The National League West is already wild. Heading into Monday’s games, Arizona and Los Angeles were tied for first place at 35-25, while San Francisco, San Diego, and Colorado are all under .500.
Arizona has been a nice surprise so far, following up an impressive opening stanza by going 18-11 in May games, and ending the month with a six-game winning streak that ended when they ran into the Braves this past weekend. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. paced the offense last month, playing in 24 games, he collected at least one hit in 20 of them, and reached base safely in all but two. He hit .352 for the month, plated 18 runs on eight homers, and really hasn’t showed any sign of slowing down. At 29 years old, he’s having his best pro season ever, is pretty versatile defensively, and a key part to what is happening in the desert.
The Diamondbacks have put together a nice mix of veterans and young players, and play an exciting style of baseball that is a ton of fun to watch. Over the past 30 days, Arizona is in the top 10 in team batting average and top seven in OBP. They have aggressive base runners and stolen base threats scattered throughout the batting order. Because of that, you can’t really count them out of any game until the final out is recorded. 17-29 in one-run games just a season ago, the Snakes are 10-8 this year.
Zac Gallen has led the pitching staff, was 3-1 last month, and is the undisputable ace of the rotation, but Merrill Kelly has also been on a nice run. He was 4-0 last month and hasn’t lost a game since April 22, allowing just nine earned runs in 31.1 May innings while striking out 39 batters. He has been the perfect compliment to Gallen while the rest of the rotation tries to fall into place. Zach Davies, recently returned from an oblique injury, hasn’t been great, and Ryne Nelson has been a roller coaster as well. Rookie Brandon Pfaadt, while his future is bright, showed us he’s not quite ready for prime time and, while 25-year-old Tommy Henry has been better recently, I’d still like to see a couple more solid outings. Arizona’s biggest weakness was, and still is, its bullpen, and while this team has rapidly inserted itself into the upper echelon of National League teams, there is still plenty of room for improvement. As the trade deadline nears, I’m curious to see if their savvy front office has any tricks up their sleeve to improve the pitching staff of a team that has found itself in the thick of a pennant race.