In what could only have been described as one of the most important series of the season thus far for the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was plenty of good and bad things to look at, but the one big number is this: two. That is how many games the Los Angeles Dodgers won at Chase Field over the course of the past three days, and by doing that they were able to pad their division lead just a little bit more, now leading the NL West by seven games over the San Francisco Giants and by 10 ½ over the Diamondbacks.
Yes, the Diamondbacks still have 117 games left to get the ship righted and to get back into the swing of things, and yes they even have a second wild card spot available by which to get into the postseason, but the fact of the matter is that no matter what factor you blame for it (injuries, sluggish hitting, whatever), they are already in a significant hole that will be difficult to climb out of.
People have been quick to dismiss the Dodgers as a product of the monstrous opening season performance by a guy many believe should have won the NL MVP Award a season ago, or as some sort of fad team that only thrives at their home ballpark. Neither of these things have proven to be true, and as the season gets deeper on, the fact of the matter is that eventually folks are going to have to come to grips with the fact that Don Mattingly’s Dodgers are for real, and are a legitimate threat to the World Series aspirations put forth by pundits and team members alike for the Diamondbacks.
Now, with the Dodgers leaving town and the Milwaukee Brewers headed in, the Diamondbacks have a decent opportunity to capitalize on some of the momentum they have gained the past few days, as well as a chance to cut out some of the mistakes they have made over that stretch.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what we learned about Arizona in the series with the Dodgers, and how they can apply those lessons moving forward.
What to Do With Willie Bloomquist?
Despite suffering a setback in his recovery process, shortstop Stephen Drew is still eyeing a return to the lineup in the somewhat near future. Obviously his bat has been missed by the Diamondbacks’ lineup (although they are starting to climb the ranks in several key offensive categories), but when he does don that #8 jersey for Arizona upon his return, what is Kirk Gibson going to do with Willie Bloomquist?
After all, the 34-year old Arizona State product has been rocking and rolling as of late. He is currently riding the wave of an eight-game hitting streak, and against the Dodgers he was especially potent batting in the leadoff spot in the order. In the series, he went 6-for-15 at the plate with five runs scored, two triples, a double, and an RBI. He has also been very solid in the field, and when you couple those two things together, it might end up being an issue that Gibson is going to have to take very seriously.
If he decides he wants to keep Bloomquist in the lineup, who will he remove to make room for him? Ryan Roberts is starting to hit the ball better, collecting at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, and he had a stellar day on Wednesday, cranking a home run and driving in three runs. Aaron Hill could also be a candidate for a seat on the bench, but he is one of the few legitimate power threats the Diamondbacks have had in the early going this season, so unless Gibson is content watching Bloomquist slap the ball around as opposed to Hill coming up with the potential of smashing one over the fence, that isn’t going to happen either.
The most likely scenario is that Bloomquist and Drew will platoon the shortstop job to start with, and if either Hill or Roberts goes back to struggling, then he may be tempted to pull the trigger and make Bloomquist the every day guy at either position. Whichever way you look at it, having too many good hitters can be a good problem for a manager to have, but it is still a problem in terms of getting everyone the at-bats they feel as though they deserve.
Patrick Corbin’s Departure Paves Way for Daniel Hudson
It wasn’t really an on-field revelation, but it was revealed this week that Daniel Hudson is going to be coming back very soon, possibly on Sunday against the Brewers, from the shoulder impingement he has been dealing with for the past month. This is welcome news for a team that has been struggling to find quality starting pitching, with Corbin not being quite ready for big league play and guys like Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill struggling to find their form.
The hope, of course, is that Hudson returning will take some of the pressure off some of those more veteran guys, and his return may very well may mean more to the team than Chris Young’s return to the lineup against Kansas City last weekend. Hopefully the team doesn’t rush Hudson back, unlike Young who looked tentative in his defensive play in center field and doesn’t have quite the same pop that he did before the injury.
Don’t Look Now, but Justin Upton May Be Back
We speculated last week that Justin Upton’s opposite field game winning homer against the Colorado Rockies might be a sign that he is on the way back to the MVP-caliber style that he is accustomed to playing at after last season, and he started to prove that during the series with the Dodgers.
Upton has driven in at least a run in six of Arizona’s last 10 games, socked a gorgeous home run last night in the D’Backs blowout victory, and is hitting the ball to all fields with authority, a great sign for a guy who has shown a penchant for doing just that when he is on his game.
He even managed to overcome one of his arch nemesis’ on the mound this week on Tuesday when he got the better of Dodgers’ starter Aaron Harang. Coming into that game, Upton was 2-of-16 against Harang lifetime, but he stayed patient and ended up with three hits in the game, including a double off of Aaron.
With Miguel Montero nursing an injury and Young trying to find his form, it’s going to be up to Upton to carry the load for a while, and he seems as though he may be finally ready to do that after a weak start to the season.