With just over one month until the All-Star game and approximately one-third of the baseball season in the books, familiar patterns have emerged.
That would dictate division leaders, and, here in mid-June, these clubs are in their accustomed places. At this point, few surprises permeate the baseball landscape. Division leaders, with the Mets, Dodgers, and Cardinals in the National League and the Yankees, the Twins, and Houston in the American League, now place where these teams should position.
Regarding the others, few pundits expected any distract change atop the leader board and none occurred. At the start of the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks figured to win about 78 games and finish below .500. Now at the one-third mark, that vision remains realistic, and the Diamondbacks continue to struggle in many aspects of the game.
Following a 4-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday in Citizens Bank Park, the Diamondbacks fell to 28-33 on the season but leave several disturbing trends.
Their collective bats continued to be sawed off and, after striking out 11 times against five Philly pitchers, that added to a dismal account. Here, the Diamondbacks remained second in the National League in striking out and with the shutout, Saturday, have now been white-washed in three of their previous seven games.
“Losing stinks, no question about it,” manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com. “Sometimes, it’s the way you lose that makes it even worst. We need to find a way to make things happen and build.”
Since commencement of the campaign, the Diamondbacks struggled to score runs. Given the ebb and flow of a given season, there have been peaks and valleys but far too many valleys. Coming into their final game of the current road trip Sunday in Philadelphia, the Diamondbacks have scored 237 runs, and only the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the National League, have scored fewer runs. In contrast with American League teams, Detroit, Oakland, and the White Sox have scored fewer runs.
At the same time, the collective Arizona team batting average at .215 is the second-lowest in the majors and only surpassed by the .211 batting average of the Oakland A’s.
“We have to keep grinding,” Lovullo promised. “It’s frustrating and nobody likes to lose. There are times when it takes someone or two to get us going.”
Another factor to consider is the starting pitching, Over the initial month of the season, starters Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen all broke out of the gate in a fury. Collectively, their ERA was among the best in baseball but, as with most barometers in the game, things have begun to even.
Gallen, whose ERA was below one run per nine innings, is now at 2.95, and going only 1.2 innings against the Phillies on June 10 was the shortest of his major league career. With Bumgardner dropping that 4-0 decision on Saturday, the veteran left-hander is now 0-5 in his last six starts dating back to May 10.
All of this puts the team in a precarious position to reach the .500 mark. Given maladies at the plate and recent tribulations on the mound, it’s difficult to think the Diamondbacks cannot be better than a mediocre, .500 team at best.
“I want us to be patient and drive up pitch counts,” Lovullo said. “And I want us to look for that pitch that can do some damage.”
End of the road … the current trip ends Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia. Lefty Kyle Nelson (1-0, 2.84), who works primarily out of the bullpen, takes to the mound for Arizona. Lefty Ranger Suarez (4-3, 4.42) gets the start for Philly. The Diamondbacks then return to Chase Field to play 11 of their next 14 games at home. The stretch opens with three against the Cincinnati Reds, beginning Monday night, and then three against the Twins.