Diamondbacks/Brewers Series Preview
The Arizona Diamondbacks head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers in the opening game of the NLDS this Saturday. The two teams battled down the stretch to earn home-field advantage and the privilege of not playing the Phillies in the first round. But that was predicated on the assumption that Atlanta would win the wildcard.
And as we found out in game 162 of the season, no wildcard lead was safe. With the Braves collapsing along with the Red Sox, St. Louis captured the wildcard and the unlucky duty of facing Philadelphia.
So Arizona and Milwaukee will instead face each other in the first round. A fitting result. After looking at the stats, this matchup is extremely close. It could really go either way. Here’s how it breaks down.
Arizona leads the season series, at least in terms of wins. The Dbacks and Brewers played seven times this season, 3 in Milwaukee and 4 in Phoenix, all in the month of July. Arizona won 4 of the 7 games, but the teams put up identical run and hit totals (28 runs and 58 hits). The Dbacks won 2 of 3 in Milwaukee, and 2 of 4 at home, so neither team had a solid home vs. away advantage. The Brewers, however, won more games at home (57) this season than any other team in baseball.
In the first series in Milwaukee, Arizona out-muscled the Brewers. Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra combined for 10 hits and 10 RBIs. The first 4 Brewers in their batting order accounted for 15 of the team’s 18 strikeouts in the series. Ryan Braun, however, did not play. Dan Hudson had a rough outing, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs in just 4 innings of work. The bullpen responded fairly to the pressure, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs with 11 strikeouts in 9 innings pitched.
The bullpen was stressed again in the second series against the Brewers thanks to a 3 inning effort from Barry Enright. Josh Collmenter had his second start against the Brewers, the only Dbacks pitcher to do so this season. He allowed just 6 hits and 0 runs in 14 innings of work, striking out 10 and walking just 1. Prince Fielder was completely neutralized by Arizona pitching in this series, going 1 for 16 with 6 strikeouts.
Across the seven games, Arizona faired slightly better in terms of starting pitching. Dbacks starters gave up 23 hits, 8 runs, walked 6 and struck out 20. The Brewers starters had more strikeouts, but walked 16 batters while ceding 20 runs and 38 hits.
The same trend goes for the month of September. The top four Dbacks starters (Kennedy, Collmenter, Saunders and Hudson) pitched 134 innings, going 10-7 with 116 hits, 45 runs, 28 walks and 91 strikeouts. The Brewers top four (Greinke, Gallardo, Wolf and Marcum) produced even more strikeouts (132), but allowed 61 runs, 37 walks and 135 hits in 137 innings of work.
Despite Putz’s 10 saves and 15 strikeouts in just under 10 innings, the Brewers top bullpen performers (Rodriguez, Axford and Loe) had a slight edge in September over Arizona (Putz, Hernandez and Ziegler), allowing just 3 runs.
At the plate, both Braun and Fielder topped 1.000 in OPS in September, with a combined 30 RBIs and 17 homeruns. Fielder did, however, strike out 20 times in the same period, so he’s hit or miss at the plate right now. Cory Hart managed to strikeout 23 times in September, but produced 12 RBIs on 27 hits and 9 doubles.
Montero led the Dbacks in OPS in September with .903, 14 RBIs, 25 hits (including 5 doubles) and 4 of his 18 homeruns. Upton had 5 homers and 20 hits, but only 8 RBIs in September. Aaron Hill batted .301 with 10 RBIs from 28 hits, including an impressive 10 doubles. Paul Goldschmidt had 12 RBIs off 18 hits, and drew 13 walks in September.
So what are the keys to winning this series for the Dbacks? Well it’s the same as any team really: quality outings from starters. The Dbacks can’t afford to have a three or four-inning outing from one of their starters, the bullpen can’t handle that kind of pressure. They can pitch 3, maybe 4 innings, but 2 or 3 would be better. The Hernandez/Putz 8/9 setup is looking pretty good right now.
The Dbacks need to be patient and protect the plate agains the Brewers. Milwaukee pitchers had the 2nd most strikeouts among the 8 playoff teams. Conversely, Arizona strikes out more than any other team in the playoffs. Avoiding strikeouts could be a major factor in this series.
Arizona also needs to keep playing their brand of baseball and manufacture runs on the basepaths. The Dbacks topped the NL in stolen bases this year, and are 3rd in terms of stolen base percentage (70%) in the majors. Arizona has also kept other teams from stealing, allowing the fewest stolen bases in baseball. Just 60 bases were stolen against Arizona (runners were caught stealing a league-best 41% of the time) when the league average is well over 100 steals for the season.
The Dbacks are good at getting on base, leading the majors in batters hit by pitches and 2nd in intentional walks. A great amount of the their success can also be attributed to avoiding double plays. Arizona hit fewer ground balls and hit into fewer double plays than any other team in baseball. They also led the league in extra-base hits (502) and at-bats per homerun (31.5).
Closing the door will also be key. Arizona had more saves than any other team (58) and the 2nd lowest number of blown saves in the NL (13). Arizona pitchers only had to intentionally walk 16 batters this season, the 2nd lowest figure in baseball.
It should be a good, close series, as both teams match up very well. Arizona has a slight advantage in a few areas, but Milwaukee’s home-field advantage in the playoffs may equalize that out. It all gets started Saturday.
Roberts’ Walk-Off Grand Slam Keeps Homefield Hopes Alive
If “I don’t believe what I just saw,” was the first thing that came to your mind after Ryan Roberts’ walk-off grand slam Tuesday night, you weren’t alone. Roberts pumped his fist as he rounded second, a tribute to Dbacks manager Kurt Gibson’s 1988 World Series Game 1 walk-off homerun for the Dodgers.
This time, the Dodgers got the short end of the the stick, and in the most dramatic way possible.
In a game that was itching for an offensive explosion - the teams went a combined 5 for 24 with runners in scoring position, leaving 17 on base - it took extra innings to get things going.
Tied at 1, the Dodgers seemed to run away with the victory in the 10th, and take with them the Diamondbacks’ hopes of winning home-field advantage in the postseason. Micah Owings pitched the inning for Arizona, and a double, fielder’s choice with a throwing error, a pair of singles and triple later, the Dodgers were up 6-1.
After a pair of quick groundouts, the Diamondbacks were an out away from preparing to face the dominant Phillies in the first round of the playoffs. That’s when the magic started.
Cole Gillespie, who entered the game in right-field after Justin Upton was struck in the head when a flyball ricocheted off the wall, started the two-out rally by legging out an infield single. Montero kept the action alive with a single that moved Gillespie to third, and followed it up by stealing second. Chris Young walked and the bases were loaded.
John McDonald, pinch-hitting for Micah Owings, hit a hard grounder that ate up Dodgers third-baseman Aaron Miles, plating a run and keeping the inning alive. After a pitching change, Aaron Hill drew a bases-loaded walk on a full count, scoring Montero and bringing “Tatman” Ryan Roberts to the plate.
Roberts was 0-4 with two strikeouts in the game, but now he represented the winning run in a game that was all but lost 5 batters before him. He began the game by popping out after swinging at the first pitch he saw in the 3rd inning, and didn’t change his aggressive style in the 10th.
Roberts drove the first pitch just over the wall in left, rounded the bases with Gibson’s fist pump and jumped into the dog-pile of Diamondbacks at home plate after tearing his jersey off halfway down the third-base line.
With that, the Diamondbacks won 7-6, scoring 6 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th. Micah Owings, who gave up 4 hits and 5 runs in the 10th, ends up with the W.
The win keeps their chance at winning home-field advantage alive, though they trail the Brewers by 1 game going into the final game of the season.
A Brewers loss and a Dbacks victory means Arizona will host the wild-card winner (Atlanta or St. Louis) in the NLDS. A Brewers victory or Diamondbacks loss means Arizona travels to Philadelphia in the first round. In either case, one can only hope the Diamondbacks haven’t used up all of their magic in the regular season.