Diamondbacks Report: Hanging On
It all comes down to this weekend’s action to determine if the Diamondbacks can slither into the playoffs for the first time in five years.
The good news is that the D-Backs went 50-31 at home this season ” their best home record since the last playoff team. The bad news is the rest of the season must be spent living out of a suitcase.
Arizona clings to a one-game lead over San Diego and travels to Colorado ” just two back itself and blazing right now ” in a vital showdown. The Padres, meanwhile, host Milwaukee, also still in the race. This is going to be a fun three days.
Tony Pena took a serious beating back on the 17th, and rebounded somewhat since with three scoreless outings in his last four appearances. The problem is, that fourth outing was another shellacking. Pena’s been so strong this season, but is limping to the finish line, with a 6.55 ERA in September. In reality, however, he hasn’t been hit that hard at all this month with a .171 BAA. It’s just the walks and the homers that are skewing his results. Consider it a blip, although he must be tiring considering his workload, as the home runs allowed in the second half would suggest.
Pena’s meltdown on the 17th cost Brandon Webb a win in what was a middling start for the Snakes’ ace. Webb was a bit better his next time out, earning his third straight win, but they’ll need him to be in Cy Young form Friday. Rather than risk having him lose a start, the D-Backs wisely held Webb back a day with bad weather predicted Thursday in Pittsburgh.
The O-Dog underwent thumb surgery and is expected to make a full recovery by spring. Hudson’s power slipped a bit this year, especially after the break, but he made nice strides in his plate discipline and finally managed a double-digit steal campaign, a component of his game that has been surprisingly sparse over his career.
Also going under the knife was third baseman Chad Tracy, who finally succumbed to his season-long knee problem. He’s going to need five-to-eight months of recovery time, so Tracy is by no means a lock for the Opening Day roster in 2008.
Chris Young enjoyed a solid performance last week, but has struggled since Sunday, going just 2-for-17 with one run, no RBI and no extra-base hits. Although he still doesn’t get on base enough, you have to be thrilled with the numbers Young is putting up in his first full season.
Micah Owings took Webb’s start Thursday and hurled 6 1/3 scoreless frames, his second straight shutout performance (having tossed the first complete-game goose egg of his career in his previous outing ” an absolutely dominant outing against the Giants in which San Francisco managed to get just one runner past first base all game). Homers have been a problem for Owings this season, but the way he’s evening the score with his own stick, who cares? This dude is batting .339 with four homers and 15 RBI in 59 at-bats this season. Owings is quickly becoming the Rick Rhoden of his generation. Where possible, manager Bob Melvin would be wise to employ Owings’ bat in a pinch-hitting role to help save position player moves in the postseason.
Brandon Lyon was touched up for a run Tuesday in Pittsburgh, snapping a streak of six straight scoreless outings. Lyon had a rough August (4.91), but has bounced back brilliantly this month, recording a 1.80 ERA for 10 innings of work.
Eric Byrnes’ second-half struggles have continued. In four games this week, he’s just 3-for-17 with one run and one RBI. He hasn’t homered since September 4, and his OPS since the break has tumbled to 760 after an 859 opening half. Other than the steals ” which Byrnes has really stepped up with ” his second half has been a disappointment after an All-Star worthy first half.
Juan Cruz was touched up Sunday, but it’s the only time he’s been scored on in his last eight outings. How good has Cruz been this month? The 1-0 record and excellent 2.08 ERA are only part of the story. How about 17 Ks against four walks in 8 2/3 innings? Opponents can’t touch Cruz right now ” he’s held them to a .038 BA in September. No, that’s not a misprint.
Chris Snyder was huge on the 19th, going 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBI, including a key two-run double. But he’s disappeared since, going just 2-for-15. Still, in looking at Snyder’s second-half numbers (.301 BA, .519 SLG, 20 walks), it’s clear to me that he needs to be given a real chance to be the everyday backstop in 2008. He continues to scuffle vs. righties (.216), but a .294 mark against them last year proved he can get the job done.
Stephen Drew looks to be erasing a disappointing year by finishing strong. He’s recorded multi-hit efforts in four of his last five games to take his September BA up to .259. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s his best month of the season. If seeking a silver lining to Drew’s ugly sophomore season, check out the improvements he’s made in his batting eye. I think that bodes well for a recovery for the youngster in 2008.
The complete report can be found here.
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