At the general manager’s meeting last November in Phoenix, Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer, told reporters he would be surprised if Arizona finished under the .500 mark this season. Make that, “shocked,” was the term he used.
Now, that prophecy seems somewhat out of reach. With 10 games remaining, including Thursday affair against Clayton Kershaw in Dodger Stadium, the math seems to be against the Diamondbacks. Coming into that Thursday date with Kershaw, Arizona has a record of 73-79 with three left in San Diego with the Padres and six remaining at home.
For the team to break even, they will have to win eight of their final 10 games. Though the pitching has been solid on their current road trip, starters have been so inconsistent that much hope of pulling a substantial string of wins together seems remote.
Now deep in September, the only pitcher which has gained double-digit in wins is Rubby De La Rosa. In his case, the Dodgers have essentially destroyed De La Rosa this season and for that reason, manager Chip Hale held De La Rosa out of the current Dodgers series. In this place, Chase Anderson received the start Wednesday night, and pitched well.
Anderson allowed only one hit, a lead-off the game home run to Chase Utley and then settled in to a powerful groove. He recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts and when going at least six innings, Anderson is 6-0 with a 1.88 ERA. In that framework, opposing batters are hitting .196 and in six career starts against the Dodgers, Anderson posted a 3.53 ERA.
That leaves the core of Jeremy Hellickson, Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray and De La Rosa to find ways, at least some way, to pick up wins and help push to team to that elusive .500 mark. At the end of August, the Diamondbacks reached the break-even point and poised to get a seat at the National League West Division conversation table. In quick measure, the dropped six of seven at home and by Labor Day, found their season quickly slipping away. When mathematically eliminated with a loss to the Giants at AT&T Park last Sunday, the residue was obvious. Poor starting doomed this team.
As the season developed, the Diamondbacks faced a strange dichotomy. Their hitting was among the best in the majors, and they led the National League, most of the season, in runs scored. It was the starting pitching which pulled this team down to the precipice. The time to analyze what happen is not at hand, and that comes in the next few weeks at season’s end.
For now, the malady which swept through this team, like a cold tundra wind, needs to be addressed in the off-season. Some suggest the house-cleaning starts with Mike Harkey, the pitching coach, and others holds that trading players which decision-makers don’t wish to part maybe the only answer to improve the staff.
With Wednesday’s 4-1 defeat to L. A. and staring Kershaw on Thursday, the Diamondbacks would appear hard-pressed to reach the break-even mark. Then again, stranger things have happened.
THE ROAD TRIP CONTINUES
The current series with ends in Dodger Stadium (12:10 p.m. start) Thursday afternoon. The Diamondbacks send left-hander Patrick Corbin (6-4, 2.99 ERA) to the hill against lefty Clayton Kershaw (14-7, 2.18)
Then, it’s down the coast to Petco Park and three in San Diego. On Friday night, look for righty Rubby De La Rosa (13-8, 4.60) to oppose Padres’ right-hander James Shields (13-6, 3.86). On Saturday, it’s righty Jeremy Hellickson (9-10, 4.73) taking on rookie right-hander Casey Kelly (0-0, 4.50). In the Sunday finale, righty Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 3.04) opposes right-hander Tyson Ross (10-11, 3.17).
The Diamondbacks then return home for their final six games of the season. The Rockies are in for the first three, and the Houston Astros, trying to claim a spot in post-season play, provide opposition for the last three games of the season.