Reeling Diamondbacks attempt to bounce back vs. giant Braves

Jul 17, 2023, 11:50 AM

Tommy Henry (3rd L) #47 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is taken out of the game during the fifth innin...

Tommy Henry (3rd L) #47 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is taken out of the game during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre on July 16, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks are 11-17 since June 13 and have lost eight of their last 10 games. A team that had separated itself in the National League two months into the season has now run out of the cushion it created.

Entering play on Monday, the D-backs are tied in the loss column with the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies while also with one more defeat than the San Francisco Giants. Arizona is in the last of three wild card spots, with the Phillies a half-game back and the red-hot Cincinnati Reds looming two games back.

The timing is less than ideal, as the D-backs now head to Atlanta for three games against the 61-31 Braves, the class of Major League Baseball.

Fixture No. 1 begins on Tuesday at 4:20 p.m. and all three can be heard on the Arizona Sports App, ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.

After the D-backs were swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in their return from the All-Star break, here are a few keys for them to preview the series.

Diamondbacks offense arises from its slumber?

Since that mid-June date, the D-backs are 20th in batting average (.239), 18th in on-base percentage (.316) and 24th in slugging percentage (.390), per Fangraphs.

Arizona’s top-five hitters were extraordinary up to that point but there’s been some drop-off there. While Ketel Marte and Christian Walker have OPS above .900 across those 28 games, the trio of All-Stars in Geraldo Perdomo (.706), Corbin Carroll (.671) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.656) have come crashing down to Earth.

It’s a long season when slumps will bite everyone but this has come when there has been terrible production from the leader in plate appearances at third base (Emmanuel Rivera, .347 OPS) and substandard results at catcher from Gabriel Moreno (.632) and Carson Kelly (.502).

The D-backs scored six total runs through the first 26 innings in Toronto before adding three in the ninth of the last loss. The good news is the two D-backs with more than a pair of hits in the series as a whole were Gurriel (five) and Perdomo (three), who also walked three times.

A resurgence from the offense is as close to necessary as it’ll get across three games, because Atlanta’s team OPS in that month-long stretch is a ridiculous league-leading .909, 82 points higher than the team in second.

Bullpen regains stability

If the run production would have been there for Arizona in the great white north, it was some bullpen stability away from its own sweep.

Friday’s 7-2 loss was tied at two apiece in the bottom of the seventh, Saturday’s 5-2 defeat was 3-2 Toronto when Zac Gallen exited and the aforementioned trio of runs for the D-backs in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 7-5 game was preceded by four earned runs for reliever Scott McGough in the eighth.

Arizona’s bullpen has been much, much better this season and typically doesn’t fall victim to digging the D-backs into a deeper hole. Against a Braves offense this potent, it’s a huge key.

Two starters competing for one spot?

The D-backs have made it no secret they want to add starting pitching before the trade deadline, and while the team’s current form inspires trepidation on still pursing it, a wide-open NL picture after Atlanta will likely still have Arizona address its biggest need in some facet.

Whether that’s a bigger or smaller name, Tuesday’s starter Zach Davies and Wednesday’s Ryne Nelson have been the two guys struggling the most. They could be competing for one spot. Tommy Henry should be brought up in the conversation but his season ERA has dipped across his last five starts from 4.86 to 3.89.

Davies’ 2022 went under the radar for how solid it was but he’s given up 32 earned runs in 44.1 innings since returning from the injured list at the end of May. That included 35 hits and 12 walks in his 30 June innings.

Nelson’s volatility with highs and lows produces both optimism and skepticism. He was outstanding in San Francisco and L.A. at the end of June, going seven innings in each for one-run ball before allowing seven versus the New York Mets. Nelson held Toronto to one earned run on Friday but sacrificed nine hits for the second straight outing.

As Merrill Kelly nears his return from the injured list to get the D-backs back to a regular five-man rotation, each guy has three starts left prior to the deadline. The first is quite the challenge.

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