Again, the Arizona Diamondbacks aim for a good start

Mar 31, 2017, 5:09 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings (16) celebrates his home run against the Chicago White ...

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings (16) celebrates his home run against the Chicago White Sox with manager Torey Lovullo, right, during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – Every year, every team wants to get off to a good start, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are no exception.

But they have been the exception in recent seasons.

Not since 2013 have the D-backs opened with a winning first month.

April has been a house of horrors, from the 9-22 start in 2014 to losing eight of 12 to begin 2016; the latter of which resulted in a third straight losing campaign and ultimately brought changes to both the front office and dugout.

“It was a season last year where we just had some bad luck and some injuries and we just got off to a bad note. That’s how sports happens sometimes,” second baseman Brandon Drury said. “We didn’t shake it very good, so hopefully we get off to a better start this year. If not, you just got to fight and bounce back.”

The D-backs will be tested early in 2017.

The first month sees the D-backs playing 27 games in 29 days with 24 of those games against the National League West. The D-backs will face each of their four division rivals at least once with a pair of series against Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

In addition, 17 of those 27 games are against playoffs teams from the year prior, including the season’s first 14 matchups.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. We can measure ourselves and compete and earn what we need to earn,” manager Torey Lovullo said Friday. “I’ve been saying since Day 1 that we have to go out and be a smart, tough baseball team that’s going to earn everything on a daily basis. I couldn’t think of a better platform to do that (than the first two weeks). We know at some point in time we’re going to have to play them, we know at some point in time we’re going to have to compete and stand up with them, so I’m excited about it.”

Now if the D-backs are to get off to a good start, then that would likely mean doing something they were unable to do on a consistent basis last season: win at Chase Field.

The D-backs went 33-48 at home in 2016.

Here in 2017, they play 17 times at Chase Field in April, including the first seven games: four against the Giants, followed by three against Cleveland, the reigning American League champions.

“You want to get that advantage,” shortstop Chris Owings said, referring to home field. “I think it’s going to be key for us, this first homestand, and just kind of establish ourselves and then take it on the road as well.”

Added starter Patrick Corbin, “It’s going to be big. I don’t think it’s going to determine our season but it’s definitely something we’re trying to do. It is going to be tough, but I think we’re prepared for the challenge.

Of course a good start doesn’t forecast a good season—in 2011, the D-backs went 11-15 in April yet still won the division—but it certainly beats the alternative.

As the saying goes, a team can’t win the division in April, but they can lose it.

The D-backs have suffered through five straight seasons of no playoff baseball. A good start could go a long way towards ending what is the longest postseason drought in franchise history.

“If you’re expecting to compete and go out and have meaningful games played in August and September, you got to have some sort of a good start,” Lovullo said. “I want to have a good start for those guys in that clubhouse. For the amount of work they’ve put in, for the focus and the level of intensity that they’ve played with, I am hoping that they are rewarded for all of that hard work.

“I like what these guys have given to me, I like what these guys have given back to me in conversation and in trust. We’re in a good place.”


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