The Arizona Diamondbacks ended their 2011 season in disappointing fashion, getting beaten by the Milwaukee Brewers in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 5 of the NLDS. Though the season ended in devastating heartbreak, Arizona showed the baseball world they were a team on the rise and would not be able to sneak up on anyone in 2012.
That final game appears to have been foreshadowing what the 2012 season may be like for these Diamondbacks. Counting that final playoff game, and the first 12 games of this season, the Diamondbacks are just 7-6. But what would you say if I told you they should be 13-0? You’d probably laugh at me and say they were lucky to be 7-6.
Let’s take a closer look. In that playoff game, Arizona trailed 2-1 heading to the ninth. Gerardo Parra doubled, Sean Burroughs singled and Willie Bloomquist bunted for a hit, bringing in the tying run and putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
Due up were Arizona’s three, four, five hitters. Aaron Hill struck out and the next two hitters grounded out, resulting in no additional runs scoring. Arizona blew their chance at coming back from a 2-0 series deficit and a 2-1 Game 5 deficit to move on to the NLCS. In the end, Arizona lost 3-2 in 10 innings.
So how does that game reflect Arizona’s 2012 season through a dozen games? It may not reflect their overall season as much as their losses. Just like in Game 5, Arizona has given up the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later in all five of their defeats.
Should Arizona be 12-0 on the season? Probably not. Passionate sports fans everywhere have one thing in common. They remember the games they should have won, and forget the games they should have lost. Many would say Arizona should have lost their third game of the season when they trailed San Francisco 6-0 and came back to win 7-6. But, could Arizona be 12-0? Absolutely. It would be tough for anyone to argue that Arizona has been outplayed in any of their games this year.
Some might say they were outplayed in that third game against the Giants. After all, Arizona did commit five errors. But Arizona’s bullpen threw six shutout innings, allowing just one hit. And they weren’t attempting to make a six-run comeback against just anybody, they were doing it against Matt Cain. In the end, it was a sloppy game for both teams, but to say the Giants outplayed Arizona would be false.
Others might say Arizona was outplayed in their first loss of the season against the Padres. In reality, Arizona’s Joe Saunders pitched his heart out, allowing zero runs and just four hits in seven innings of work. Saunders left the game with a 1-0 lead, only to see David Hernandez make one bad pitch. Chris Denorfia hit a ball that cleared the center field wall by inches, and only got out because Chris Young did not time his jump right. Again, it’s tough to say Arizona was outplayed when only one bad pitch is made.
Another game that comes to mind was Arizona’s rubber match against the Rockies. The weather was as bad as it could be, even causing a rain delay after the fourth inning. Arizona was outplayed in those first four innings, and they were outplayed by a mile. They had no energy and looked as if they just wanted to go home. However, after the rain delay, Arizona came out swinging.
The Snakes scored runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, turning a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 lead. Colorado made it 7-6 after eight innings and then the rains comes out again. And I don’t mean any rain, I mean a torrential downpour. Arizona Closer JJ Putz recorded an out, but then hit a batter near his head because he had no grip on the baseball.
With two outs and a runner on first, Todd Helton hit a moonshot that somehow got through all the rain and wind and landed about two feet over the fence and two feet inside the foul pole for a walk-off homer. Arizona outhit the Rockies and Colorado committed three errors in the game. This is just another game in which you’d be hard-pressed to say Arizona was outplayed.
As if having their first five losses be by one run and losing them in the eighth inning or later wasn’t bad enough, Arizona is dealing with injuries to their best players. MVP candidate Justin Upton has missed multiple games with a thumb injury and former All-Star Chris Young has been put on the DL with a shoulder contusion.
Young had been hitting over .400 on the season with five homers and 13 RBI. So not only could Arizona be 12-0, or for arguments’ sake, 10-2, they now have to face the Braves, Phillies and Nationals without two of their best offensive players.
Though it may seem like nothing has gone right for Arizona in the season’s first two weeks, the Diamondbacks have an extremely bright future. Not only should they get Upton and Young back in the next couple of weeks, they also should get shortstop Stephen Drew back soon, which adds another solid hitter in an already potent lineup.
Their bullpen is one of the best in all of baseball (after two weeks, they have the best ERA of any pen in the game) and they have the best group of minor league pitching prospects in the game. Even though this team may not eclipse their impressive win total of 94 from a season ago, if they stay healthy they may just be the favorite to come out of the National League in 2012.