Diamondbacks Record: 4-3
For the Diamondbacks, the start of the 2006 season has been marked by incredible starting pitching; it has been much better than anyone could have hoped. With the exception of Russ Ortiz' rough outing on Friday, the starters were able to succeed in the most hostile environment for pitchers (Coors Field) and against the hottest-starting team in the National League (Milwaukee Brewers).
As the team begins its 10-game opening homestand, they hope its rotation can continue to succeed in Chase field, also an extreme hitter's park. The Diamondbacks want to avoid a repeat of last season's horrific 36-45 home record, which was worst in the division. They begin their home season against three teams that are currently 4-2: Colorado, Houston, and San Francisco.
April 11-13: Colorado Rockies (4-2)
13th: Josh Fogg at Russ Ortiz
For those who expect to see the same Colorado team that played Arizona in their opening series, think again. From 2004-2005, the Rockies have gone 78-84 at home, but just 57-105 away from Coors. Even some of their pitchers perform better at home, now. No one exemplifies this better than Game 2 starter Jeff Francis (Home: 8-4 4.88 Away: 6-8 6.40).
So far this season, Colorado has defied their history by sweeping the Padres on the road after having lost two of three in Coors to the D'backs in the opening series. Unless there's some new humidor scandal that we don't know about yet, expect these 2006 Rockies to revert back to their historical road-weary ways. Arizona should be able to take two of three here with no problem.
April 14-16: Houston Astros (4-2)
15th: Wandy Rodriguez at Claudio Vargas
16th: Taylor Buchholtz at Orlando Hernandez
Houston has come out of the gate strong, despite expectations of a complete collapse without their Rocket. Their first two opponents have been the Marlins and the Nationals, however, each of whom came into the season with even lower expectations than the Astros. The big three of Lance Berkman, Morgan Ensberg, and Preston Wilson have feasted on suspect pitching and carried the Houston offense.
The Diamondbacks are fortunate to miss both the dominant Roy Oswalt and the underrated Brandon Backe this series. This leaves the ‘Stros with Andy Pettitte, who's had one decent start and on awful start so far, Wandy Rodriguez, who still needs to prove that he's a major league-quality pitcher, and Taylor Buchholz, a prospect bust from the Billy Wagner deal, starting the final game of the series. With these favorable pitching matchups, the Diamondbacks can expect to win this series handily.
April 17-20: San Francisco Giants (4-2)
Probable Pitchers: TBD
The Giants begin the season with a winning record, despite opening the year against two 2005 division winners, Barry Bonds hitting under .200, and breakout starter Nick Lowry already landing on the disabled list. They're winning mostly with hot starts from veterans Omar Vizquel (9-for-21, 5BB, 1K, 3SB, 0CS) and Moises Alou (7-for-20, 2 HR, 6RBI).
The Giants figure to be at their strongest early in the season before their elderly players start to wear down, and unfortunately, the Diamondbacks play them seven times in April. Arizona must hope that Bonds stays cold and that Lowry's absence throws the San Francisco rotation into disarray to avoid a potentially tough four-game series.
The Diamondbacks should hope to finish this 10-game span over .500 to show that they can be contenders in the early going. The Giants look like the most worrisome team over this span, as it's going to be difficult to avoid Jason Schmidt, Matt Morris, and pitch around Bonds for a four-game series. Yet the Diamondbacks' schedule is only going to get tougher from here on out, so they will need to take control of these very winnable games while they can.