The week started with hope and promise. Within six days, the optimism and potential generated from a surge in winning nine of 14 games crashed and burned in the desert.
After the Diamondbacks returned from sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati and found themselves five games behind the National League West Division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers last Monday, the enthusiasm was intoxicating. Pundits were hard-pressed to figure how and why the Diamondbacks were this close to the division lead late in August.
Whatever enthusiasm was generated by past achievements quickly evaporated like an ice cream cone melting in the searing desert sun. Then, the Diamondbacks were swept by the Cardinals in four straight and the Dodgers proceeded to sweep the Reds. The gap then appeared larger than the Grand Canyon. Quickly, the Diamondbacks found themselves pretenders rather than contenders.
An exclamation point was sounded when, over this past weekend, Arizona lost another series, and reinforced the notion that their season, once considered designed by hope and promise, ended in Chase Field during a late August week.
The final designation was made by the Oakland A’s. That’s when the visitors from the Bay Area took two of three this past weekend, and forced the Diamondbacks into thinking about next season in a hurry. The latest demise was a 7-4 defeat to Oakland in 11 innings before 29,576 Sunday afternoon in Chase Field.
“Not a good home stand, and we played poorly,” was manager Chip Hale’s assessment. “The poor defense is not who we are. We made poor decisions, which extended innings and made pitchers throw more pitches. That did not help, and it just poor play.”
Hale said the blame for poor play was, he made clear, “on me. As coaches, we have to do a better job in getting players prepared to play.”
In this seven game home stand, the Diamondbacks managed only one win and showed they are not ready for “prime time.” Brad Ziegler, who took the loss in the home stand finale on Sunday, indicated the club was close to the top of the division only a few days ago.
“It’s tough to argue with the way we competed, but we couldn’t get it done,” he said. “We had a chance to get something done, and now have a better idea how to compete. It’s the little things we’re not doing. Once we start doing the things we’re capable of doing, we’ll end up more on the positive side.”
Despite tying the game in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by David Peralta, the Diamondbacks managed only four base runners between the third and ninth innings. In the home stand, the offense did not generate enough runs and Ziegler, usually reliable, allowed six hits, three runs and hit a batter in two innings of work Sunday. Overall, seven Arizona pitchers gave up 18 hits, and the A’s left 14 runners on base in the series finale.
Despite the dreadful results, according to principals, all is not lost. As the Diamondbacks prepared to depart on a seven game road trip, that was the assessment around the clubhouse.
“We’re not thinking where we are,” said outfielder Ender Inciarte, who contributed with 2-for-6 afternoon with a run scored and one RBI. “We’re not putting our heads down. This team always competes hard and with high energy.”
The weekend set with Oakland was an opportunity to reunite Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale with A’s skipper Bob Melvin. Hale coached under Melvin both when Melvin managed the Diamondbacks from 2005 to 2009 and for the past two years in Oakland.
“I’ve answered so many questions in the last few days about this,” Melvin said before Sunday’s game in Chase Field. “(The Diamondbacks) have a good team and a nice mix of players. Chip is pushing all the right buttons.”
WALK THIS WAY …
With two walks Sunday, Paul Goldschmidt tied a franchise mark. The pair of free passes put Goldschmidt at 100 walks for the season, and that ties Luis Gonzalez, who walked 100 times during the 2001 season. As well, Goldschmidt has been intentionally walked 24 times.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN …
The Diamondbacks now take off for a seven game road trip. First stop is Coors Field in Denver and four with the Rockies.
In the series opener Monday night, look for lefty Robbie Ray (3-10, 3.86 ERA) to take on right Chad Bettis (6-4, 4.69). A double-header is slated Tuesday. In the afternoon game, lefty Patrick Corbin (3-3, 3.78) opposes lefty Yohan Flande (3-1 4.09). In the night-cap, Rubby De La Rosa (11-6, 4.46) starts for the Diamondbacks and Rockies’ manager Walt Weiss has not named a starter. For the series finale on Wednesday night, right-hander Chase Anderson (6-5, 4.22) takes to the hill against right-hander Jon Gray (0-0, 6.00).
Some numbers. Against Anderson, Nolan Arenado is 3-for-14 (.214) with two home runs and five RBIs. Charley Blackmon is 4-for-18 (.222), D. J. LeMahieu is 2-for-13 (.154), and Justin Morneau is 6-for-15 (.400). Against De La Rosa, Blackmon is 3-for-9 (.300) and Jose Reyes is 5-for-13 (.385). Against Flande, Welington Castillo is 2-for-4 (.500) and Chris Owings is 1-for-3 (.333).
Then, it’s on to Chicago. At Wrigley Field, the Diamondbacks take on the Cubs in a three-game series over the up-coming Labor Day weekend.