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ESPN’s Aaron Boone: Diamondbacks ‘can absolutely push for’ playoff spot

Arizona Diamondbacks Nick Ahmed (13) and Shelby Miller celebrate after scoring on a Paul Goldschmidt hit during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LISTEN: Aaron Boone, ESPN MLB analyst

Many are skeptical of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 6-1 start, making sure not to put too much stock into a team that finished 69-93 last season.

However, at least one analyst thinks Arizona’s play could be sustainable.

“I just think they’re a lot closer to the team we thought they were going into last year, when they were kind of a trendy pick for a lot of people, myself included,” ESPN’s Aaron Boone told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “I think I had them going to the playoffs last year.”

The Diamondbacks were 2-5 and last in the National League West at this point in the season last year.

While Arizona may have disappointed him in 2016, the Sunday Night Baseball analyst believes the team has a chance to redeem itself this year.

“This is a team that can absolutely push for a playoff spot in what should be a really competitive National League West division,” Boone said.

Arizona’s impressive early stretch has been fueled by their offense, which leads the majors with 6.86 runs per game.

Although it may not be quite enough to reliably forecast their fate for the rest of the season, the 13-year major leaguer certainly knows just how important getting off to a productive start can be.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “That’s a thing to keep an eye on early in the season, especially individually. You want to see guys get those first couple hits out of the way. You want to see a guy that’s maybe a power hitter hit the ball out of the ballpark or get it rolling…. I think – as a manager, coaches, as an organization – you really want to see your guys get some things out of the way, so that they can get into the normal rhythm of the season.”

Most of the Diamondbacks’ batters have gotten more than a “couple hits out of the way,” as the team is tops in MLB with a .313 batting average, with outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker (.857) and second baseman Brandon Drury (.476) leading the way.

Just like a good start can build upon itself and result in a good season, early-season struggles can compound upon one another until they become unmanageable, which is what Boone believes happened with the Diamondbacks last year.

“They just got off to such a horrendous start, then you start having injuries,” he said. “And it can kind of just snowball and get away, and it was one of those seasons last year for the Diamondbacks.”

While the Diamondbacks’ hitting has been carrying the team thus far, Boone thinks that the No. 1 factor that will determine whether Arizona’s success continues is what they are able to get out of their starting pitchers.

“They’ve now gotten a nice start to the season for Zack Greinke,” he said. “(Patrick) Corbin, [who] really struggled for parts of the year last year, has come out and gives a nice outing [Sunday]. Can you get Shelby Miller to turn the corner? That’s kind of the next piece there. And then can Taijuan Walker take a step?”

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