D-backs’ winning formula requires offense to do just enough
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks managed to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in consecutive games with a total of six hits on Tuesday and Wednesday at Chase Field.
Starting pitchers Zach Davies and Zac Gallen allowed a combined three runs in 10 innings while the bullpen kept Arizona tied or ahead in both games. The defense was clean, as opposed to L.A.’s which made costly errors leading to runs in each contest.
That blueprint of strong pitching and defense with situational hitting is the “fabric” of the D-backs this season, as explained by general manager Mike Hazen.
“I don’t think we’re going to beat teams to death with our offense,” Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be we are in every single baseball game, we take care of the baseball and if you put us on base, we’re gonna get you sometimes with our offense. But I think by and large, we’re going to be built on the defensive side of the ball.”
The D-backs entered Wednesday’s game 26th in the league in runs scored, although their run production has improved with 35 runs over the past eight games. They scored 23 over the first 11 contests of the season.
“I felt like the first eight games, we were probably a little bit tense, trying to do too much,” manager Torey Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo this week. “We’re a young team and when you’re a young team, that’s a natural tendency.”
The feeling in the clubhouse is that this offense is better than the output has been thus far, and looking deeper at their peripherals, there’s tangible reasons for and against this.
The Diamondbacks entered Wednesday 11th in MLB in average exit velocity at 89.4 miles per hour and 17th in hard hit percentage at 17.7%. These aren’t elite rankings but well above the basement and an improvement from last season.
They’ve also worked 3.8 walks per game, which is sixth in MLB.
Strikeouts have been an issue early, however.
They led the league with 171 strikeouts entering Wednesday’s action for an average of 9.5 per game. Arizona had 51 punch outs with runners in scoring position, a detriment to run production.
Two D-backs struck out with a runner on second base in the 10th inning of a loss to the New York Mets last Friday.
“The New York Mets, we lost those series, but inside of that series if you look at it very closely, we could have won two more games,” Lovullo said. “And we were in a position to win two more games. We just didn’t execute whether it was defensively or offensively and those little things we’ve got to tighten up.”
Lovullo and Hazen have been clear about the identity of the team, with the former stating last week their offense will beat teams with a thousand cuts as opposed to big blasts.
Hazen said he is expecting some of the veterans who have had slower starts like infielder Ketel Marte, catcher Carson Kelly and first baseman Christian Walker to find a groove and that will provide a major boost, as well.
“When David (Peralta), Ketel, Christian, Carson get going to their level, it’s going to really help out that younger group that’s hitting at the bottom of the lineup right now,” Hazen said. I think when (Josh) Rojas comes back … I think the the offense is going to start to even out a little bit.”
Arizona’s starting pitching has fit the billing with a 2.55 ERA through 19 games.
The offense did just enough to win its first series of the season against the Dodgers, but the tests will continue against strong pitching staffs in St. Louis and Miami coming up.
The D-backs take on the Cardinals from Busch Stadium Thursday at 4:45 p.m, and you can tune in on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.