The Arizona Diamondbacks are partying like it’s 2007.
Remember that season? The D-backs, in Sedona Red for the
first time, won 92 games and the National League West
crown with smoke and mirrors – and a little pitching.
That team, if you recall, was outscored by 20 runs over
the course of the season and was led by the
fake always hustling Eric Byrnes on offense
and CY Young candidate Brandon Webb on the mound.
While they were the big names (and Orlando Hudson the All-Star), it was a bullpen that won games, as well as saved them, that led the team to heights not seen since.
Juan Cruz, Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon, Doug Slaten, Jose
Valverde. Once the game was put in their hands the game
was over, meaning all Webb, Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez,
Micah Owings or whatever starter toed the rubber that day
had to do was pitch about six strong innings. Do that,
leave the game, watch the ‘pen go to work and lock it
down. A team that can shorten a game, so to speak, is one
that can hide a lot of deficiencies, which is exactly what
happened four years ago.
They’re doing it again.
I think back to something pitcher Joe Saunders said after
the Diamondbacks rallied for a win over the Braves last
week, when I asked him about the team’s starting pitching
being a motivating factor for the rest of the team to play
well. After all, a starter keeping the team in the game
gives the bats more time to wake up and score some runs.
“Baseball’s a funny thing,” he said. “It seems like what
makes the good teams good teams is that when the hitting
isn’t really clicking on all cylinders the pitching picks
it up and when the pitching isn’t clicking on all
cylinders the hitters pick it up.”
That confidence was missing the last few seasons — with
good reason — but for now seems to have returned to Chase
Field, and its importance cannot be overstated.