Despite loss of personnel, Diamondbacks offense starts strong
PHOENIX — It’s a small sample size, sure.
But already, one aspect of the Diamondbacks that had some pundits concerned heading into the season has been arguably the team’s strong suit early on, and the D-backs continued that trend by scoring 15 runs on the Boston Red Sox in their home opener on Friday.
In the 15-8 win, Arizona hit five home runs and had a stretch of four straight innings of one, four, two and seven runs scored. They chased starter Rick Porcello after just 4.2 innings.
The early returns from Arizona’s offense are encouraging, given that the story of the offseason for GM Mike Hazen and co. was that they traded All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals and lost another All-Star, A.J. Pollock, in free agency. And already, Jake Lamb is injured and Steven Souza Jr. is out for the year.
“Scoring runs is a very hard thing to do in this game,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s when you’re kind of protecting both sides of the turf — the pitcher versus the hitter — it’s the funnest part of the day for me, and when we come out on top the way we have early, it makes you feel like you’re doing a lot of things right.”
Lovullo said part of the offensive success has come with patient approaches at the plate, as well as thorough preparation by new hitting coach Darnell Coles, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and run production coordinator Drew Hedman.
Coming into the game Friday, the Diamondbacks ranked third in MLB with a team batting average of .280, third in total bases with 141 and fifth in OPS at .850. They were also fourth in runs with 41, but their 15 runs Friday gives them 56 on the season to pass Texas’ 45.
In eight games so far, the Diamondbacks have scored fewer than five runs in a game only one time, and that was in a series-finale 4-1 loss to the Padres on Wednesday. They’ve already had two games scoring double-digit runs.
Even in a poor opening four-game series in Los Angeles in which the D-backs were outscored 43-22, Arizona’s offense scored 5, 5, 5 and 7 runs in that order.
Part of the formula has been Adam Jones.
Jones hit his fourth home run of the season on Friday, then roped a long double deep into center field. He now has an OPS on the young season of 1.239.
“Just doing what I normally try and do,” Jones said. “Just trying to have good at-bats, hit the ball hard. This is not out of the norm for me.”
Yet, the 33-year-old Jones didn’t sign until March 11.
“I think he’s taken that personally,” Lovullo said. “He wants to go out and show people that there’s still a lot of life left and there’s still a lot of good baseball left. That’s what I think. But what I do know is somebody that’s stepping up to the plate and impacting the game in a big way.
“And I got used to watching him from the opposite dugout, and I’m just glad he’s on our side and I get to watch him from the home dugout now.”
Jones was one of many free agents this offseason who didn’t get a contract until much later than he might’ve expected or preferred.
It may have been a surprise to some that Jones didn’t sign until March 11 — for a reported $3 million base salary, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale — given that he hit .281 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI last year in Baltimore and is a five-time All-Star.
“[He’s a] very good player with the track record of doing great things at great times, and for me, no part of his game has fallen off,” Lovullo said. “You can see what he’s been doing for us and it doesn’t surprise me. Our front office did a great job of waiting that out and getting the perfect guy. We targeted him, and thankful he’s here.”
Then there’s Ketel Marte, who hit two home runs on Friday — including his first career grand slam — for his second and third dingers of the season. He had 14 last year, as well as an MLB-leading 12 triples.
But David Peralta went 2-for-5 on Friday, continuing what has perhaps been the most impressive individual early-season performance of all the Diamondbacks hitters. Peralta entered the year with some expectation — given the absence of his former teammates Goldschmidt and Pollock — and has been tasked with being a go-to guy for run production.
Peralta is now hitting .447 on the year with seven doubles, which is the most in MLB.
Eight games down, 154 to go. But so far, it looks like Arizona knows how to hit.