Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:22 pm
It's not necessarily the path to the NL West title. But it was not surprising to see aggressive, first-year Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers strike a deal Monday as Arizona's tenuous hold on first place shrinks.
The Diamondbacks were absolutely pasted on their current trip by NL pennant contenders Philadelphia and Atlanta, dropping two of three to the Phillies and losing all three to the Braves.
Will Tuesday's acquisitions of shortstop John McDonald and second baseman Aaron Hill from Toronto reverse that trend? Let's just say a shift in the schedule, away from the two best teams in the NL, will be the biggest help.
But it's all hands on deck now as the Diamondbacks work to keep baseball's biggest surprise story going, and both Hill and McDonald should help.
In McDonald's case, Arizona is still trying to plug the hole at shortstop left when Stephen Drew fractured his ankle a month ago. And in Hill, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson now has another hand to play at second base in place of Kelly Johnson, whose fuel tank appears on "E". Johnson, since the All-Star break, is hitting .181/.246/.324.
Hill isn't exactly tearing it up (.225/.270/.313), and his OPS is second-worst in the American League (his .584 ranks 150th of 152 players with at least 400 plate appearances). But he's a better contact hitter than Johnson and hit a combined 62 homers for Toronto in 2009 and 2010. In Arizona's thin air and homer-friendly park, maybe Hill can run into a few.
The Diamondbacks need something, and quickly. Their 2-0 win in Washington on Tuesday snapped a six-game losing streak. The ugly corollary to that: When Sean Burroughs cracked his first homer since April 30, 2005 -- a two-run blast -- they were the Diamondbacks' first runs scored in 32 innings.
During their six-game losing streak, Arizona batted a combined .153 with only seven runs scored, three doubles, a triple, three homers, 17 walks and 55 strikeouts. Ugly.
This just after new acquisition Jason Marquis, acquired to help eat innings and serve as a veteran anchor in the rotation, blew out for the season with a fractured leg.
Things could have gone from bad to worse Tuesday when slugger Justin Upton, having a career year, left in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in the left elbow. Early reports -- a bad bruise, no break -- are encouraging, but if Upton is slowed, that will make things even more difficult.
As things now stand, once the Diamondbacks leave Washington following Thursday's game, 29 of Arizona's final 32 games are against NL West clubs (with a three-game set at home against Pittsburgh mixed in).
Will that help? Hard to say: Arizona is 23-21 against NL West opponents this season. What might help most is this: Arizona plays 19 of its final 32 at home, and the Diamondbacks are 36-26 in Bank One Ballpark so far this season.
Likes: Two bumper stickers I've seen recently. The first: "My Child Was Student of the Month at Pedro's Tacos." The second: "Whassup haters?" Love the first one. ... Cool summer in Southern California, but it's warmed up this week and I got out for a bike ride along the ocean Tuesday. And it was beautiful.
Dislikes: An earthquake in Washington, D.C.? What's next, a damn blizzard in Los Angeles?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"She wrote a long letter
"On a short piece of paper"
-- Traveling Wilburys, Margarita
Posted on: April 12, 2011 5:32 pm
First road trip of what should be his first full big-league season started pretty darned good for Kyle Drabek, Toronto's rookie right-hander.
Teammate and Los Angeles native Ricky Romero's father picked up a group of seven or eight Blue Jays upon their arrival in Southern California on Thursday night, drove them to his house and fed them home-cooked carne asada and shrimp ceviche for dinner.
A day later, Drabek held the Angels to one earned run over six innings in a 3-2 Toronto win.
"It's been great so far," Drabek says. "It's like a family here. It's a great atmosphere. It's a great team to be on. Everyone's together, it's a bunch of young guys ... this team can be really, really good."
Especially if Drabek, 23, soars to the heights many expect. The must-have player in the package Toronto received from Philadelphia in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade, Drabek will take the ball for a second time on Toronto's current trip Wednesday afternoon in Seattle.
So far, so good for the son of Doug Drabek, winner of the 1990 NL Cy Young award while pitching for Pittsburgh.
In two starts in 2011, Kyle is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA.
Over 13 innings pitched, he's allowed just two earned runs and seven hits. He's fanned 12 and walked seven.
"Obviously, we'd love to have Doc [Halladay], and we miss him and follow his continued success," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill says. "But at the same time, we get a guy like Kyle, who knows? He may be a Doc one day.
"He's got unbelievable stuff."
The Twins saw it on April 2, when Drabek rang up his first victory of the season in a 6-1 decision in which he whiffed seven and surrendered just one earned run in seven innings. Then the Angels got a taste of it on Friday.
"He's got all the attributes you look for," first-year Toronto manager and former pitcher John Farrell says. "He's a very talented, bright young pitcher. He's getting established at the major-league level, and in addition to his physical abilities, whether it's power to his fastball or the ability to manipulate his secondary stuff, his competitive spirit is very strong.
"I think the one thing that's really emerging is controlling that competitiveness, and using it in the right way."
The Jays have seen his intense competitiveness, and part of catcher Jose Molina's charge is to help keep things under control during games.
Drabek says command of all of his pitches in general "is not where I want it to be, but it's a lot better than it was last year."
Specifically, his change-up, which he worked hard on all spring, is coming along nicely. He's already used it in a few 2-and-0 counts and found it can be a weapon amid his hard stuff.
"It's a good pitch," he says. "If I learn how to control it perfectly, it can get me back in the count. It's a pitch that will get me a nice ground ball on."
Between that and smoothing out other rough edges, Drabek and his father have been eyeing the schedule and looking for a chance to meet. Doug is a pitching coach in Arizona's system and this summer has been promoted to Class A Visalia in the California league.
"We get to Oakland once this year [Aug. 18-21] and it's only a few hours away," Kyle says.
By then, who knows where 2011 will have taken him? It's early yet, but Drabek already has advanced from his cup-of-coffee tenure last September, when he went 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in three late-season starts. Another reason for the improvement: His coming-of-age two-seam fastball.
"You can list probably four above-average, major-league weapons for him," Farrell says. "It gives him so many ways to attack both left-handed and right-handed hitters."
On the mound, for now -- physically, at least -- Drabek looks nothing like his father. The mind's eye recalls grainy footage of Doug, unshaven and squirting tobacco juice, looking fierce as midnight. While Kyle is intense as well, he's still baby-faced.
"I can get pretty scruffy," he says, chuckling. "But I prefer not to right now.
"Maybe if I win a Cy Young award, I can get as scruffy as him."
For now, hey, he's just finding his way. At 23, he's still young enough to love a between-starts, home-cooked meal like the Romeros provided.
"It was a lot of fun. I wish we were going to Houston," Drabek says of his hometown, thinking of maybe returning the favor one day.
"I'd have my mom cook. Or someone."