D-backs striving for more consistency at the plate, better results with RISP
PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach Joe Mather goes into each game with a goal that his offense will score at least five runs.
The D-backs have done so nine times in July and fallen short in 12 contests. The past six games have been a particular shortcoming, as Arizona scored four or fewer runs in five of them.
“All it takes is one person to get on base, another hit, another hit and once we do that, we’re gonna start rolling,” infielder Jake Hager told reporters after Friday’s 5-1 loss against the Detroit Tigers. “Just takes a couple of at-bats, a couple good key hits to get going. I think we’ll be all right. We know our whole team can hit.
“We just need a little spark.”
Manager Torey Lovullo said during a press conference Friday that clubs typically have several conversations regarding batting with runners in scoring position each season.
The D-backs had one a couple weeks ago, Mather said Saturday, but the theme is at the forefront once again. Arizona left 35 runners aboard during the past four games, including the bases loaded in two first inning opportunities against the San Diego Padres.
Lovullo said he’s looking for his club to control the zone and prevent chase.
The D-backs have been strong in plate discipline this year with the fifth-lowest chase rate in the majors. Lovullo sees a difference with runners aboard, though.
“I think you just have to be really stubborn, eliminate some of the chase and not miss a mistake that’s out over the plate,” Lovullo said. “I think pitchers get up and get into a very stubborn mindset when there’s runners on base, and when the stakes are at their all-time highs, I expect us to execute at the highest level.
“I don’t know the reason for it. I just know that there’s probably a little bit more chase in those scenarios than there typically would be with nobody on, that’d be my guess.”
Mather said the D-backs have had stretches this season in which they were keeping the line moving effectively. They were eighth in the league in runs during May before dropping to 27th in June. Consistency is the next step for a young squad looking to become a contender.
“I think the important thing to know is that each guy just has to do their job at the plate. There’s not more pressure on our guys, there’s more pressure on the pitcher,” Mather said.
Strikeouts have been down during June for Arizona, but so is hard contact.
The D-backs entered Saturday 28th in MLB in hard hit percentage at 28.5% and last in line drive percentage at 14.7%, according to FanGraphs.
Mather said he does not see hitters selling out for power, but said Arizona is focusing more on low line drives to find gaps consistently.
“When we’re working, we’re trying to hit hard line drives, it’s a major focus,” Mather said. “We actually talked about even narrowing that focus of low line drives, perfect swing being basically a really hard hit ball that splits the gap or right in front of the outfielder.”
The D-backs have the 11th most home runs in the league this season with 83 entering Saturday, but 53 of them have come with nobody on base.
Outfielder Jordan Luplow said this week that moving on from last year’s struggles was a clear goal of the team he joined during the offseason. He told 98.7 FM Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke that while it is nice to see that improvement, there’s plenty of work to do.
The D-backs face the Tigers at 7:10 p.m. from Chase Field Saturday night. Catch the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.