PHOENIX – Most observers agree good teams somehow find ways to win. Over the past few seasons, the Arizona Diamondbacks have not been a very good team and just the opposite, they found ways to lose.
Turn the page, and this organization believes the current campaign is different. There is clearly a different mindset. Despite a dose of marginal success thus far in 2022, the retrospection of history appears to be present.
A case in point was the Sunday homestand finale, and the Diamondbacks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Chicago Cubs before 23,309 in Chase Field. Instead of finding that way to win, the end to this one was sudden, swift, and nearly predictable. In the ninth, reliever Ian Kennedy allowed a double and a soft RBI single inside the rightfield line to Frank Schwindel, and the Diamondbacks were deprived of a series win.
The defeat dropped their season record to 18-17, but more importantly, a commentary arose on how a team needs to win in critical situations. This could be particularly important because the Diamondbacks now head to Dodger Stadium and engage in four games. While still quite early in this season, this test on the edge of Hollywood could offer an observation of how this club behaves and responds when challenged.
“I would be a liar if I wasn’t aware of where we are going,” manager Torey Lovullo said after Sunday’s loss. “It will four games in three days and our guys will be ready to go. They are excited for that opportunity to show the rest of the league. That’s especially true within our division. We have to compete inside of our division, and that’s the key.”
To date, the starting pitching has carried this club and in wake of slumbering bats, the early burden has been heavy. In recent days, that started to change, and players, whose batting average lingered in the low .100s, have started to respond.
Led by Christian Walker, who occupies the important clean-up slot in Lovullo’s line-up, the offense started to spark. After the recent Cubs’ series, Walker is 12-for-37 over his last 11 games which corresponds to a .308 batting average. Over his last 10 games, Ketel Marte is 12-for-34 and has a .352 batting average.
“For me, it’s a matter of what I can control,” Walker said. “I know the season is long and numbers will accumulate. It’s a matter of going out and executing every at-bat. My teammates are counting on me to be the anchor of this line-up. Hitting in the four-hole, I ask a lot of myself to come through and be there for my teammates. I want to be that guy to put up runs for them. It’s not pressure but knowing what I am capable of doing.”
Of note … Despite not gaining the win, Cubs’ starter Justin Steele established a personal best in striking out 10 hitters. Steele broke his previous best, seven Ks, against the Pirates last September 30. Also, his 90 pitches tossed Sunday was a season-high. Previously, Steele threw 80 in a no-decision against the Rockies on April 14. By contrast, Arizona starter Humberto Castellanos threw a season-high 92 pitches, and that surpassed an 88-pitch effort on May 3 against Miami.
Monthly honors … the Diamondbacks’ April tributes go to position player-outfielder Stone Garrett from AAA Reno. Through the month, Garrett hit .355 with six homers and 19 RBIs. The pitcher-of-the-month accolade was awarded to right-hander Blake Workman at AA Amarillo. Workman went 2-0 with one save and opponents hit .175 against the righty. After each month, the organization announces the top minor league position player and top pitcher.
Roster moves … prior to Sunday’s game with the Cubs, the Diamondbacks reinstated right-hander Sean Poppen and, in a surprising move, optioned infielder Seth Beer to AAA Reno. Beer was the leading hitter over the opening weeks of the season and highlighted his recent stay with Arizona with a walk-off, three-run homer to defeat San Diego on opening day.
On the road again … Beginning Monday, the Diamondbacks commence an eight-game road trip with four in Los Angeles. Lefty Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 1.78) opens the series against the Dodgers, which includes a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Bumgarner draws righty Tony Gonsolin (3-0, 1.33) as his Monday mound opponent. The Diamondbacks will see Dodger ace Walker Buehler (4-1, 2.81) in this series. He is slated to pitch in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Then, it’s on to Wrigley Field and four with the Chicago Cubs. The team returns home on Monday, May 23 to face the Kansas City Royals.