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Lovullo keeping D-backs centered during crucial stretch of season

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo works in the dugout before a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a crucial stretch of the season.

Facing a daunting September schedule, a nine-game road trip in August against the 52-67 Cincinnati Reds, the 53-68 Texas Rangers and the National League-worst San Diego Padres was a time for them to gain ground in a highly competitive National League West.

At the midway point of the trip, it hasn’t gone that way.

The D-backs dropped two of three in Cincinnati and followed it with a frustrating loss in Texas on Monday, a 5-3 defeat that saw them score two runs in the top of the first with ace Zack Greinke on the mound.

As losers of four of their last six, Arizona has to center itself back to winning baseball, and lots of that is on manager Torey Lovullo.

While joining 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo on Tuesday, Lovullo discussed what his mindset is for discussions he has with his players and what can lead to him having those talks.

“Whenever I get guys together, I try to simplify it,” he said.

“It’s never an effort issue for me. We go after it, we prepare. It’s sometimes a focus issue. This is a hard game. When you’re playing every year — this is a time of the year when the mind gets a little tired.”

That’s no surprise to hear, especially when one takes into consideration the injuries.

Arizona went through long stretches without key contributors like A.J. Pollock, Robbie Ray and Steven Souza Jr. Taijuan Walker made three starts before having Tommy John surgery. Shelby Miller’s comeback season from Tommy John saw him make only four starts and return to the disabled list. Jake Lamb played in 300 total games the last two seasons but will only appear in 56 this year after being sidelined by shoulder surgery.

“It’s a mentally draining game,” Lovullo said.

The key area for the D-backs to pick up the slack is on offense, a group that has remained inconsistent all season despite now being fully healthy and having the addition of Eduardo Escobar to replace Lamb.

Lovullo said it’s an area the team is always having discussions about and brainstorming tweaks here and there, but there’s also no solution for the mystifying struggles.

“At times, it does leave me scratching my head, and I don’t know exactly why or how things are happening,” Lovullo said.

On the year, the D-backs are 26th in batting average, 16th in runs and 21st in on-base percentage.

There is a sense of optimism, though, that if the offense does turn a corner the D-backs will be one of the best teams in the majors.

“If our offense does get going, and I think it will … if it does get going — watch out,” Lovullo said. “We’re gonna be in a very special place at the right time of the year.”

Burns & Gambo

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