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Taylor Clarke’s strong start can’t save Diamondbacks heading into deadline

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Taylor Clarke throws against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning during a baseball game, Sunday, Aug 30, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX, Ariz. — We’re only 35 games into the Major League Baseball season. Opening Day was literally less than six weeks ago.

Normally that would leave plenty of time for a team starting slow to regain their form and turn things around.

This is 2020 though. There are only 25 games left, and the trade deadline is Monday at 1 p.m. Arizona time.

That’s the reality facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it’s especially pertinent because they’ve been that underachieving club to this point. Nobody pegged them to win the World Series or anything, but they certainly looked like a playoff team on paper. And that was even before the league expanded from 10 to 16 postseason spots for this year.

Instead, they find themselves at 14-21 following a 4-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on Sunday.

“Wasn’t a very good homestand for us,” Torey Lovullo acknowledged. “We’ve got to find a way to regroup, and get ready to start playing the type of baseball that we’ve grown accustomed to here in Arizona.”

The bright spot in this one was clearly Taylor Clarke, who gave Lovullo five innings of one-hit baseball while tying a career-high with seven strikeouts. That was particularly valuable today after Arizona leaned on the bullpen for six innings Saturday night.

Making just his second start of the season, the 27-year-old righty got into a full-fledged pitchers’ duel with San Francisco veteran hurler Johnny Cueto. When Clarke left after the fifth, the two teams had combined for just two total hits.

“He was on the attack with all his pitches,” Lovullo pointed out. “Had a really good mixture. The sequencing between he and Daulton Varsho, I thought, was very effective.”

Of course, there’s also a negative side to that equation for the D-backs. And it once again involves a quiet day at the plate for the Arizona hitters. Even with Clarke pitching as well as he did, he still left the game down 1-0 because the one hit he surrendered was a solo home run off the bat of Alex Dickerson in the first inning.

Clarke settled in right after that, though. In fact, as a team, Arizona didn’t allow a hit from the second inning until the eighth. Problem is, the only run the D-backs could muster themselves was a solo homer by Eduardo Escobar in the seventh.

That tied the game, but Stefan Crichton and Archie Bradley combined to surrender three runs in the eighth and that was that.

“Sometimes guys just beat you,” Bradley said. “And I just kind of felt like I got beat today. I’m not going to say I made perfect pitches but, yeah, Dickerson had a really good at-bat and then same thing with Longo [Evan Longoria].”

For the second consecutive outing, the Diamondbacks mustered just three hits. And their lack of scoring pretty clearly correlates to their overall struggles this season. They scored just 29 runs while going 3-8 in their first 11 games, and they’ve managed only 29 again over their last 11, going 1-10 in that stretch. In the middle, they went 10-3 while scoring 90 runs over 13 games.

The pitching hasn’t been perfect by any means, but it’s hard to ignore those offensive numbers.

Up next, they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers on Tuesday. The more pressing issue right now, however, is the trade deadline.

Lovullo mentioned prior to today’s game that he hasn’t heard too much talk about possible trades from within the clubhouse, but Bradley admitted it’s hard to completely ignore what could happen Monday.

Robbie Ray’s name is perpetually mentioned at this time of year. And given his performances this season and the fact he’s a free agent in a month anyway, he’s certainly a candidate to get dealt — assuming teams still have interest.

He’s not the only name that’s been popping up, though. If you look hard enough, you can find rumors involving almost any player on the Diamondbacks’ roster at this point. And most of those will never turn into anything more than rumors. But guys like Starling Marte and even Bradley –- who are getting closer to the end of their current contracts — could be more likely to land in serious discussions.

Then again, Marte has the highest batting average on the team. He just saw a 12-game home hitting streak end Sunday, and Arizona has only had him for 35 games after acquiring him in the offseason. Does it really make sense to deal one of the few consistent hitters in the lineup right now? Or, for that matter, the closer that has become one of the emotional leaders on the team?

Probably not, unless Mike Hazen gets an offer he simply can’t say no to. But the bottom line is the Diamondbacks never even expected to be fielding calls about their own players right now in the first place.

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