Holy Schmidt! D-backs
Surging On Big Road Trip
Seemingly Doomed To Suffer Through A Season Where Bad Luck Has Taken Hold, A Sweep Against The First-Place Dodgers Changes Everything
Has Paul Goldschmidt's homeruns restored the D-backs' mojo?
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 3, 2012 — A few days ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks began a road trip that would most likely determine the fate of their season.
First up in the 10-game, three-city trip was a visit to Los Angeles and a Dodgers ballclub that had just swept the San Francisco Giants, resassuming first place. The Dodgers had just added Hanley Ramirez, and some pundits bemoaned that the only move the D-backs made was to exchange Ryan Roberts for Chris Johnson, formerly of the Houston Astros.
The D-backs were about to get pushed a bit further back, it was thought.
But in the top of the first inning — in the first game of the series on Monday — Paul Goldschmidt hit a three-run home-run. In one swing of the bat, all of the bad mojo that the D-backs had been cursed with through the first four months of the season seemed to vanish as quickly as the baseball over the left-field fence.
Exorcism complete, it seems.
And it better be, because this road trip is vital to the team’s playoff hopes. After their successful trip to Los Angeles, they have a three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies. The boys from the city of brotherly love might have had a rough go of it so far, but they will send Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay to the mound against the D-backs after Joe Blanton — who has been their best pitcher recently.
If the Dodgers and Phillies don’t make for a tough enough road trip, the D-backs will then travel to Pittsburgh and take on the Wild Card leading Pirates in a four-game set.
But as daunting as this trip has been, challenges are many times also great opportunities. By sweeping the Dodgers, they sent a message while also moving to within two games of the division lead. With the Clint Hurdle-led Pirates six games up on the D-backs in the Wild Card hunt, there is also opportunity to be had in Pittsburgh.
After Wednesday’s win against the Dodgers, manager Kirk Gibson told reporters that the Diamondbacks’ early season struggles were akin to a computer virus and that they have now cleaned the machine.
Surely, Gibson was speaking with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, but there is no doubt that something is different.
Jason Kubel, who carried the team offensively through most of July, went ice cold against the New York Mets to end the homestand. His struggles continued against the Dodgers when he went 2 for 19. Aaron Hill — the owner of a .300 average most of the season — also cooled. He is only hitting .225 over the last 10 games.
But unlike early in the season, other guys happened to get hot and picked-up the two guys that had been carrying the team.
Ian Kennedy has started to look like a top-tier starting pitcher over his last three starts. In that span he has thrown more than 22 innings and has only given up six runs. Wade Miley has also been consistently good again. In his last three starts he has thrown 20 innings yet has only given up five runs.
The bullpen has been as dominant as Kevin Towers has promised it would be — a 2.27 earned-run-average since June 22.
But it wasn’t only the pitching that came around — even though Kubel and Hill had slowed.
The bat rack found some new magic as several guys did more than just pick up where Kubel and Hill had left off, but took it to a whole other level.
One needs look no further than Miguel Montero to prove that point. He has batted .467 with four home-runs and 12 runs-batted-in over his past 10 games.
The newly acquired Chris Johnson — who many shrugged off as a useless add in the midst of a pennant race — added some serious spark to his own bat and the team. A grand slam against a division foe in a pennant race is a hell of a way to start things. Sure, he went 6 for 11 with two home-runs and seven runs-batted-in against the Dodgers, but he was hot even before the trade. Over his last 10 games — which ironically started against the D-backs when he was still with the Astros — he is batting .462.
And nearly no one in major league baseball has been hotter over the past week than Paul Goldschmidt. In the last seven games, Goldschmidt went 12 for 23 with two home runs and seven runs batted in.
According to statistics over the past seven days the OPS leaders in major league baseball are Chris Johnson, at 1.723, Miguel Montero at 1.696, David Murphy of the Texas Rangers at 1.418, and Paul Goldschmidt at 1.360.
But baseball doesn’t only live within the numbers.
Beyond the statistics, nothing was bigger over the past 10 days than the first inning, three-run home run statement that Goldschmidt delivered in Los Angeles — which started the biggest road trip of the year. That blast might have magically exorcised the D-backs’ early-season demons.
It’s about time the D-backs got their mojo working.
Bob Goodwood lives in Scottsdale. Reach him at email@example.com.
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