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It may be now or never for the Diamondbacks

As the calendar turns to June the Arizona Diamondbacks
face
one, somewhat simple reality:

If they’re going to make a run at the NL West title, it’s
going to have to begin this month.

The D-backs find themselves nine games back of Los Angeles
and four games behind San Francisco, a position few though
they’d be in.

After all, why would a team that won 94 games one year ago
struggle, especially after appearing to improve the roster
in the offseason?

But that’s where they are, and with a month that begins
in San Diego — who trails Arizona in the standings — and
series with the Rockies, A’s, Rangers, Angels, Mariners,
Cubs, Braves and Brewers, June could end up being the
month the D-backs turned their season around. Of those
teams, just three enter June with a .500 record or better.

If, of course, they improve in a few key areas, most
notably on the mound.

Because while their offense hasn’t been great, the four
runs per game the team scores places it right about in the
middle of the pack in the National League. Their .256
batting average ranks eighth, and their OPS (on
base+slugging percentage) of .723 is fifth.

But their pitching, which was a strength last season, has
failed far too often this summer.

The D-backs have a collective ERA of 4.14, a mark that is
considerably worse than the 3.80 ERA they finished with
last season. Their pitchers have struck out the fewest
batters in the NL (346), and only four teams have tossed
fewer quality starts.

As we know, this can all change, and it’s going to have to
if the D-backs are going to reach the playoffs for the
second-consecutive year.

Maybe, just maybe, it began Wednesday night in San
Francisco, where Ian Kennedy looked like an ace when he
tossed 7.2 innings of baseball while allowing just one run
against the Giants.

Daniel Hudson’s return to the rotation should also provide
a boost, and you can’t ignore the work Wade Miley and Joe
Saunders have put in. However, it won’t matter too much
unless Trevor Cahill pitches like the player Kevin Towers
thought he was trading for, as a 2-5 record with a 3.96
ERA is clearly not what the GM had in mind.

Then again, even if the starters figure things out the
team still needs to settle down its bullpen, specifically
J.J. Putz. The closer’s struggles are well-documented, as
his 11 saves belie the 6.35 ERA he’s posted in 17 innings
of work this season.

The good news for the Diamondbacks is, other than their
issues at third base, most problems can be solved by
players simply playing up to their abilities.

But that hasn’t happened yet, and if it doesn’t soon then
the 2012 season will be known as a lost one in Arizona.