After a horrid 8 and 22 start, the Diamondbacks appear to hear a faint heartbeat.
Despite still buried in last place in National League West, success of the just-completed 6-3 road trip should give this team some needed confidence.
Now, the Diamondbacks return to Chase Field and an opportunity to pick themselves off the mat.
Generally, teams perform better at home but in the case of Arizona, just the opposite is true. Starting with Monday’s game against Washington in Chase Field, the D-backs have dropped 15 of their 18 home games, including that pair to the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia. The three wins represent the lowest in the majors and the Phillies and Astros are next higher with six home victories.
Yet, the schedule for the next one and one-half months clearly favors the Diamondbacks. By the time this stretch of games is over, the All-Star contest will be fast approaching and the D-backs should have a clear understanding on the value of their season.
For now, players say the past is behind.
“We knew we are a better team than what we showed,” catcher Miguel Montero told MLB.com after Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the White Sox. “It was really a tough start of the season, but it’s over now. You really can’t change that. You just have to go out and I guess take baby steps. Go one day at a time and play your butt off every day and see what happens.”
Starting with the Nationals on Monday night, Arizona will play 18 of their 27 games at home. Then, a brief five game road trip to Houston and Dodger Stadium and return to Chase Field for their next nine games.
That brings to schedule to June 27 and between that game at San Diego and the All-Star game July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, the D-backs will have 12 of 15 games on the road.
The current stretch of games appears to be the most critical part of the season. For a team severely struggling at home but viable on the road, the Diamondbacks need to take advantage of playing at home. Last season, they broke even on the year with an 81-81 record and compiled a 45-36 mark at home.
During the last home stand in which they lost two of three to the Phillies and two of three to Colorado, manager Kirk Gibson was asked why the D-backs tend to play better on the road. To which he replied, “we’re bad everywhere.”
That mentality may have changed for the Diamondbacks appear to detect emerging signals on their life support monitor.
If this team is not as collectively bad as they confess, the next number of weeks, with a favorable schedule and plethora of home games, appear to be an ideal remedy to breathe life into currently a moribund squad.
If the immediate home schedule is favorable, the pitching match-ups may be a challenge.
In the home stand opener Monday night, the Diamondbacks will face Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmerman. Coming off a 19-9, 3.25 ERA season a year ago, Zimmerman enters Monday’s start with a 2-1 record in seven starts and a 2.92 ERA. He’ll be opposed by D-backs’ Josh Collmenter (1-2, 3.44). Zimmerman has not allowed a run in his last two starts and that covers 10.1 innings
On Tuesday night, Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 3.42) gets the ball from Washington skipper Matt Williams and takes on Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 3.89).
For Wednesday afternoon (12:40 p.m. start), Diamondbacks will sent Brandon McCarthy (1-6, 5.66) to the hill and the Nats’ counter with right-hander Doug Fister (0-1, 10.38). Fister, a free agent signing off the Tigers’ roster over the winter, is making his second start of the season. He opened the season on the disabled list with a the strained right lat.
The Dodgers close out the six-game home stand with three this weekend, including Gerardo Parra bobble-head night on Saturday (5:10 p.m.).
Coming into the Washington series, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has a career .339 (20-59) batting average against the Nationals.
Infielder Martin Prado takes a .308 (103-334) lifetime batting average against the Nats into the series.
Manager Kirk Gibson, with wins Saturday and Sunday over the White Sox, moves ahead of current D-backs’ broadcaster Bob Brenly into second place for most wins by an Arizona manager.
Gibson’s total of 305 is just behind franchise leader Bob Melvin, who complied 337 wins between 2005 and 2008.