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Series Preview: The Diamondbacks are playing for pride...

... and the Giants need to watch out.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks have a .500 ball malaise going on two seasons now. They lost the season series to the Giants last year, 8-11, with the final series played in August. The final series between these two teams is this one, another two-gamer that gives the Giants a chance to match their 11-8 record from 2018.

A year ago, a September series might’ve helped the Giants avoid the worst month in franchise history. Now, the Giants don’t really care when they meet them. They just need to win these games. And yet, they haven’t had a home field advantage at Oracle Park this year, and the Diamondbacks have won five of the seven games they’ve played there so far. That included a sweep of the first series of the year at Oracle where they outscored the Giants 34-8 and dropped them to 21-31.

There’s been a lot of chatter over the weekend about Adam Jones. I kept wondering, “Why is everyone talking about Adam Jones so much?” and lo and behold it’s because he openly accepted a demotion to a platoon/bench role. The 33-year old veteran outfielder has an 89 OPS+, his lowest output since 2008. But he’s not standing in the way of his decline and he’s not making it an issue for his team.

This was one of the players some people wanted the Giants to pursue in the offseason, and on paper, it made a whole lot of sense. Many more people might’ve expected that the Giants would find hidden gold in Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, and even Kevin Pillar — trusting that Farhan Zaidi’s process would lead to exciting results — but there was always something to the idea of just spending money on a sure thing. No, Adam Jones wasn’t going to be an All-Star, but he wasn’t — and hasn’t been — a complete loss out there.

Jones isn’t the reason why the Diamondbacks haven’t been able to sync up their expected W-L (71-60) with their actual (65-66). In fact, he’s been a part of the third-best offense in the National League. It’s the team’s mediocre pitching that’s done them in. Robbie Ray is now their best starter following Zack Greinke’s departure, but they’ve managed to get solid contributions from call-ups Alex Young (112 ERA+ in 49 IP) and Zac Gallen (203 ERA+ in 20 IP) as they’ve managed poor performance (Zack Godley and his 6.39 ERA) and injury (Luke Weaver’s UCL sprain).

Yoan Lopez is an exciting arm, and he’s been exciting for them, but he also has a 5.04 FIP in 52 IP and the rest of the bullpen has remained unsettled. Greg Holland began the year as their closer, but has since joined up with the Nationals after being designated for assignment a few weeks ago.

Cycling through poorly performing veterans to give opportunities to younger players is something sharp teams will do anyway but the Diamondacks’ system isn’t so rich that Jones’ mere presence on the roster is hindrance. There’s value in having him around and value in keeping veterans around. Not all 33-year old players are created equal, of course, but they can be useful and every now and then, they can be a Josh Donaldson (131 OPS+ a year after playing just 52 games).

Arizona feels like a team that’s 60-75% of the way through a rebuild that’s in jeopardy of being extended another five years. Ketel Marte is a no-doubt All-Star and at just 25 years old, probably figures to be really good for a few more years. Christian Walker has been a solid find (112 OPS+), but he’s also a 28-year old first baseman. Nick Ahmed is a fantastic defensive shortstop and a league average bat, but he’s 29. Eduardo Escobar is 30. Carson Kelly, like Marte, shows a lot of promise, though. A 24-year old catcher with a 121 OPS+ in 92 games is really good.

They’ve got a nice mix of veterans and younger players on the lineup side of the equation, but the pitching is still largely incomplete. The lineup mix might tilt towards young and inexperienced as soon as next year, too. Coupled with the lack of pitching that could spell another year or two of lean years. And then by the time they find the pitching and the newer players mature, the current younger players are older and perhaps in decline.

Maybe that balance can work — maybe Marte, Escobar, Kelly, and Ahmed’s declines aren’t as steep as those of Adam Jones, David Peralta, and Jarrod Dyson — but in the meantime, they’re probably going to tread water. Or, at the very least, for the rest of this season.

That’s what the Giants really need them to do for the next couple of days, anyway. The Giants have a 29-33 home record and a -74 run differential. The Diamondbacks have a 35-34 road record and +48 run differential, but are 6-9 in their last 15 road games.

Pitcher to watch

Kevin Ginkel got a call up on August 5th and since then, he’s pitched 10.2 innings and struck out 14 while walking four. He hasn’t been perfect, but he has a power fastball-slider combo that has been very effective.

And his name is Kevin Ginkel.

Ginkel.

Hitter to watch

The Giants took three of four in Arizona a little over a week ago and one of the reasons why they couldn’t get the four-game sweep was Wilmer Flores. Maybe you don’t remember his two-homer game in game two of the series or even his home run in the finale, but it happened. He demolished Giants pitching with eight hits in 15 plate appearances. He had a double along with those three homers to give him a 50% extra base hit rate. He also drew a walk and didn’t strike out.

He had a very good series to continue his bewildering ownage. In 36 career games, he’s hitting .374/.430/.635 with 15 doubles and 5 home runs and 8 walks against 4 strikeouts. Those 20 extra base hits are among the 43 in total that he’s hit against the Giants over the years in 128 plate appearances, good for a 46.5% extra base hit rate.

Prediction

The Giants need a sweep. They will get a split.