Arizona Dbacks Thriving Despite Loss Of Drew
As Stephen Drew Is Lost For The Season, Justin Upton Heats Up Again And Top Pick Trevor Bauer Signs
Stephen Drew during earlier, pre-injury times.
By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine
July 27, 2011 — When Stephen Drew slid into home plate, it was obvious that he was hurt.
Replays showed the entire horror show — an ankle turned in a way that it just should not be, and Drew putting it back to the way it should be.
It was as if the wheels were now literally falling off of the season.
An inevitable pallor swept over the team especially after losing in extra innings the night of Drew’s injury. But a funny thing happened after the dark moments. The Dbacks showed that not even the loss of one of the best players on the team would spur them to give up.
Sure, they had over come injuries early in the season — Geoff Blum in the preseason, Willie Bloomquist after a hot start and some tired relievers. But losing J.J. Putz was the first real test. The starting rotation and David Hernandez had solved that riddle. But losing Drew for the season was the biggest test and the other guys would need to step it up.
Justin Upton responded in the biggest way, with 15 hits in his last 26 at bats, with 12 runs batted in, two home runs and a measly three strikeouts. He basically put the team on his back in the series with the Colorado Rockies, going 9 for 12 with 9 runs batted in. Since July 18, his average has risen from .281 to .301.
The kid is turning into a major star. And by the way, he is again the National League player of the week.
Miguel Montero, too has stepped up his game. He is 8 for 18 in the last five games with seven runs batted in and two home runs. Ten games ago, he was batting .272. His average has risen to .280.
Starting pitching has been great from Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Joe Saunders has surprised as the season has progressed. He looked awful in the spring and through the first month or so of the season, but he has been as good as he has ever been in June and July.
In his last 11 games, Saunders has thrown 74 innings with a 6-3 record and a 2.31 earned run average.
Josh Collmenter and Micah Owings finally gave some performances to remember from the fourth and fifth starting spots last week. Zach Duke never got it done after his first start except for his four innings in relief of Owings, and Barry Enright for some reason looks like batting practice to major league hitter right now.
But the Diamondbacks keep showing that they will not give in and they have a lot more major league player within their system. During the Josh Byrnes era, if Drew would have gone down, a young, unproven player would be the substitute.
New General Manager Kevin Towers, however, had a handful of big league players ready to try to plug the holes. While Cody Ransom, Sean Burroughs and Geoff Blum (when he gets healthy, again) are not going to lead the team to the playoffs, they are guys who can hold their own and plug some holes.
The news is also getting a little better. Closer J.J. Putz will be available against San Diego. The Diamondbacks successfully managed to stay within striking distance of the San Francisco Giants without the big right hander.
And, No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, Trevor Bauer, has signed his deal and will head to Visalia. Many believe his stay in the minors will be short — a year, maybe two before he is dominating the big leagues, some say.
But Bauer won’t help the team this year. More help is expected to arrive soon, though, either before the non-waiver trade deadline, or after. And thankfully, Towers has said that the young talent is not available. he is smart enough to know that if the studs of the farm system can deliver on 90 percent of their potential, the Dbacks will be fighting for the division title through the decade. Guys like Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, David Holmberg, Jarrod Parker, Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Owings will help stock the major league squad with talent.
But first things first and a trip through San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
They’ve been decent on the road this year with two more wins than losses. The best news is that the big ballparks they will be visiting help mitigate the biggest weaknesses of Collmenter, Owings, Saunders and the rest of our finesse starters — the home run ball.
And, guys like Upton and Montero are beginning to learn that they have the talent to drive in a lot of runs by hitting doubles and singles. They don’t need to hit a home run every time they step up to the plate.
Since the trip ends in San Francisco, these next nine games are the biggest games of the season. Few thought this team would be playing meaningful games in August.
But they have proven time and again that this is a team that won’t give in and won’t back down. They appreciate the highs and grind through the lows
Most importantly, though is that they have a bullpen this year and that is why they are still in contention.
For as Bob Lemon said in 1981, “I've come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.”
We got a feeling Kevin Towers feels the same way.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.