.97 ERA would be the best), so the run total may be a bit misleading. The good news is even in a loss Tuesday the team scored more than three runs. Obviously a loss is a loss, and the D-backs would have liked very much to win on Tuesday, but if the team can put up higher run totals more consistently it will lead to a lot more wins this season. And then there was Wednesday…talk about a home run parade, as the Snakes had six home runs in the first six innings.
The Diamondbacks defense continued its solid play, as the team completed another series without committing any errors, and the team also turned three double plays in the series. Arizona's 32 errors are tied for the third fewest in the major leagues.
Wade Miley is looking like he's going to be the only All- Star on the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Miley, who had another strong performance Monday, is 8 and 3 on the season with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. The pulse of many baseball analysts around the country seems to point toward a feeling that a drop-off is coming, but game after game Miley continues to pitch well and impress. However, Daniel Hudson is a completely different story. The D-backs' number two starter has not had a game this season in which he has allowed fewer than two runs. His 6.60 ERA is nearly double his career average of 3.58, and while Huddy has shown flashes of turning it around, it just doesn't seem like he is getting any closer. His Tuesday struggles, combined with the major struggles of the bullpen, were a big sign for concern. Wednesday was the first time in June that Trevor Cahill struggled (3-0, 0.77 ERA in previous three starts), as he was blown up for five runs in the third inning, even though he would eventually earn the win.
Kirk Gibson is riding the hot bat right now, as he had Aaron Hill hitting out of the two-hole all series. This decision is one that seems like a no-brainer, but putting Hill in the best spot to have productive at-bats with runners on base is a very strategic move, and it gets a thumbs-up from me.
Play of the Series:
The play of the series came in the bottom of the seventh inning on Monday. Aaron Hill walked into the batter's box needing only a home run for the cycle. What did he do? He jacked a 424-foot bomb to left center to complete the fifth cycle in D-backs history.
Player of the Series:
And the winner is… (like you don't already know) Aaron Hill, who has been the biggest catalyst in the D-backs' lineup. If we lived in the world of NBA Jam, Hill's bat would currently be on fire and announcers would be screaming "OH MAMA" every time he hit the ball, and rightfully so. After hitting for the cycle on Monday, Hill hit a home run and a double on Tuesday and Wednesday, and yes you read that right, he did it both days giving him at least a home run and a double in three straight games, the first player in team history to do so.
The "Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag" award:
I'm beginning to think I should rename this award to "The Justin Upton Award" for the amount of times he has won it. This series he wins it because of what happened in the fifth inning on Tuesday. With two runners on and two outs, the Mariners chose to walk Aaron Hill (.361, 4 HR, 12 RBI in June) in favor of facing Upton (.268, 0 HR, 4 RBI in June). While this was a clear decision for the Mariners, it offered Upton an opportunity to teach them a lesson for disrespecting him. What did he do? He struck out swinging. Come on man!
Best Wow I can't believe it Moment
of the Series:
The best, or at least the most interesting moment for me, which is kind of a "finger wag" at the fans, came in the 8th inning of Tuesday's 3:59 game. Yes, that game was a very long one, but at one point in the eighth inning fans above the press box started throwing paper planes all over the place. Honestly, if you're that bored at a ball game, just go home. If you want to be a "true fan" and stay the whole ball game even if it's long, at least pay attention the whole time! Come on man!
The Diamondbacks continue their short homestand with a three-game weekend set against the worst team in the Major Leagues, the Chicago Cubs. This is a series the Snakes should very well sweep, and one that could also very well - potentially - spark the bat of Justin Upton. Since this will also be the last Touch ‘Em All Column of June - I'm going on Vacation for a little while - here's what the next few series look like for the Snakes. After the Cubs series, the D-backs take the road for six games to take on the Braves and the Brewers. The Braves are one of the top teams in the NL and that series will be a big measuring stick of where Arizona is at this point in the season.
- 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