Diamondbacks vs. Royals Wrap-up: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Diamondbacks finished up their first Interleague series Sunday against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium with their first series win since they played the Miami Marlins at the end of April and took three of four. Their record now sits at 19-23 with 12 of their wins coming on the road. Heading into their three game set against the first place Dodgers tonight, they sit 9.5 games out of first.

May 15, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Jerry Sands (30) is out on a double play as Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Willie Bloomquist (18) throws to first base during the game at Dodger Stadium. Image: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

GOOD: Wade Miley. The D-backs rookie again looked very sharp working seven shutout innings in route to his fifth win on the year. Mid way through May it seems as though Miley- who began the year as the team’s long relief guy- is the best pitcher in the rotation. He improved to 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA on the year and has given up just one run in his last 13 1/3 innings. If Miley can continue to pitch well, it will be a huge boost for the club as the other starters find their groove.

*Bullpen. The relievers put in 8 2/3 innings giving up 2 earned runs while striking out 10 Royals. For a bullpen that has continuously been asked to throw 3+ innings with the starting rotation struggling, these guys have answered every call. It appears as though the bullpen is the most consistent part of this team right now especially with Putz having two successful outings over the weekend.

*J.J. Putz. After giving up three hard hits to open up the ninth against the Rockies on Thursday, Putz has been nearly perfect. When Putz loaded the bases with no outs he retired the next two Rockies with a strikeout and double play to end the game. In Kansas City, Putz worked two innings of no-hit ball on his way to his eighth and ninth saves. This is a huge uptick for the team if Putz has found his location and can be counted on to close the door once again.

*Justin Upton. Perhaps Upton’s game winning drive in Colorado was the play he needed to get going. Over the weekend, the right fielder went 4 for 9 with four runs scored, a pair of RBI’s, two walks, two stolen bases, and just two strikeouts.

*Team offense. This series included contributors up and down the lineup. Montero and Goldschmidt each had two doubles, Bloomquist went 5 for 10 in just two games and Roberts chipped in an RBI double hitting from the 9-hole on Saturday. The return of Chris Young may have been as much of a mental boost as it was a physical boost for the team but he did have a two run double in his first game back and also contributed an outfield assist on Saturday, his first game back in center field.

*Willie Bloomquist. After beginning May on a 3 for 25 mini-slump, Bloomquist has had multi-hit games in four straight contests and is hitting .500 over that span. His averaged dipped to .209 after the May 11th game but now sits at .260.

BAD: RISP. While admittedly they weren’t that bad during this series, they are still leaving way too many guys on base. Hopefully the addition of Young back into the everyday lineup will increase these percentages. This series: 9-35 with runners in scoring position.

Starting Pitching. Miley was terrific on Sunday but the overall numbers by the starters were unimpressive once again. Their line: 17 1/3 IP  22 H  9 ER  5 BB  8 SO  3 HR. Only Miley made it into the seventh inning and the hits allowed are alarming-especially since they’re clearly not working out of as many jams as one would hope. Miley’s seven innings of work were the longest by a Dbacks starter since May 11th by Patrick Corbin, who also threw seven complete. That’s a span of eight starts by the rotation, meaning a lot of slack is being picked up by the bullpen. The starters have allowed 13 walks and 7 homeruns over the last seven games.

Joe Saunders. He did have his best start since April but still allowed eight hits over his six innings and gave up another homerun. It was encouraging to see him pitch his final three innings without allowing a run but seeing only 14 first pitch strikes out of the 28 batters he faced might explain some of his recent struggles. His start on Wednesday will be a big test against the visiting Dodgers-even without Matt Kemp in the lineup.

UGLY: Ian Kennedy. Kennedy was knocked around pretty hard on Saturday getting yanked before the end of the fifth. He allowed eight hits and six earned runs while giving two more homeruns. Add in a balk and wild pitch and Kennedy’s 83 pitch performance is one he’d like to forget as soon as possible. He’s now dropped four straight starts for the first time his career. It also matches his loss total for all of 2011.

It appears as though Kennedy’s biggest problem is not locating his pitches early on and in his nine starts, hitters are batting an ugly .387 when they swing at the first pitch. A sign that the ace may not have full confidence in his pitches and has been laying the first pitch right down the middle to try to get ahead in the count.

To give Kennedy some credit, he hasn’t exactly had the best run support this season. In his last four starts-all losses- the offense has given him 1, 1, 1, and 3 runs respectively. Not a whole lot of wiggle room there. They’ve scored more than 4 runs once in his nine starts, a 6-4 win against the Braves. Still, if there is a pitcher that can pinpoint his struggles and find success during the remainder of the season, our ace is the guy to do it- so let’s not panic just yet.

*Notes: With Friday’s win, the Dbacks won consecutive games for the first time since 4/30-5/01. They’ve now won 3 of 4 and head into a crucial three game set against the first place Dodgers. Luck is on the Snakes side as all-star Matt Kemp is on the DL and Kershaw threw over the weekend and won’t be available during this series.

*The Diamondbacks struck out only 17 times over the three game set, their best in three weeks and dropped to fourth in the N.L. in strikeout leaders. Significant cutbacks have been made by Montero and Upton specifically.

*With their three stolen bases against the Royals, the Dbacks moved into a 3-way tie for second in the National League in steals at 35.

Topics: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chris Young, D-backs, Dbacks, Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Justin Upton, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miguel Montero, Wade Miley, Willie Bloomquist

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