Sports fans, particularly baseball fans, love to play "What If?"
So, what if Brandon Webb were not stuck on the disabled list for the first month (and, perhaps, two months) of the season? What if? Would the D-Backs be keeping pace with the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers as we slide into May?
Given the way left-handed finesse pitcher Doug Davis dominated a potent Chicago Cubs offense on Wednesday afternoon, it's safe to answer that question with a "yes."
The only hiccup in this three-game series with the Cubs came on Tuesday night when Lou Piniella's team teed off on Yusmeiro Petit (a stopgap option for the D-Backs while Webb recovers). What if Webb had been on the mound instead of Petit? A three-game sweep of the team that many picked to represent the National League in the World Series? Quite possibly.
Davis gave up two hits and struck out seven while holding the Cubs scoreless for seven innings in the D-Backs' 10-0 win Wednesday in front of a small-ish but energized crowd at Chase Field. The roof was open, Davis was dealing, and the D-Backs' hitters were aggressive against Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster.
Davis, who entered the game with a 1-3 record and 3.67 ERA, was by no means overpowering against the slugging Cubs. He threw 110 pitches, nibbling on the corners and keeping the Cubs (especially the struggling Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, and Milton Bradley) off-balance with his big, bending curve and off-speed pitches. Davis looked every bit as effective Wednesday as hard-throwing Dan Haren did in Monday night's win over Chicago.
The D-Backs hitters came out swinging early against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, one of the NL's most dominant right-handers last year but a guy who's struggled in his career (1 win, 5 losses) against the Diamondbacks. The D-Backs scored three in the first inning, thanks to a two-run ground-rule double by Chad Tracy and a fielders choice off the bat of Eric Byrnes. Tracy struck again in the third inning, ripping his second home run of the season.
Dempster settled down, but the damage was done. Then, the D-Backs poured it on when the Cubs' bullpen took over in the seventh. Carlos Marmol couldn't find the plate, and Jeff Samardzija coughed up a three-run double to Justin Upton, who continued a stretch of hot hitting, upping his batting average to .246.
The D-Backs won their second series of the season on Wednesday, and will finish April with no worse than a 9-13 record. Let's face it, it could've been worse, given the lineup's painfully inconsistent hitting. Davis, Haren, and Garland are keeping this team afloat, but there are signs the offense has better days ahead: Upton, a more aggressive base-running strategy, Mark Reynolds' power, and solid hitting by Tracy.
The D-Backs travel to Milwaukee for a four-game series that starts Thursday. Amazingly, it's only the second road series of the season for the team. Who knows? Perhaps a change of scenery will do the young team some good. The Brewers are similar to the D-Backs in that they've underachieved to start the season, and they feature a core of young players who developed together. The stadiums are even similar. Give the Brew Crew the edge in terms of their ability to slug opponents into submission. But give the D-Backs' starting pitching the edge over an unproven staff that lost CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets in the offseason.
Here's the schedule and projected starters:
Thursday: Scherzer (0-2, 4.91) vs. Jeff Suppan (1-2, 7.32), 5:05 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
Friday: Jon Garland (2-1, 5.47) vs. Manny Parra (0-4, 6.52), 5:05 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
Saturday: Dan Haren (2-3, 1.54) vs. Braden Looper (2-0, 2.45), 4:05 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
Sunday: Yusmeiro Petit (0-2, 8.62) vs. Dave Bush (1-0, 4.50), 11:05 a.m., Fox Sports Arizona