Going Into Pittsburgh, We Hold Our Collective Breaths

Glenn DarbySenior Analyst IJune 6, 2008

After a painfully ugly drubbing at the hands of the Brewers, the D'backs boarded a plane and left Cheese Country for the Steel City. They've lost 12 of their last 16. They are 11-16 on the road and 3-9 against the NL Central.

Every one of these numbers hangs over the heads of what's left of the once mighty Arizona squad. They know that they are on a downward spiral. The worst part is, no one can see the bottom.

Pittsburgh is a lot like the D'backs. In a city that was once vibrant and strong, it eventually became rundown with age. There was a mass exodus of people and little changed. Then there was the decision to fix it. Leaders came in and made new changes. Paint was put up, new faces were brought in, and things started to look up. After the new wore off, however, we find that it's the same rust below the paint job. Things really weren't getting better. And now, we are stuck.

The Steel City has spent tons of money on new stadiums, bridges, parks, and rivers. They've classed up the place and restored it to the beauty that it deserves.

The D'backs have spent tons of money fixing up our old stadium. They brought in new games, new players, new tvs, and new playpens. They classed up the place and made it shine better than it did on opening day.

The problem with both is that the people just never came. Taxpayers and fans alike are needed to produce the fruits of the labor. The city may fall back into the river and the D'backs may fire sell the whole thing before we see 2010. It's a scary thought.

As Chris Burke leads the D'backs down the rabbit hole of despair, he begins to see light. He sees yellow bridges and shiny steel buildings. He sees the sight of the very first World Series game and he realizes that this is the bottom. 

The Pirates will trot out a slew of young players mixed with tier-three veterans, and do what they've been doing, compete. Not to be overshadowed by their fifth-place standing, the Pirates are only two games below .500, and would actually be in second place, three games behind the D'backs if they were in the NL West. They are playing .500 ball and currently on a two-game winning streak. 

Tonight, the D'backs will send their best pitcher against one of the Pirates' worst. Though Snell strikes out a fair amount of guys, he has an ERA pushing six. If the D'backs can't win tonight, it will be the first jagged rock they hit as they near the bottom. 

Saturday night features the D'backs' Dan Haren against the worst pitcher in Pittsburgh, Tom Gorzelanny. If the D'backs can't score off of this guy, they should all be optioned to AAA Tucson. Again, another game that the D'backs should win.

Phil Dumatrait has actually been decent for the Pirates. We saw Bizzaro Doug Davis last outing, which means Good Doug Davis will pitch on Sunday. The Pittsburgh lefty two-hit the mighty Reds last week, and he could very easily do the same with the free-swinging Dbacks, but Davis is due to pitch well again.  Sunday is a toss-up.

In another strange Monday day game, the spectacular Randy Johnson will again try to climb the ladder toward 300 wins. Only the D'backs can stop him. Zach Duke hasn't been bad, but has a 1:1 K:BB ratio, and he should make it easy for the D'backs to succeed at swinging at first pitch strikes.

Of course, like every other time Johnson pitches, the D'backs will leave their bats in the dugout when they come to the plate.

It's painfully obvious that the D'backs should walk out of Pittsburgh with a four-game sweep. There isn't a single statistical reason that Arizona shouldn't be able to beat Pittsburgh, but since stats are reflections, not predictions, and the D'backs are in free-fall mode, there really is no telling.

If the D'backs suffer anything worse than winning three out of four in Pittsburgh, one would have to believe that Arizona has hit bottom. They will be dragged through the mud at the bottom of the hole for the rest of June. They play the Mets, Twins, Red Sox, and Marlins on the road in June, and all of those teams are above .500. If the D'backs cannot turn it around here in Pittsburgh by the end of June, they could find themselves slumming along with the Giants.