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Touch ‘Em All: D-backs salvage split

Forget everything that you thought you knew about the difference between veterans and rookies; the Arizona Diamondbacks do things differently.

Usually when a team is fighting to stay alive in a division race, the veteran starting pitchers of the staff will step up and lead the team down the stretch. That is not the case in Arizona.

The team’s young pitchers, Wade Miley, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin (even though he did not pitch in this series) are forming the foundation of the team’s playoff run.

Where would the D-backs be without their young arms? In the team’s last 10 wins by a starting pitcher, Miley, Corbin and Skaggs have accounted for seven, while Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Joe Saunders have accounted for just three.

The veteran pitchers in this series were unable to hold the Miami Marlins, a team that is 12 games under .500, in check over the first two games. However, the young pitchers shut the team from South Beach down twice on Wednesday.

In game one of this series, on Monday night, the D-backs were absolutely shellacked by the Marlins, giving up 12 runs on 20 hits. Miami scored nine runs in the fourth inning off of Joe Saunders, whose ERA rose from 3.70 to 4.22 in just 3.1 innings pitched. Jason Kubel hit his 26th home run of the season in what was the only bright spot for Arizona. Marlins 12, Diamondbacks 3.

The second game of the series, on Tuesday, can only be defined as heartbreak for the Diamondbacks. The team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, but would fail to score again for the remainder of the contest. Trevor Cahill gave up four runs to allow the Marlins back into the contest; one Miami would win in the tenth inning after a Giancarlo Stanton RBI single. Marlins 6, Diamondbacks 5.

The third game of this series, the first of Wednesday’s doubleheader, witnessed Tyler Skaggs make his Major League debut; a two-run, three-hit victory over the Marlins. Skaggs wasn’t dominant, he gave up a two-run home run and allowed five walks, but the 21-year-old pitched 6.2 strong innings in route to his first big league win. Aaron Hill’s two-run home run in the first inning was a big help. Diamondbacks 3, Marlins 2.

In the final game of the series, the second of Wednesday’s doubleheader, Wade Miley pitched absolutely lights out. He allowed four hits while striking out five Marlins over the course of eight innings of shutout baseball. A solid night from Paul Goldschmidt solidified a win for the D-backs, as well as a series split. Diamondbacks 3, Marlins 0.

What it Means

Sportswriters, baseball analysts, fans and talk show hosts alike believed that the Giants would be in big trouble without the services of Melky Cabrera following his 50-game suspension. But even after losing Cabrera, the Giants completed a sweep of the Dodgers, helping the team gain some separation in the NL West. So while Arizona is still in the NL West hunt, San Francisco is not making anything easy for the Snakes.

Series Report Card

Record: D

The Diamondbacks needed to sweep Wednesday’s doubleheader just to earn a split with the Marlins, a team in last place in their division. Kirk Gibson’s squad gets a D, because .500 performances aren’t getting the team to the playoffs.

Offense: D

This was the first home series all season in which Arizona failed to score at least five runs in at least one game, and they had four chances to do so. For an offense that has been one of the hottest in the league in the second half, this is not a good sign, especially against a somewhat sub-par pitching staff. Willie Bloomquist will be welcomed back with open arms as Arizona shortstops hit an abysmal .154 in this series. The ASU alum is hitting .300 this year, and while he may take a few games to get back in the swing of things (pardon the pun), anything he can do will be better than what the team is getting from that position now. The D-backs did hit .307 with runners in scoring position in the four-game set, but didn’t have RISP often enough for it to make a big difference.

The issue that the team cannot score without hitting home runs is coming back up again. After only hitting two homers in four games, the offense seemed out of sorts due to the lack of the long ball. Only three of the 14 runs Arizona scored in this series were the result of a home run. And while that stat shows that the squad can manufacture runs, it also shows the struggle they go through when they are forced to do so. On the season the Diamondbacks average about 4.6 runs per game. Against Miami, without a lot of help from the long ball, they posted just 3.5 runs per contest.

Defense: B+

Arizona’s fielding continues to improve as we close in on September. The team had only one error in this series and looked good defensively, turning five double plays along with a few nice diving catches in the outfield — including Chris Young’s gem in the ninth inning of the nightcap Wednesday night.

Pitching: B-

The Diamondbacks pitching was really a toss up in this series. On one hand, you had the disappointments that were the veteran pitchers and a few members of the bullpen’s performances over the four-game set. On the other hand, there were two great starting performances from the young guys, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs, as well as the continued dominance of Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez, and J.J. Putz. Ziegler’s ERA is sitting at 2.31 for the year, while Hernandez’s is at 2.33. And in the second half of the season, Putz’s ERA is 0.00 over 14.2 innings of work. I gave the pitching a B- because I feel that the good pitching on Wednesday moderately outweighed the bad from Monday and Tuesday, tipping the grade just above the medium level of a C.

Managing: A

To say that the decision to start Tyler Skaggs was a good one would be a mammoth understatement. The only question now is whether the D-backs will go to a six-man rotation the rest of the way.

Series Awards

Play of the Series:

The first at-bat for rookie pitcher Tyler Skaggs… He struck out Marlins leadoff man Gorkys Hernandez to open up his first Major League game. That is the type of moment that people dream of as kids, and he was able to live that on Wednesday.

Player of the Series:

J.J. Putz. He recorded two saves on Wednesday to keep his perfect second half intact.

The “Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag” Award:

Trevor Cahill. The D-backs probably should have won Tuesday’s game. But Cahill allowed four runs after being handed a 5-0 lead to open the door for a Marlins’ comeback.

The Road Ahead

The Diamondbacks continue their home stand with a three-game set against the Padres starting on Friday. Patrick Corbin is on the bump for Arizona.