|Dan Haren: Another step closer to a Cy Young award?|
The Arizona Diamondbacks started the second half of the season just as they played most of the first half: on the losing side of a series. And true to form, it was all-pitch/no-hit this weekend in St. Louis. Each of the Diamondbacks' three starters in the series -- Jon Garland, Dan Haren, and even Yusmeiro Petit -- gave his team a decent chance at winning, but it was only All-Star Haren who got enough run support on Saturday to notch a "W." In Garland's case, there was this guy named Albert Pujols who singlehandedly demolished the Snakes on Friday night, as he's done to plenty of teams this season. For the youngster Petit on Sunday, his offense let him down, even though they out-hit the Cards 6-4. The problem, though, was the nine runners left stranded on base.
In fact, the hitters were more or less still on vacation in St. Louis. In their defense, however, they did run into some top-notch pitching in Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and the surprising Joel Piñeiro. For most of the series, the D-Backs' offense simply didn't get the big hit when it needed it. It's too bad, because the Cards actually looked pretty beatable all weekend. Outside of the best player in all of baseball, Pujols, there's really nothing scary about Tony La Russa's lineup. That the Cards are over .500 and in first place in the National League Central is a testament to Pujols' greatness. The guy can truly carry a team. All he did this weekend was go 4-for-11 with two homers, three runs scored, and three runs batted in. He now has 34 homers, 76 runs, and 90 RBI on the year. On top of that, he's hitting .333 and has 10 stolen bases. Hopefully, some Arizonans tuned in this weekend just to watch a guy who will be regarded as one of the best to ever play the game having his best season.
If you're looking for bright spots (and who isn't?), there are a few: 1) The worst defense in the league went three games without an error; 2) catcher Miguel Montero has made the most of his opportunity as a full-time starter while Chris Snyder sits on the disabled list. Montero went 7-for-12 with two homers and three RBI in the series. Those numbers are positively Pujolsian. But seriously, folks, Montero's been solid for the past two weeks, driving in runs and getting on base a lot. His average is up to .286; 3) Haren continues to produce Cy Young-worthy numbers; 4) dead weight like Tony Clark is no longer on the team. Here's hoping the Snakes can trade Chad Tracy to a contender in the coming weeks; 5) Mark Reynolds, in a slump entering the All-Star break, appears on the verge of busting out of it. He didn't produce much this weekend, but he hit almost .500 for the series. A good sign.
From St. Louis, the D-Backs fly to Denver for a three-game series against their division foes the Colorado Rockies. When the two teams tangled at Chase Field in early July, the D-Backs managed to take two out of three from the Rox. In fact, Arizona is 5-4 against Colorado this season. Still, the teams are heading in opposite directions: The D-Backs (39-53) are simply looking for positives in a lost season, and the Rockies (50-42) are charging into playoff contention. They're eight games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West (though not likely to catch the Dodgers), but they are only a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race. Here's the match-ups for the series:
Today: Doug Davis (4-9, 3.41 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (6-7, 5.21, 99 strikeouts in 96.2 innings pitched), 6:40 p.m.
Tuesday: Max Scherzer (5-6, 3.64 ERA, 97 Ks in 96.1 IP) vs. Aaron Cook (9-3, 3.85), 6:40 p.m.
Wednesday: Jon Garland (5-9, 4.45) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (7-9, 3.82), 1:10 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. Info: www.dbacks.com