The Arizona Diamondbacks appear heading in the wrong direction.
After a first half of doing things right, the Arizona Diamondbacks now experience a disturbing trend. Once-timely clutch hitting has all but disappeared, the team has difficulty in responding to challenges, and the deficits are too often and too troubling.
The abyss of a current five-game losing streak, and a reality of 11 defeats in their last 14 games, is distressing at best. Here’s a team which went through the opening three months of the season with a growing confidence, a stern practicality in the direction set forth by manager Torey Lovullo, and faith in their execution. Now, that all seems an inconsequential footnote to an otherwise alarming trend.
The meager four hits against the Atlanta Braves Sunday, during a forgettable 7-1 defeat, seeks to address the latest inability to produce. Not only have the Diamondbacks, as a team, suffered from a drought of quiet bats, but their leading hitters have fallen. Jake Lamb, once the RBI leader in the National League, continues to strike out at an alarming rate, and his .272 batting average is off by 15 points from three weeks ago. Plus, his RBI production had stagnated and the third baseman seems to be unreliable, these days, in clutch situations.
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Then, there is the notion this team has stopped hitting. Among the National League leaders in team batting averages, hits, runs and RBIs during the first half, the Diamondbacks current fall from grace seems rather complete. Coming into play for Tuesday night’s game in Cincinnati, Arizona is fifth in each of four categories, including team batting average, runs, hits, and RBIs. The Washington Nationals, the Diamondbacks’ opponent this weekend in Chase Field, top the National League in all five of these important offensive categories.
Despite the current maladies, Lovullo told the Associated Press after Sunday’s loss to Atlanta that the current bump in the road is part of the season-long marathon.
"“This is a very resilient group,” he said. “They have been all year. They should be proud of where they are. We know we’ve hit a little stumbling block, and that’s part of the season, part of every baseball season.”"
In one aspect, Lovullo does not like to look ahead. He tends to use the phrase, “in the moment,” but confesses to plan out his lineup a few days in advance. Still, the future looms, and a quick look at the coming weeks should be a wake-up call against further decline.
Once the Diamondbacks come off their current road trip, they are in Chase Field for a six-game home stand. This features three with the Nationals, and the prospect of facing NL All-Star game starter Max Scherzer in the series opener this Friday night, and then three with Atlanta. From there, seven of their next eighth series are against teams with direct post-season implication. That includes a combined seven games against the Dodgers and Astros, the two teams with the best records in the majors.
Still, Lovullo wants to keep his team steady and productive. At the same, days will quickly melt into weeks, and in no time, the Diamondbacks will find themselves in the middle of a stretch run from early to mid-August which will define their season.
Latest roster move
Prior to Sunday’s game, the Diamondbacks recalled reliever J. J Hoover his minor-league rehab outing. Placed on the disabled list on with right shoulder inflammation on June 23, Hoover was 1-0, and a 4.16 ERA in 31 appearances with Arizona.
To make room on the 25-man roster, right-hander Randall Delgado was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
"Arizona Diamondbacks: Report card at mid-season"
After a day-off Monday, the Diamondbacks open a three-game set against the Reds in Cincinnati.
In the opener on Tuesday, lefty Robbie Ray (8-4, 2.97 ERA) makes his first post-All-Star game appearance and engages Reds’ right-hander Sal Romano (1-1, 4.50). On Wednesday night, look for Zack Greinke (11-4, 2.86) to return to the mound and draw Tim Adleman (5-7, 4.99) as his opponent. In the series and road trip finale Thursday afternoon, Taijuan Walker (6-4, 3.61) takes on righty Luis Castillo (1-2, 3.41).
Then, it’s back to Chase Field for that six-game home stand against Washington and Atlanta.