Going into Sunday’s tilt at Chase Field against the Atlanta Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks were a team in disarray. Injuries had hit them hard, and they were in the midst of a five game losing streak that saw them score a mere eight runs on their home turf, and there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the team’s chances to turn things around.
Freddie Freeman had been killing them with his bat, and even if they were somehow able to solve that riddle, there was still the matter of their anemic offense to deal with. Oh, and they had Wade Miley starting in a game on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies that was supposed to be a showcase matchup of Cliff Lee against Daniel Hudson, but both players went on the DL before the matchup could be consummated.
Then, a surprising thing happened. The Diamondbacks’ offense ended up bringing six runs across the plate Sunday, including a grand slam by Gerardo Parra of all people, and they were able to end their losing streak in style. Then, on Monday, Miley did the unthinkable and pitched six very solid innings, and the Diamondbacks thanked him for his efforts by scoring nine runs en route to a 9-5 victory over the reeling Phillies.
Things got started quickly for Arizona, as Miley cruised through the first inning and got the ball rolling. Then, Parra got on base with a lead-off double (bucking the trend of the D’Backs lead-off hitter racking up a sparkling .254 OBP so far this season), and the offense really kicked into gear after that. An Aaron Hill video reviewed ground rule double (it had originally been called a home run but clearly hit about four feet below the yellow line) later, and it was already 1-0 Arizona. Then Justin Upton came up to the dish, and knowing full well that he was one of only six players in baseball with at least 30 AB’s and no RBI, manager Kirk Gibson sent Hill on a steal for third, and he made it easily. Upton got the sac fly and finally got off the schneid, but Arizona was just warming up.
Miguel Montero got hit by a pitch, and then Jason Kubel absolutely scorched a ball into the left field gap, scoring Montero standing up. After Lyle Overbay reached, John McDonald singled to center and scored Kubel, and even Miley got into the act, hitting a single, but the inning ended with Overbay being thrown out at home.
All in all, it was a four run first inning, and it was exactly the kind of inning the team needed to get the wind back in its sails as they tried to build on their victory Sunday. Miley largely cruised after that, giving up only two hits and a walk while striking out seven Phillies in six innings of work. The Diamondbacks tacked on two more runs in the second on a Cody Ransom double, and also got home runs from Upton and Kubel in the fourth inning.
The Phillies did make things interesting by roughing up Joe Patterson in the ninth inning to the tune of five runs without recording a single out, but Craig Breslow came in and shut the door on the rally, and the Diamondbacks got back above the .500 threshold with a 9-5 victory.
There were three big stories that ended up coming out of this game. The first among those had to be the performance of the offense, especially that of Upton. Getting that first RBI really seemed to settle him down, and he ended up scoring twice in addition to his HR and two RBI, and looked more comfortable at the plate than he has all season.
In addition, the team had to be thrilled with the production that McDonald provided in the eight hole, going 3-for-4 and driving in a run. He will likely get more playing time, especially considering his chemistry with Hill up the middle of the infield, and it will be interesting to see how Gibson juggles him and Willie Bloomquist.
The second big story was the clutch performance that Miley delivered. The Phillies came into the game knowing full well that Miley was a long reliever who probably wouldn’t have as long a leash as a standard starter would, but they struggled to stay patient against him, and he dispatched them with little work involved in picking up his second victory of the season. Gibson will surely not hesitate to call upon him again should they need him to start in place of Hudson again, and with good reason. He looked comfortable and confident, and he has proven to be a very solid asset so far this season.
Finally, there was the unfortunate performance turned in by Patterson. After giving up two home runs tonight, his days in the bullpen might be numbered, and you could see the anguish all over his face in the dugout after Gibson pulled him. In his last three outings, he has gotten a total of three outs, given up 12 hits, and surrendered a total of 10 earned runs. It is highly unlikely that he will get the ball unless there is an extreme emergency, and he may even end up getting sent back down to triple-A, especially when Hudson gets brought back into the fold.
For now, the Diamondbacks will look to win their first series since they took two of three from the Padres on their first road trip of the season when they host Philadelphia tomorrow night. The game starts at 6:40pm MST, and the pitching matchup will see Vance Worley taking the bump for Philly against Josh Collmenter.
Player of the Game: Wade Miley
It’s highly unlikely that Gibson thought he was going to get this performance out of Miley tonight, but he ended up coming through in a huge spot, and he stole some of the spotlight away from an offense that seems like it might be getting ready to kick it back into high gear. Striking out seven out of the 21 batters you face is good for a lot of guys, but for a long reliever, that is even more impressive.
Add on the fact that he actually went 1-of-2 and had a successful sacrifice bunt, and you have a very nice and well-rounded effort, and one that warrants Player of the Game honors.
-AJ Pollock got his first major league hit in the eighth inning when he slapped a single in a pinch-hitting spot for Upton. The crowd gave him a nice ovation for the feat.
-Despite the weather being 97 degrees outside at first pitch, the roof was still open for the game, meaning that the roof has only been shut for one game this season thus far (Sunday against Atlanta).
-After struggling mightily to drive in runs, the Diamondbacks broke out of that in a big way on Monday, going 5-of-12 with runners in scoring position.