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Arizona Diamondbacks: Character, production at stake in Dodgers’ series

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Jake Lamb represents a strong force in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Jake Lamb represents a strong force in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Diamondbacks engage in their first meaningful series within the past several years.

Beginning Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium, the Arizona Diamondbacks will encounter their first true and meaningful series in a number of years. With Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers as two of three teams playing over .600 baseball, the Diamondbacks are in a position to leave an important message.

Sure, we’re just at the half-way point of the baseball season, but the stature and standing of the Diamondbacks seems very much at stake. Here’s a team which pundits believed, at the start of the season, would be fortunate to come within a few games of playing .500 baseball. Now at the advent of the All-Star game, the Diamondbacks are at the top of the major leagues and show no signs of going away any time soon.

The Dodgers series this week highlights the two best, one-two starters in the game. Three of these four are scheduled to pitch in this series, and their effort and result could have an indelible mark on the nature of the National League West Division race.

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Of the four, only Zack Grienke will not pitch in this series. Greinke is held over to open the Diamondbacks final series before the All-Star game. That’s against the Cincinnati Reds at home Friday night.

Otherwise, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood are slated against Arizona and Robbie Ray, one-half of the Ray-Greinke set, will go on Thursday night. Coming into the series, the Dodgers lead the National League by 2.5 games over the Diamondbacks. The Houston Astros have the best record at the moment (56-27, .675 percentage) with the Dodgers (55-29, .655) and the Diamondbacks (52-31, .627) close behind.

All of which puts importance on this series. After Sunday’s walk-off win over the Colorado Rockies in Chase Field, manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes his players will be focused.

"“This team will be ready,” he said. “We’ll have a good day-off (Monday) in Los Angeles and get ourselves ready for a really important three-game series. At his point, we’re not looking beyond Kershaw (who will start the series Tuesday night for the Dodgers).”"

A strong proponent of crunching numbers, analytics and information, general manager Mike Hazen constantly feeds Lovullo the kinds of assessments which go into facing pitchers, strategically placing defenders in shifts and determining trends. All of which, Lovullo told Venom Strikes, educates his players.

"“We’ll prepare and know as much as we can before each hitter steps into the box,” he said. “We will not do anything special beyond what we have done to help us reach this level. We will play Arizona Diamondbacks baseball.”"

The series

This three-game set with the Dodgers is considered one of the biggest series for the Diamondbacks in the past few years. Lovullo made it clear over the past few weeks that he does not want lefties Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin to pitch in back-to-back games.

For that reason, Corbin (6-7, 4.76 ERA) is pushed ahead one day and will open the series against Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw (12-2, 2.32.) on Tuesday night.

In his last four starts, Corbin is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. However, he has had problems with the Dodgers in the past. In 15 career games against the Dodgers, and including 13 starts, Corbin is 3-8 and a 4.34 ERA. That also includes two saves out of the bullpen.

On Wednesday night, look for right-hander Zack Godley (3-2, 2.67) to start for Arizona and draw Alex Wood (9-0, 1.83) as his opponent. In the series finale Thursday night, Ray (8-4, 3.06) will get the ball from Lovullo and takes on lefty Rich Hill (5-4, 4.00).

The Diamondbacks then return to Chase Field and, before the All-Star break, have three with the Cincinnati Reds this weekend.

"Arizona Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt, Greinke, Lamb, Ray going to ASG"

Player moves

After Sunday’s walk-off victory over the Colorado Rockies at home, the Diamondbacks optioned infielder Ildemaro Vargas back to Triple-A Reno. In two games with Arizona, Vargas, who was called up to the majors as a defensive replacement, was 0-for-2 in two games.

The Diamondbacks will announce a corresponding roster move before Tuesday’s series opener with the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium. Speculation centers around outfielder A. J. Pollock restored to the major-league roster. Pollock has been out six weeks with a groin strain, and could be ready to re-join the club.

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