D-backs Offense Ranks Best in NL

D-backs Offense Ranks Best in NL

As expected, the Arizona Diamondbacks have an exceptional offense one month into the season, but pitching has been their Achillies' heel.

If only the D-backs' pitchers could have held up their end of the bargain in April.

The D-backs finished 11-12 in April despite leading the National League in runs (134) and home runs (34), and leading the major leagues in slugging percentage (.472) and OPS (.818), numbers that were driven by strong starts from second baseman Kelly Johnson, third baseman Mark Reynolds, and outfielder Chris Young.

Johnson, a top candidate for NL player of the month, led the league with nine homers, 17 extra-base hits and a .750 slugging percentage while hitting .313, by far the best start of his career. Johnson tied Steve Finley and Richie Sexson for the second-most homers in franchise history in April behind only Luis Gonzalez (13 in 2001, when he finished with 57). Johnson only hit eight homers all season with Atlanta in 2009.

Reynolds, who signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract extension in mid-March, had seven homers and 21 RBI in April, then hit two more homers May 1 to tie Johnson for the league lead. Reynolds and Young had 21 RBI in April, tied with Orlando Hudson for seventh in franchise history. Gonzalez is again the leader, with 27 in 2001.

Young has made a dramatic step up after a difficult 2009, when his batting average was below .200 for much of the year and he was optioned to Class AAA Reno for three weeks. Young is hitting .286 with six doubles and four homers in 91 at-bats. He already has half as many RBI as he did last season, when he finished with 42 in 433 at-bats.

After losing five in a row following a 5-3 start, the D-backs got back to .500 only once because their pitching staff faltered. The 5.62 staff ERA in April was 29th in the majors, ahead of only Pittsburgh, and the bullpen ERA (6.85) was the worst in the majors.

CUBS 10, DIAMONDBACKS 5: Right-hander Edwin Jackson was battered for the second straight start, giving up 11 hits and eight runs in four innings. Jackson, who permitted homers to outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd, has given up 22 hits and 18 runs in his past two starts, raising his ERA for the season to 8.07. First baseman/outfielder Rusty Ryal hit his first homer of the season for the D-backs, who lost the final three games of the series after reaching .500 for the season (11-11) with a victory Thursday.

SNAKE BYTES

--RHP Cesar Valdez will be recalled Monday from Class AAA Reno to make his first major league start at Houston in the opener of a four-game series. Valdez, the D-backs' minor league pitcher of the year in 2008, went 1-1 with a 3.80 in four starts at Reno, where he had 25 strikeouts against five walks in 23 2/3 innings. He is expected to make at least two starts replacing RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), who was placed on the disabled list April 29. The D-backs will need a fifth starter the next two times through the rotation before an off day May 13.

--RHP Dan Haren has four quality starts and a five-game hitting streak after going 2-for-3 with a double against the Cubs on Saturday. Haren had nine hits in 12 at-bats, including two doubles and a pinch-hit single in the 10th inning of a 12-11, 10-inning victory over Colorado on April 28, before grounding out in his final plate appearance Saturday. RHP Livan Hernandez is the only other pitcher to have a 9-for-12 run since the inception of the DH rule in 1973, according to Elias. Hernandez did it with San Francisco in 2001. Haren is 9-for-18 (.500) this season.

--D-backs announcer and former Cub favorite Mark Grace led the Wrigley Field crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the seventh inning stretch of a game against the Cubs on Sunday. After singing, Grace told the crowd, "I miss you guys" and tossed a Cubs hat into the seats. Grace then shared a hug in the broadcast both with Cubs color man Bob Brenly, who was Grace's last manager in Arizona in 2001-03.

--RHP Leo Rosales (right foot) has been diagnosed with a stress fracture and will undergo surgery, which is expected to sideline him for at least two months. Rosales first felt the injury April 18, four days after beating his home town Los Angeles Dodgers with two innings of scoreless relief, but wanted to pitch through it. Rosales was placed on the disabled list April 29, a day after it was obvious something was amiss when he gave up six hits and seven runs in 1 1/3 innings of emergency relief.

--RHP Carlos Rosa was acquired from Kansas City on Saturday, hours after the bullpen blew RHP Dan Haren's 5-3 lead in a 7-5 loss to the Cubs. Rosa, 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in six relief appearances at Class AAA Omaha this season, was assigned to Class AAA Reno. The D-backs transferred RHP Leo Rosales to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Rosa, obtained for minor league shortstop Reynaldo Navarro.

DIAMOND STAT: 43 -- Number of walks in 74 1/3 innings by the D-backs' bullpen, the third-highest ratio in the NL through Sunday.

QUOTABLE: "The walks out of our bullpen are killing us. To me it's more of an approach. Guys start pitching away from contact. It's a timid way to approach the hitter." -- D-backs manager A.J. Hinch.


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