The 7-2 start by the Arizona Diamondbacks equals a franchise best.
After the first 10 days of the season, perhaps the defining moment for the Arizona Diamondbacks may be manager Torey Lovullo’s ejection Sunday in St. Louis. After all, it’s this kind of event which glamourizes headlines and gains attention. Lovullo’s scrape with Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina was well documented as soon as this happened during the second inning of Sunday’s 4-1 Arizona victory over the Redbirds.
Forget the attention this received.
A broader and more clear vision from Sunday is that the Diamondbacks are out of the gate as winners in seven of their opening nine games. That equals a franchise-best that was established in 2000 and equaled in 2007, 2008 and last season.
Perhaps the factor which could portend success is that the Diamondbacks captured their third straight series, and marks the first time in the franchise history this feat was accomplished. If the club continues to win sets of games, that could equate to playing nearly .700 baseball, and that something their NL West rivals Los Angeles Dodgers done for a significant part of last season.
While playing .700 baseball for six straight months may be a stretch, the Diamondbacks finished last season with a mark of 93-69 and a percentage of .574. That was good enough to qualify for the NL Wild Card game, and following success in that game, the Diamondbacks were able to drive a little deeper into post-season play.
A look back at the three series triumphs pinpoint those factors which may propel Arizona to the top of the division. In taking two of three from each the Rockies and Cardinals and sweeping the Dodgers, the starting pitching remains a significant reason for this surge.
In Sunday’s win at St. Louis, starter Taijuan Walker recovered from his initial start of the season, and that was a no-decision April 2 at home against the Dodgers. Though he managed another a no-decision Sunday, Walker improved over his first start with six solid innings and limited the Cardinals to one run.
"“I just went out there and attacked,” Walker told mlb.com after the game. “That’s kind of been my mindset coming into the season: Just go out there and attack with the fastball and get ahead, sprinkle my off-speed pitches in there, and just try to make them put the ball in play.”"
A late rally powered by eight inning homers David Peralta (a two-run homer) and a solo shot from A. J. Pollock provided the key offense.
If Walker gave Lovullo six strong innings, then the back-end of the Arizona bullpen again called out Lovullo’s blueprint. In a manner in which the manager draws up plans, he calls upon the starter to provide 21 outs and then hands things over the Archie Bradley, the set-up reliever in the eighth inning and closer Brad Boxberger. Against the Cardinals Sunday, that was precisely how the game ended. After Walker delivered his strong start, Yoshi Hirano retired the Cardinals in order the seventh and then handed things over the Bradley and Boxberger to slam the door.
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Over the opening nine games of the season, the bullpen has clearly complemented the strong work of the starters. Coming into their next game Monday night against the Giants at AT&T Park, Hirano’s ERA is 1,69, Bradley’s ERA is 1.35 and Boxberger has a 0.00 ERA with four saves in the opening seven victories.
Roster move …
Prior to Sunday’s game, the Arizona Diamondbacks recalled outfielder/first baseman Christian Walker from Triple-A Reno. Last season, Walker was the Pacific Coast MVP, slammed 32 homers for Reno and knocked in 114 runs.
Walker was awarded with a September call-up and went 3-for-12 down the stretch. He was selected as part of the Arizona Diamondbacks 25-man, postseason roster and went 1-1 in the 2017 playoffs. In the recently concluded spring training activity, Walker hit .302 but was one of the last cuts before the season began.
For now, Walker replaces Jake Lamb on the 25-man roster. Lamb went on the 10-day DL during the recent Dodgers series in Chase Field with a sprained left shoulder.
The current road trip continues against the San Francisco Giants, with three-night games this week in the Bay Area. Zack Godley (1-0, 1.29 ERA) opens the set for Arizona on Monday night and draws lefty Derek Holland (0-1, 5.40 ERA) as his opponent.