PHOENIX – It’s been a great two weeks for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And that goes a long way in a nine-week season.
Since losing 8-2 to the Astros on Aug. 4, the D-backs have won 10 of 13. And they picked up their sixth straight victory on Tuesday, dismantling the Oakland Athletics by a final of 10-1 at Chase Field.
Arizona sent all nine batters to the plate in the first inning, jumping on Oakland starter Frankie Montas from the opening pitch. Kole Calhoun ripped a double to right-center to set the tone, and later came around to score on a wild pitch. Nick Ahmed continued his recent tear at the plate by launching a three-run home run to left later in the inning.
The D-backs were just getting started, though.
Everyone made a plate appearance again in the second inning, and this time Calhoun led off with his seventh homer of the season. Arizona then used four singles and a walk to bring home three more runs and blow the game wide open. It was 9-1 before the fans would’ve even gotten settled in their seats – if fans were allowed at these games.
Incidentally, Montas had given up four total runs over 23 innings in four starts this season prior to today. This isn’t a back-of-the-rotation guy that Torey Lovullo’s team lit up.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Lovullo pointed out. “But we can’t take anything for granted. We’ve got to keep the hammer down, keep doing what we’ve been doing and going out with the expectation to win baseball games by being good, smart hitters each and every at-bat.”
Much like Sunday’s win over the Padres, though, the bigger story here might be the performance of the Diamondbacks’ starting pitcher. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly kept Arizona afloat the first couple weeks of the season, with very little help. Madison Bumgarner has been uncharacteristically bad (and now hurt), Robbie Ray may have been tipping his pitches with a new delivery and Luke Weaver just hasn’t looked right after missing most of last season with a forearm strain.
Bumgarner is working towards a return from the injured list and hasn’t really been a part of the team’s resurgence yet, but Ray showed some encouraging signs by dealing five no-hit innings on Sunday. And Weaver went five strong innings in this one, scattering three hits and one run.
To put that in perspective, Weaver hadn’t gone more than four innings in any start this season. His ERA entering Tuesday was an abysmal 11.85. Now it’s at least in single digits at 9.16.
“That felt pretty good,” he said. “Just to be able to make some big pitches early. Have some good, clean innings, feel aggressive and have a dominant feeling of getting some strikeouts. And then on that last one, it just kind of fired me up a little bit. So it was a great one to build off of, getting more into what it feels like to be myself and hopefully kind of roll on that one.”
Granted, it’s just one game. And there’s a lot less pressure when your teammates score nine runs before you’ve even recorded your seventh out. But it’s a start. And Arizona needs the rest of the rotation to get rolling until Bumgarner comes back and – ideally – starts to resemble the real Bumgarner.
With the win, the D-backs now sit at 13-11 — just a half-game back of the Rockies for second in the NL West. Those six straight wins are basically the equivalent of a 16-game streak in a normal season, and that discouraging 3-8 starts seems like it was a lot longer than two weeks ago.
“Look I’m never going to be satisfied and tell you we’re playing our best baseball,” Lovullo acknowledged. “But I was very satisfied by what I saw today. And I feel like this group can string things together.”
– Ahmed finished a triple shy of the cycle, picking up five RBIs in the process. He’s hitting .500 over 28 at-bats in his last eight games.
– These two teams head to Oakland for their third of four meetings tomorrow. Kelly (3-1, 1.17 ERA) gets the start against Jesus Luzardo (1-0, 4.79).