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Touch ‘Em All: Mariners just what the doctor ordered

A series win over the Mariners was exactly what the doctor
ordered for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 30 runs were the most Kirk Gibson’s
squad has scored in any series this season. Yes,
it was the Seattle Mariners, and yes, the D-backs didn’t
see Felix Hernandez in this series, but after a tough road
trip the team really needed to get back on the right
track.

While the pitching staff for the Snakes has been the
foundation for the mini-run that they have been on of
late, the bats have been the most crucial part of the team
over the stretch. Just ask the Phillies or Giants of last
season the importance of getting run support for your
starting pitchers.

So far this season, there have been six instances when the
D-backs pitchers have held the opposing team to two or
fewer runs and the team has still lost the game. If the
offense’s surge over the past few weeks — against both
good and bad teams — continues going forward, Arizona
will have a solid chance to make a playoff run.

Looking at this series directly, there isn’t necessarily a
whole lot to be learned about this Diamondbacks squad.
Let’s face it, outside of the team’s need to keep pace
with the Dodgers, this series was essentially meaningless
for the D-backs.

However, it is within the fact that this series was
meaningless that we learned about what Arizona is made of.
Knowing they were facing an inferior opponent, the team
could have come out flat and just tried to put a few runs
on the board to ease their way to victories.

Instead, the Snakes played with a strong sense of urgency
and didn’t hesitate to pile runs up on the visitors. This
tenacity shows us that the D-backs realize they must win
now, and that they are trying with every ounce of their
being to do just that.

There have been so many times this season when the offense
was great, but the pitching was not, and plenty of others
when the pitching was great but the offense wasn’t quite
there. But on days like Monday, when stellar offense
combines with shutdown pitching, the Diamondbacks showed
they can be a top-tier team in baseball when they perform.

And don’t jump the gun and say the D-backs have only come
together against weak opponents, because they haven’t.
Their choice of which team the offense and pitching come
together against is about as random as the occurrence
itself.

The next step for Arizona is to get these “combo”
performances in a much more consistent manner.

Series Report Card

Record: B+
The D-backs took two of three from the Mariners, however
the Snakes were a blown lead on Tuesday away from the
sweep, so there has to be some feeling of disappointment
for the team. This team cannot afford to waste
opportunities like they did Tuesday if they want to make
it to the postseason.

Offense: A
The offense is starting to catch fire, even without Justin
Upton having a major contribution. In the team’s last 10
wins, the offense has scored a whopping 70 runs. However,
it is important to note that the D-backs haven’t faced any
dominant pitchers in those victories (Dan Haren, 4-7, 3.97
ERA would be the best), so the run total may be a bit
misleading. The good news is even in a loss Tuesday the
team scored more than three runs. Obviously a loss is a
loss, and the D-backs would have liked very much to win on
Tuesday, but if the team can put up higher run totals more
consistently it will lead to a lot more wins this season.
And then there was Wednesday…talk about a home run parade,
as the Snakes had six home runs in the first six innings.

Defense: A-
The Diamondbacks defense continued its solid play, as the
team completed another series without committing any
errors, and the team also turned three double plays in the
series. Arizona’s 32 errors are tied for the third fewest
in the major leagues.

Pitching: C-
Wade Miley is looking like he’s going to be the only All-
Star on the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Miley, who
had another strong performance Monday, is 8 and 3 on the
season with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. The pulse of many
baseball analysts around the country seems to point toward
a feeling that a drop-off is coming, but game after game
Miley continues to pitch well and impress. However, Daniel
Hudson is a completely different story. The D-backs’
number two starter has not had a game this season in which
he has allowed fewer than two runs. His 6.60 ERA is nearly
double his career average of 3.58, and while Huddy has
shown flashes of turning it around, it just doesn’t seem
like he is getting any closer. His Tuesday struggles,
combined with the major struggles of the bullpen, were a
big sign for concern. Wednesday was the first time in June
that Trevor Cahill struggled (3-0, 0.77 ERA in previous
three starts), as he was blown up for five runs in the
third inning, even though he would eventually earn the
win.

Managing: A
Kirk Gibson is riding the hot bat right now, as he had
Aaron Hill hitting out of the two-hole all series. This
decision is one that seems like a no-brainer, but putting
Hill in the best spot to have productive at-bats with
runners on base is a very strategic move, and it gets a
thumbs-up from me.

Series Awards

Play of the Series:
The play of the series came in the bottom of the seventh
inning on Monday. Aaron Hill walked into the batter’s box
needing only a home run for the cycle. What did he do? He
jacked a 424-foot bomb to left center to complete the
fifth cycle in D-backs history.

Player of the Series:

And the winner is… (like you don’t already know) Aaron
Hill, who has been the biggest catalyst in the D-backs’
lineup. If we lived in the world of NBA Jam, Hill’s bat
would currently be on fire and announcers would be
screaming “OH MAMA” every time he hit the ball, and
rightfully so. After hitting for the cycle on Monday, Hill
hit a home run and a double on Tuesday and Wednesday, and
yes you read that right, he did it both days giving him at
least a home run and a double in three straight games, the
first player in team history to do so.

The “Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag” award:

I’m beginning to think I should rename this award to “The
Justin Upton Award” for the amount of times he has won it.
This series he wins it because of what happened in the
fifth inning on Tuesday. With two runners on and two outs,
the Mariners chose to walk Aaron Hill (.361, 4 HR, 12 RBI
in June) in favor of facing Upton (.268, 0 HR, 4 RBI in
June). While this was a clear decision for the Mariners,
it offered Upton an opportunity to teach them a lesson for
disrespecting him. What did he do? He struck out swinging.
Come on man!

Best Wow I can’t believe it Moment
of the Series:


The best, or at least the most interesting moment for me,
which is kind of a “finger wag” at the fans, came in the
8th inning of Tuesday’s 3:59 game. Yes, that game was a
very long one, but at one point in the eighth inning fans
above the press box started throwing paper planes all over
the place. Honestly, if you’re that bored at a ball game,
just go home. If you want to be a “true fan” and stay the
whole ball game even if it’s long, at least pay attention
the whole time! Come on man!

The Road Ahead:

The Diamondbacks continue their short homestand with a
three-game weekend set against the worst team in the Major
Leagues, the Chicago Cubs. This is a series the Snakes
should very well sweep, and one that could also very well
– potentially – spark the bat of Justin Upton. Since this
will also be the last Touch ‘Em All Column of June – I’m
going on Vacation for a little while – here’s what the
next few series look like for the Snakes. After the Cubs
series, the D-backs take the road for six games to take on
the Braves and the Brewers. The Braves are one of the top
teams in the NL and that series will be a big measuring
stick of where Arizona is at this point in the season.