Diamondbacks Record: 27-19, 1st place
Another piece of bad news lies in the upcoming schedule.
The Diamondbacks play 30 games in the next 31 days, including 17 straight
beginning Friday. The first 20 of those games come against teams that are above
.500. Right now, let’s focus on the current 10-game road trip:
The Diamondbacks play 30 games in the next 31 days,
including 17 straight beginning Friday. The first 20 of those games come
against teams that are above .500. Right now, let’s focus on the current
10-game road trip:
May 26-28: Cincinnati Reds (22-16)
26th: Brandon Webb (7-0 2.44) at Eric Milton (2-1 7.04)
27th: Juan Cruz (1-3 5.61) at Aaron Harang (5-3 3.82)
28th: Claudio Vargas (5-2 4.93) at Bronson Arroyo (6-2
Since beginning the month with a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds have gone just 8-12 in their past 20 games. They are
considerably healthier than the last time they met the Diamondbacks, however, as
veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Rich Aurilia have both come off the DL since then.
The Reds now have the deepest offense in the league.
What a waste to have Webb match up against Milton! The
Diamondbacks’ ace has become automatic, with the team having won each of his
last eight starts. In contrast, Eric Milton is 10-16 with a 6.53 ERA since
joining the Reds. He’s “earning” $8.5 million this year, and making the
Diamondbacks feel just slightly better about the $7 million that they’re paying
Russ Ortiz this season.
Unfortunately, the mismatch in game one creates two
mismatches in the rest of the series, mismatches that favor the Reds. Cruz’s
numbers don’t reflect the way that he has pitched because of the 9-run first
inning debacle against San Diego, but Harang and Arroyo have given Cinci a
one-two punch that they haven’t had since Pete Harnisch and Brett Tomko in the
late 90’s. It could be difficult for Arizona to win this series.
May 19-21: New York Mets (28-18)
29th: Miguel Batista (4-2 4.60) at Orlando Hernandez
30th: TBD at Dave Williams (2-3 7.20)
31st: Brandon Webb at Pedro Martinez (5-0 2.82)
The Mets are just 7-9 over their last 16 games, but they
are still one of two NL teams with a better record than the Diamondbacks. This
is also a different team now than it has been over the past two weeks, as Dave
Williams and suddenly-ex-Diamondback Orlando Hernandez replace the completely
ineffective Jose Lima and Jeremy Gonzalez in the rotation.
It’s fitting that El Duque’s first start as a Met should
come versus his former team. You’d expect the Diamondbacks’ lefty-laden lineup
to give him fits (career 1.49 WHIP vs lefties) because they can see his dynamic
arm angles better than right handers. However, Shawn Green is the only player on
the roster to have homered off him, and Orlando Hudson is a woeful 2-for-16 with
no extra base his versus the Cuban defector. Expect Tony Clark to be in the
lineup for that game, as he can hit from the left side and holds a .313 career
average against El Duque.
The Diamondbacks still haven’t announced who will replace
Hernandez as the new fifth starter. The leading candidates right now are Kevin Jarvis, whose career ERA is pushing six, and Russ Ortiz, whose ERA with the
Diamondbacks is pushing seven. Here’s hoping that they instead turn to a
Triple-A prospect, either Dustin Nippert (6-0 3.83) or Enrique Gonzalez (4-3
The third game of this series may very well have an impact
on the National League Cy Young Award race. The Mets may have an edge because
they have more team speed, and therefore should at least be able to manufacture
runs against Webb.
June 1-4: Atlanta Braves (24-23)
Probable Pitchers: TBD
The Braves had been winners of seven out of their last
eight when they went to Arizona in May, but proceeded to drop two out of three
games. This time they’ll be at home, where they’ve won two-thirds of their
games to date.
The Braves have been using a four-man rotation since young
Kyle Davies strained his groin, and Todd Pratt at catcher since batting leader
Brian McCann collided with Eric Byrnes on Saturday (Byrnes suffered no
ill-effects from the collision, as he has extended his hitting streak to nine
games and upped his average to .326). McCann will be back, but they will need a
fifth starter now that days off have become scarce. It’s unlikely that they
will once again turn to rookie Travis Smith, whom Arizona roughed up en route to
thirteen runs on that Saturday game. Instead, they hope that Horatio Ramirez
will be healthy and ready to roll.
One certainty is that John Smoltz will pitch in this
series. He had been slated to miss the Diamondbacks yet again, but high pitch
counts in his last two starts caused the Braves to push his next start back one
day. Smoltz has a career ERA of 3.12 against Arizona in eleven games (4 starts).
This might just work out. The Diamondbacks begin this long
stretch of games against fierce competition, and once they become a little worn
out, they’ll face some easier teams. The immediate problem is hitting away from
Chase. Diamondbacks are hitting just .250 with an aggregate .364 SLG on the
road. The other question mark is that fifth starter. Even if the organization
makes the right move and goes with a prospect, there’s hardly any guarantee that
he will succeed in his first few starts in the majors.
The Diamondbacks are a bipolar team right now. They’re
trying to balance developing a young nucleus with winning right now. They’re
also playing their home games in what’s all of a sudden the most extreme
hitter’s park in baseball, but many road games in pitcher’s parks. If all of
these opposites can somehow be organized into a playoff birth for the 2006
Diamondbacks, Bob Melvin and Josh Byrnes should both receive strong
consideration for Manager and Executive of the Year, respectively.
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