After One of Their Best Games of the Year on Friday, D-Backs Drop Two to Astros

Categories: Sports
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Dan Haren: The NL's best starting pitcher.
One step forward, two steps back. That was the story of the Arizona Diamondbacks' three-game weekend series against the Houston Astros. In Friday night's 8-1 win, the D-Backs played what might have been their best all-around game of the year. In Saturday's and Sunday's losses, the D-Backs were simply outpitched by the Astros' Roy Oswalt and Brian Moehler.

Dan Haren showed why he is one of the best pitchers in baseball on Friday, giving up only two hits (one of which was a home run by Carlos Lee), walking none, and striking out seven in a complete game. He lowered his earned run average to 2.20, best in the National League and second-best in the majors, behind only Zack Greinke (1.72) of the Kansas City Royals. Haren truly dominated the Astros, one of the better-hitting lineups in the NL. Make sure you tune in on Thursday, when Haren takes the mound against those Royals in K.C., because the 28-year-old right-hander is really on a roll.

D-Backs starters Jon Garland and, especially, Billy Buckner didn't fare as well on Saturday and Sunday. Actually, Garland wasn't bad, pitching seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits in the D-Backs' 6-4 loss. It's just that Astros ace Roy Oswalt was a little bit better, allowing only one run (a homer by Chris Young in the fourth inning). Buckner, ostensibly filling the fifth spot in the pitching rotation until the D-Backs' Brandon Webb returns from the disabled list, was knocked around on Sunday, giving up six runs in only five innings, including home runs to Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence, in the Snakes' 8-3 loss. Since shutting down the Dodgers on June 1, Buckner has given up 14 runs in 10.2 innings.

It's not easy to win when your pitcher is giving up that many runs, even when your lineup is swinging the bats pretty well. Which the D-Backs lineup is doing. It seems the team's early-season struggle to plate runs consistently may be a distant memory. Even much-maligned center fielder Chris Young is getting into the act. In the series, Young went 3-for-11 with a couple of homers, three RBI, and a stolen base. If Young is turning a corner, the D-Backs offense will be much more effective in the second half of the season.

Two hitters who are on serious tears are infielders Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew. Reynolds really went off during Haren's masterpiece Friday night, going 4-for-5 with a homer, three doubles, five runs batted in, and a stolen base. Reynolds, whose propensity for striking out is well known, was unstoppable, even picking up a couple of those hits with two strikes on him. He contributed offensively in Saturday's and Sunday's games, as well. Reynolds' line for the D-Backs' homestand? Try 10-for-23 with three homers, five doubles, nine RBI, and a stolen base. Yeah, he's hot, and his numbers this season are comparable with some of the best first- and third-basemen in all of baseball. D-Backs fans should be excited that they have another bona fide hitting superstar-in-the-making on the team.

Drew's production over the past week was nice, too: 7-for-24 with two home runs and seven RBI. If Young can, indeed, keep the momentum going, and shake off his early-season lack of production, the D-Backs offense wouldn't look too bad. Felipe Lopez is solid as a rock in the leadoff spot, Justin Upton shows no signs of slowing down, and Drew and Reynolds are driving in tons of runs in the clean-up and five spots, respectively. Contending for a playoff spot -- especially after losing two of three at home to a team like the Astros, whom they should beat -- seems less and less likely for the D-Backs, but if these young sluggers can keep hitting the ball out of the park, the D-Backs will keep giving us a reason to watch.

The Diamondbacks are off today, but begin a new interleague series on Tuesday against the Royals in Kansas City.

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