PHOENIX – By all accounts, a significant objective is to simply gain a series victory. While this is easier said than done, the ramifications are telling. If accomplished, that would translate into playing close to .700 baseball and easily catapult teams destined for success.
In their four series to open the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have not lost a set and after winning eight of their opening 13 games, find themselves atop of the National League West division.
After dispatching the Milwaukee Brewers 7-3 Wednesday afternoon before 13,136 in Chase Field, Arizona now sits in first place in what many call the most competitive division in baseball. That would include the high profile and high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
While the curtain was just raised on another baseball season, there is a certain vibe in the Diamondbacks clubhouse which portends this group is “a band of brothers” rather than strictly an athletic contingent.
“We won two series and that’s the goal,” said infielder Josh Rojas, who is hitting .412 after 13 games. “We want to win every series and a team goal we have is winning. It’s early but you like to win every game. I don’t want to go out and say this is how we will play for the rest of the season. This is a game of ups and downs. You fight and you work to be a consistent team and it will be interesting to see how we battle those ups and downs. That will be the real test of this team.”
If the early weeks are an indication, the Diamondbacks are developing a myriad of weapons. Speed is likely to be their defining calling card and the fact that burners like Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas, Ketel Marte and Rojas constantly have “the green light” will pressure the defense.
Another dimension is the power game.
In the off-season, general manager Mike Hazen sought greater power from the right side and that was demonstrated in the finale against Milwaukee.
Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., brought over in the Daulton Varsho deal with the Blue Jays, substituted speed for power, and generated success. With a 3-for-4 afternoon, including a 3-run homer in the third, Gurriel raised his batting average from .205 to .250.
“We’ve been working but I’m not getting the results lately,” he said through an interpreter. “I didn’t start out as good as I wanted. This is about adjustments and that’s been what I’ve doing, working.”
Manager Torey Lovullo characterized the quick start and a strong clubhouse atmosphere as “a birthday party every day.” Considered a small market team and clearly not possessing deep pockets as other clubs, Hazen put together a club based on speed and opportunity.
The question now in the early going remains, what will be the staying and competitive power for nearly the next six months?
A quick hook …Lovullo was tossed by plate umpire Gabe Morales in the third inning for questioning the ball and strikes against Arizona starter Drey Jameson. With many calls in disagreement, Lovullo, yelling from the dugout, said he knew an ejection would be imminent.
“I never want to get thrown out of a baseball game and that’s never my first thought, second thought or tenth thought,” Lovullo said. “I felt I had enough of certain calls which were made. Once I left the dugout, I knew I would be ejected. This was a conscious decision I made, and I needed to make a statement.”
As one of the first players to speak with Lovullo after the ejection, Jameson told reporters after the game, “it’s nice to have your manager in agreement with you and knowing the calls were a squeezing. (Morales) not giving us border-line calls, let alone strikes.”
On the diamond Wednesday … Arizona put together a 12-hit attack and took two-of-three from the NL Central-leading Brewers.
Rojas contributed with a 3-for-4 afternoon, two runs scored, Alek Thomas (who was spotted with an ice pack on his left knee after the game) added a pair of doubles and Corbin Carroll slammed a 2-run homer in the seventh.
Jameson, replacing Zack Davies in the rotation who went down with a strained left oblique April 8 against the Dodgers, went four innings and threw 54 pitches. The aim was not to stretch out Jameson but build up the pitch count. For his next start in St. Louis, the game plan to reach 60-65 pitches and gradually build endurance.
Next … the Diamondbacks now hit the road for their second trip of the season. First stop is Miami and three with the Marlins. Then, three in St. Louis.
Lefty Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 7.27) opens the trip against Miami lefty Trevor Rogers (0-2, 6.00) On Saturday, Ryne Nelson (1-0, 4.91) takes on lefty Braxton Garrett (0-0, 4.70). In the Sunday finale, a marquee matchup features Zac Gallen (1-1, 4.58) opposing last year’s NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara (1-1, 5.79).