PHOENIX – With the trade deadline looming next Tuesday, this is the time to showcase potential personnel.
Whether there is an agreement on this aspect of the baseball calendar, events Wednesday afternoon in Chase Field may have showcased that aspect. That is, if you consider yourself a seller or buyer.
Just two weeks ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks could be regarded as sellers. Under .500 in double-digit numbers, the future appeared bleak. Since the All-Star game, fortunes quickly turned and as a result of a 5-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 17,043 Wednesday afternoon in Chase Field, the Diamondbacks suddenly appear relevant.
At initial glance, pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Zac Gallen were two names circulating in the trade rumor market. Now with the recent surge, and winners of five of six since the All-Star break, Arizona general manager Mike Hazen may keep his cards close to the vest.
Beginning a six-game road trip in Atlanta on Friday, the Diamondbacks are eight games under .500 (45-53) but 6 and one-half games behind the third and final National League wild card team. On this trip, the Diamondbacks engage the Braves and Cleveland Guardians, both in a position to gain wild card entry. Coming into play Friday, the Braves are also within striking distance of the NL East and three games behind the division-leading New York Mets.
“We just need to approach each game like the last two series,” said infielder Josh Rojas, who went 2-for-4 on Wednesday with his sixth homer of the season. “I don’t think there are many guys paying attention to standings right now. I know I have no idea where we fall in those standings, and I just know that every day we need to show up and win games. We need to prepare the best we can to go out there and win. Wherever we fall at the end of the year is where we fall.”
What has kept Arizona above water is the starting pitching. With three-fifths turning in reliable seasons, manager Torey Lovullo seeks to gain credibility and production from the back end of the rotation. Since the All-Star break, Lovullo inserted lefty Tyler Gilbert and righty Corbin Martin into the rotation. After the win over Giants Wednesday, Lovullo was non-committal about the future of the rotation. With the usual and ubiquitous “we’ll get back to you on that,” the back end of the rotation tends to be a revolving door.
Still, Lovullo was quick to cite the starting rotation as a principal reason for the current surge.
“The recent success hinges on very good starting pitching, which we received,” said Lovullo. “That sets the tone for every game. So, it starts with starting pitching and the sense of urgency, which I have been watching.”
There is also the dimension of “the team” and team cohesion. On Wednesday, Gallen, who started his 19th game of the season, struggled for most of his outing and constantly fell behind in counts. Leaving with his seventh no-decision in his last eight starts, Gallen was victimized by a high pitch count and included a 34-pitch fourth inning.
Falling behind in the fourth at 2-1, the Diamondbacks picked up Gallen and tied the game with an RBI double from David Peralta. Then, they added three in the seventh, including that Rojas home run.
“This one was meaningful to the guys, and I wanted to put a stamp on this,” Gallen said afterward. “Just try to do my best to minimize any damage. No, I didn’t have much out there (today).”
For his effort, Gallen lasted only five innings and finished with 93 pitches, of which 57 were strikes. On offense, Ketel Marte started the scoring with a bases-empty home run in the first inning, and along with Peralta and Rojas, each topped the offense with a two-hit afternoon.
Elsewhere … The sweep by Arizona was the first by the Diamondbacks over the Giants in Chase Field since Aug. 25-27, 2017. From May 24-26, 2019, the Diamondbacks last swept the Giants at Oracle Park. … The win increased the Diamondbacks’ season series lead over the Giants to 6-3. Last season, Arizona dropped 17 of the 19 games played between the two teams. … In the previous series after the All-Star game, the Diamondbacks took two of three from Washington. … The road trip begins on Friday in Atlanta. Madison Bumgarner (6-9, 3.71) opens the series for Arizona and draws righty Kyle Wright (12-4, 2.95) as his mount opponent. Two more against the Braves are followed by three in Cleveland. The Diamondbacks return to Chase Field on Aug. 5 and face the Colorado Rockies.