D-backs CEO Hall: Winning streak fueled by roster depth, pitching
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a well-deserved day off on Thursday after winning 13 straight games, a streak that included four consecutive sweeps of the Giants, Dodgers, Rockies and Dodgers again.
Their president and CEO, Derrick Hall, has watched all season as a new regime of front office executives have assembled and maintained the team that set the new franchise record for the longest winning streak. And winning streak or not, the D-backs got their day of rest as they sit 7.5 games up in the NL Wild Card race.
Indeed, the streak is impressive — not just because the D-backs twice swept one of baseball’s best teams — but because they did so without key pieces like Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and, at times, Paul Goldschmidt.
“It’s really been depth that [general manager] Mike Hazen and [assistant GMs] Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter have created,” Hall said in an interview with Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “The fact that you have so many, unfortunately, hand injuries with C.O. and Ahmed — yet you have the depth in a [Ketel] Marte to just step up. It’s been nice.”
During the win streak, Marte has hit .323 with an on-base percentage of .405. This from a guy who, when the regular season began, wasn’t even on the 25-man roster. He was in Triple-A Reno.
But the D-backs’ impressive run has been aided largely by strong starting pitching. The starting rotation, led by ace Zack Greinke, has been bolstered by the emergence of Robbie Ray, the trade for Taijuan Walker, the recent improvement of Patrick Corbin and the clutch performance of Zack Godley.
Great teams throughout baseball history have frequently featured starting rotations full of competitors who feed off of each other. The ’95 World Series-winning Atlanta Braves featured now-Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The ’01 Diamondbacks boasted a Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling one-two punch.
This year, the D-backs’ rotation owns a 3.46 ERA, the third-best mark in baseball.
And as a whole, the pitching staff (rotation and bullpen) owns a 1.91 ERA during the 13-game stretch and has averaged 9.68 strikeouts per nine.
“It’s really been starting pitchers just handing the baton off and it’s that momentum that we talked about, how contagious it can be where they challenge each other night after night,” Hall said. “And then the bullpen does its job as well.”
Of course, Hall noted that other factors — particularly, leadership both on and off the field — have helped Arizona go on a tear.
So when the D-backs welcome the San Diego Padres (62-78) into Chase Field on Friday, they’ll be in the hunt to stretch that streak to 14. Then 15. Then 16. The sky is the limit for a team that wins 13 in a row without key players and boasts one of the game’s best rotations.
GOLDSCHMIDT NEARING RETURN
Speaking of key players — the D-backs’ National League MVP candidate and first baseman, Goldschmidt, is close to return, Hall said. He’s been out since the start of the Dodgers series on Monday after being sent home for an MRI on his elbow. On Tuesday, it was announced that the MRI showed no structural damage.
“We didn’t think that there was anything structurally wrong, but you just want to make sure and check that off the list,” Hall said. “He wants to play and he’s ready to play, but we think the day off again last night and the day off today is only going to help him. We still got by and he’ll be ready to go this weekend.”