D-backs confident but resetting to prepare for Dodgers in NLDS
PHOENIX — Blotting out overconfidence gained by winning the season series against the Los Angeles Dodgers is the obvious thing to do for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
They won their last six games of 2017 and 11 of 19 total over their NL West rivals, whom they face in the NLDS.
Reliever Archie Bradley’s rise in profile to the casual Arizona fan began when, after a big win over the Dodgers at Chase Field, he let an emotional display turn into a storyline that might’ve rubbed those in Los Angeles the wrong way.
Yet, the D-backs know the regular season means little other than putting them on competitive ground with a team that went 104-58 despite a 1-16 stretch near the end of the year.
“We match up pretty well against them,” said D-backs starting pitcher Taijuan Walker on Wednesday after his team beat the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game. “They won over 100 games, they’re a really good team. We can’t take that for granted. We’ve got to go in there confident, but we also have to know they have a bunch of weapons.
“Their bullpen’s pretty good, they have really good starters and their lineup’s pretty good.”
Walker, who threw a bullpen session Wednesday, was the only Arizona starter left off the Wild Card roster, and manager Torey Lovullo said he will start Game 1.
Over the course of the first three games, the D-backs will face a probable Dodgers’ rotation of Clayton Kershaw (Friday), Rich Hill (Saturday) and Yu Darvish (Monday), according Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.
It’s easy to see why the D-backs would not allow their regular season success over the Dodgers to get to their heads.
For one, Arizona faced ace Clayton Kershaw just twice, losing two games and batting .118 through 15.1 innings he pitched. He allowed six hits, one earned run and walked three with 19 strikeouts.
Arizona shelled Hill at Chase Field, but won’t get him there if he pitches Saturday. Hill’s ERA on the road (4.06) has paled in comparison to that at home (2.77) this season.
In two games against the D-backs in Dodger Stadium, Hill threw 13.0 frames, allowing just four hits and three earned runs to go with 18 strikeouts. Arizona won by beating up the Los Angeles relievers — the visitors put up 11 runs in the final three innings on Sept. 4.
Against Darvish in one game, a 8-6 loss at Chase Field, the D-backs managed to get two runs off the starter, who went five innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out 10.
Over the course of 2017, Arizona outscored Los Angeles 99-71, or 5.2 runs per game to 3.7.
“I just think we have guys that like to step up and they’re not intimidated,” Lovullo said. “Look, the Dodgers got on a tremendous run there, and I think they were steamrolling teams and intimidating teams, and I don’t think we have that mentality. We love that battle mindset. We love that challenge.”
Bradley showed as much back on Aug. 8.
Los Angeles came in winners of 13 of its last 14, but Jake Lamb’s grand slam turned a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead for the D-backs in the seventh frame. Then came Bradley’s emotional outburst and comments after closing out the eighth inning — a moment that likely makes him public enemy No. 1 to Dodgers fans.
“Obviously, I made some public statements about how I feel about our team and other things,” Bradley said. “I don’t see why that’s a problem. They feel they’re the best team in the MLB and they are. Their record indicates it. But kind of like we mentioned earlier, everything resets, everything is back to square one and Game 1 is Friday night, and this series will determine who the better team is.”
Key stats: Head-to-head in 2017
Record: 11-8, Arizona
L.A. batting average: .229
Arizona batting average: .250
L.A. ERA: 5.15
Arizona ERA: 3.61
Key D-backs stats at Dodger Stadium in 2017
Batting average: .209 (lefties batted just .176 at Dodger Stadium)
ERA: 2.83 (Dodgers recorded .210 average vs. RHP, .233 average vs. LHP)
Key Dodgers stats at Chase Field in 2017
Batting average: .239 (lefties hit .241, while right-handers hit .236)