The Diamondbacks opened the season 20-8 and held a 5.5 game division lead heading to May. They ended last month 1.5 games out of first place following a disastrous 8-19 run in which they were outscored 77-108. They’ve rebounded impressively and are now comfortably back in the top spot in the NL West by 3.5 games.
You might say that their success comes from their stingy-strong pitching or their dynamic offense, but the real reason, I think, comes from something magical happening in the month. In April, it was about Torey Lovullo aiming his Big Dick Energy at Yadier Molina. This month, it’s reliever Archie Bradley’s reveal that he pooped his pants right before pitching a clean inning.
Archie Bradley crapping his pants right before pitching a clean inning reminds me of an SNL sketch which just so happens to be online so this means I get to post the sketch:
The Diamondbacks are simply better when they’re gross animals, and that’s why May wasn’t so hot for them.
But now, Zack Greinke has completed his journey into a crafty deception pitcher. Just yesterday, he baffled the Marlins —
striking out 6 and walking 0 while allowing 0 runs and 7 singles in 7 innings. His fastball sits comfortably in the 89-90 mph range. Oh, and he can hit.
But Greinke, an all-around athlete, did it all with two singles, a stolen base, a run scored and an RBI to boost his batting average to a robust .300 (9-for-30).
He’s the first pitcher since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson to have a hit, stolen base and RBI in two games of the same season. Greinke, a career .223 hitter with six homers, also accomplished the feat May 10 against the Nationals.
Why am I talking about Zack Greinke, whom the Giants won’t even face in this series? Well, not only to get that nugget about his hitting in there —
but also to show how the Diamondbacks really have turned a corner after a terrible May. Greinke started the season in a (metaphorical) ditch and it was the rest of the rotation that carried the load. He’s lowered his ERA by a full run since the end of April, which coincides nicely with a couple of other starters whose ERAs have inflated by far more than a run.
Sunday’s starter, Zack Godley, has a 5.33 ERA ever since his second start of the season where he baffled the Giants with his curveball all night long. They got his revenge on him at the beginning of June, scoring 7 runs against him over 3.1 innings. But that seems to have been the end of his rough patch, as he has a 3.09 ERA in the four starts since that one against the Giants. He faced the Rockies in Colorado, where the Rockies haven’t played well, then the Mets, Pirates, and Marlins. So, this brings me to the main point:
The Diamondbacks are a good team who’ve played a lot of bad teams this month and they’ve appropriately roughed up those teams. How the Diamondbacks do this series will say a lot more about the Giants than it will about the Diamondbacks.
Hitter to watch: The obvious answer is Paul Goldschmidt, whom the Giants will insist on pitching to no matter what the circumstances. At this point, we have to be in awe of their collective stubbornness and simply admire Goldschmidt’s ability to always punish them for it. But for this series, I’m throwing out 3B Jake Lamb.
Not only does he have a .959 OPS in 60 games (222 plate appearances) against the Giants, but he also sports a 141 tOPS+, which means that he performs 41% better than his usual averages against the Giants. No other pitching staff in the NL West comes close to being as bad against him as the Giants are (the closest are the Dodgers, against who he has a 101 tOPS+). His 10 home runs against the Giants are also his most against any one team. He has 14 hits in his last 46 at bats overall, including 2 home runs.
Pitcher to watch: Shelby Miller makes his second start of the season Saturday night. He just returned from Tommy John surgery and lasted only 3.2 innings against the Marlins earlier this week. He allowed 5 earned runs, including a home run, but he also struck out 5. If I know my Giants, this seems like the kind of game they should win, but will lose harshly and in the process cause everyone in baseball to believe that Shelby Miller is back to 100%.
Prediction: It used to be that the Giants could go into Arizona and steal a series, but that was before this recent run of Diamondbacks success. The Giants are 3-10 in Arizona since the start of last season, but in the five seasons previous (2012-2016), they were a gawdy 33-14. The Diamondbacks’ record over that span was 374-436, of course, but the point remains that Chase Field was not another house of horrors in the NL West. The last trip to Arizona featured three tight games, only 1 of which the Giants managed to pull out. Expect the same to happen in this series.