Arizona Diamondbacks: Linking at-bats generates success

Chris Owings says his team is never out of any game. (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images
Chris Owings says his team is never out of any game. (Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images /

The offense of the Arizona Diamondbacks is predicated upon hitters supporting one another.

From an offensive standpoint, it’s no secret that teams desire to put up crooked numbers. That’s also standard policy outlined by manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks and subscribed by his players.

The combination of manufacturing runs and creating pressure on opposing defenses exemplifies to the core of Lovullo’s approach. In an opportunistic vein, the Diamondbacks can play “small ball” and manufacture runs.

Conversely, there’s enough fire-power throughout the line-up to strike at any time. While the Diamondbacks, like all teams, will take as many runs as possible in any one frame, Lovullo desires to create a chain-reaction and open the floodgates.

This way, the Arizona Diamondbacks like to link at-bats together and manage to create those crooked numbers. During the club’s initial homestand of the season, that point was emphasized by Chris Owings, who told Call to the Pen, that each batter carries the responsibility of passing the baton down the line-up.

"“Our mentality is, make anything happen,” he said. “We’re never out of any game, and it’s never over. Yeah, each guy does a good job of handing things over.”"

If there was one game through the opening weeks of the season to support the linking theory, the Arizona Diamondbacks like to point to April 2 and a contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chase Field. Down 6-3 with two outs in the ninth and facing closer Kenley Jensen, the chances of pulling this one out appeared as remote as seeing palm trees in the artic.

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First, Jensen walked Paul Goldschmidt and followed with a free pass to A. J. Pollock. Owings then swing at the first pitch and drilled a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers to tie this one.

In the 15th inning, the Dodgers broke on top with a run, but the Diamondbacks scored twice in their half of the inning and gained the win.

Afterward, catcher Jeff Mathis, who slammed the game-winning single to center which scored Nick Ahmed, told Call to the Pen the Arizona Diamondbacks merely linked at-bats together in both the 9th and 15th and that formed the basis of the success.

"“Really, each guy doesn’t try to do too much,” he said. “We try and grind out at-bats, and I couldn’t do what I did if the hitters ahead of me did not get on.”"

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Diamondbacks’ ability to link at-bats together represents a significant reason why they sit atop the National League West division. Coming into their game Friday against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, the club is fourth in the NL in team batting average (behind the Pirates, Braves, Phillies), tied for third in runs scored and third in RBIs.

For an equally particular picture of success, point to the pitching staff. Coming into Friday’s game, the team’s ERA is 2.72, and only the Mets (2.47) have a lower team ERA. Plus, Arizona pitchers top the NL in strikeouts and have held opposing hitters to a .211 batting average.

Should hitters continue to link productive at-bats in succession, players and Lovullo believe this dimension of their game will help maintain the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lofty position within the NL West.

Following an off-day Thursday, the current road trip ends this weekend at Dodger Stadium. In the opener Friday night, Zack Greinke goes for his first win of the season (0-1, 5.06 ERA). He’ll oppose righty Kenta Maeda (1-0, 0.00).

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On Saturday, Lovullo will send out Taijuan Walker (0-0, 3.27) and L. A. skipper Dave Roberts counters with lefty Rich Hill (1-0, 2.70). In the Sunday afternoon finale, look for Zack Godley (2-0, 0.64) to draw lefty Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 1.89) as his mound opponent.

The Arizona Diamondbacks then return home for a six-game homestand, and this begins Tuesday night in Chase Field. The Giants are in first for three games, and the Padres follow for three.