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Touch ‘Em All: D-backs split four in Pittsburgh

The Diamondbacks should really stop pitching to Andrew McCutchen.

If you were to look up the definition of the phrase “owning a ballclub” in a dictionary, there would be a picture of McCutchen standing on the D-backs logo laughing. No one in the majors with at least 15 at-bats against Arizona has a higher batting average against the team than the Pirates centerfielder (.482) does.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the Valley, as over the last two seasons McCutchen is hitting .404 with five RBI and 14 runs scored against the Snakes. This season, he is tied for second in the Majors with seven runs scored against Arizona.

Despite the will of McCutchen, the D-backs were able to salvage a split in the series and end the 10-game road trip with a respectable 6-4 record after winning the series finale on Thursday against the Pirates.

And despite the split, the Diamondbacks’ somewhat disturbing reliance on the long ball continued in this series against the Pirates.

Arizona is 49-26 this season when they hit at least one home run, and 24-7 when they hit at least two. However, when they fail to hit a long ball they are a mere 8-29.

Keep in mind that the D-backs’ reliance on the long ball could come back to bite them. All of their road games in September, except a four-game set at Coors Field, will be played in parks that are among the worst in home run output.

I’ve also mentioned before how important it is for the D-backs to score a lot of runs in order for them to win games. After this series the team is 46-10 when scoring at least five runs in a ball game. On the contrary, they are a lowly 3-41 when they score less than four runs in a game, which is the least amount of wins with that split in all of baseball.

Right now the Diamondbacks are living by the home run. Unfortunately that means they will have to die with it too.

Series Report Card

Record: B
Arizona earned a split against a very good Pittsburgh team, and moved themselves to 22-14 in series finales this season. The team went 6-4 on their 10-game road trip and return home two games over .500.

Offense: B+
The Diamondbacks’ bats stalled at the start of this series in Pittsburgh, as they managed only two hits in Monday’s game. On Tuesday the offense bounced back in a major way, scoring 10 runs, including seven in the final two innings of the game. Chris Johnson had five RBI in that game, all part of the amazing start he has had in an Arizona uniform.

The offense continued its effectiveness on Wednesday, scoring six runs in the loss while capitalizing off of the Pirates four errors in the game and followed suit on Thursday, tallying six again in the win. Overall, the team’s bats continued their hot second half, as the Snakes are in the top five in baseball in runs scored after the all-star break.

Defense: B+
Sloppy. That’s the word that best describes Arizona’s defense in this series. Committing five errors in one series is absolutely unacceptable for a major league baseball team. The problem compounded itself when the Pirates were able to take advantage of the errors. Take Thursday’s game for example. The D-backs should have been out of the second inning on Wandy Rodriguez’s ground ball. Instead, Joe Saunders missed the bag and Starling Marte made him pay in the next at-bat by driving in the Pirates third run of the frame.

Pitching: B-
The Diamondbacks starters, or at least three of the four of them, pitched well in this series. Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin and Joe Saunders each had starts of at least six innings allowing three or fewer runs. Unfortunately for the D-backs, only two of those three games saw the team come out victorious. The fourth start for the team was that of Ian Kennedy. After earning the win in four straight outings, Kennedy had an off game; he allowed five earned runs in four innings on Wednesday. That four-inning performance was IPK’s shortest of the season, and was the first major blemish since his poor performance against the Cubs on July 13th. David Hernandez and J.J. Putz each had a very nice series holding down the back end of the Arizona bullpen.

Managing: B
Players emotions will get out of control at times, however it is imperative that the manager be able to stop the bleeding before more than one person gets ejected. I don’t blame Kirk Gibson for allowing Justin Upton to get ejected with Chris Young on Wednesday, but I sure would’ve liked to see him do more to try and stop it.

Series Awards

Play of the Series:
The two-home run game from Jason Kubel on Thursday that propelled the team to victory gets this award. Kubel was, in retrospect, the most underrated offseason move in the big leagues last offseason.

Player of the Series:
I could very well have given this to Chris Johnson, but J.J. Putz has been so good lately that I feel he deserves it. He converted his 12th save opportunity in a row on Thursday and pitched lights out on Tuesday as well.

The “Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag” Award:
He managed to hold his emotions through getting hit so many times last year, but Justin Upton can’t control them when Chris Young is involved? I know the two are friends, but just because CY gets tossed, doesn’t mean you just jump in and cost your team a chance to win the game. You’re better than that, J-Up.

The Road Ahead:
The Diamondbacks return home (finally) to take on the NL East-leading Washington Nationals in a three-game set. Stephen Strasburg gets the start on Friday against Trevor Cahill.