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Middling: Phillies vs. Diamondbacks series preview

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The Diamondbacks are neither good nor bad. They just are.

Arizona Diamondbacks v St Louis Cardinals
Robbie Ray is still a Diamonback for some reason
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After a disappointing series against the White Sox, the Phillies will head west to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks appear to have a good roster, but that hasn’t resulted in anything better than a .500 record.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 56-56, Second place in National League West

The last time they met

The D’Backs visited Philadelphia in June and took two out of three games. In the first game, the D’Backs took advantage of a clearly injured Jerad Eickhoff, so they shouldn’t feel that great about the win. In the finale, they got a great start from a 30-year-old rookie pitcher with a 4.52 ERA. If that doesn’t scream fluke, I don’t know what does.

Home sweet home?

The Diamondbacks might actually prefer that they just play in Philadelphia again. They’re only 25-27 at Chase Field this season.

Why aren’t they better?

The Diamondbacks are fourth in the NL in runs scored, and are fifth in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They have solid hitters like Ketel Marte, Christian Walker, and Eduardo Escobar. They’re also sixth in team ERA. According to their Pythagorean record, they should be 63-49. So why are they only a .500 team?

The problem seems to be their inability to win one-run games. They’re only 13-20 in games decided by one run. Often times, when a team under performs due to a skewed record in close games, it tends to even out in subsequent seasons. But that’s not going to help the Diamondbacks much in 2019.

In case you were curious, the Phillies are 15-11 in one-run games. I know it feels like they haven’t succeeded all that much in those situations, but the numbers don’t lie. So if any of these games are close in the late innings, you can relax, knowing that the Phillies will find a way to win (or more likely, the Diamondbacks will find a way to lose). Even if we end up with a pitcher in the outfield and a position player on the mound, just know that it’s probably going to be okay in the end.

Chicago White Sox v Philadelphia Phillies
Your left fielder, folks
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Not taking care of business

Obviously, having to play a bunch of games against the Dodgers isn’t going to help any team’s record, but they also have a losing record against the Rockies and Padres. It’s tough to get ahead if you can’t beat the weak links in your own division.

Stay, Ray

The Diamondbacks recently traded away their best pitcher, Zack Greinke, which isn’t going to help their chances through the rest of the season. However, they did hold onto fellow starter Robbie Ray, because no team would meet their supposedly high asking price.

I realize teams (cough Phillies cough) are desperate for pitching help, but everyone knows that Ray is probably nothing more than a mid-rotation starter who is due for a pay bump in arbitration. The D’Backs weren’t going to get a premium return when guys like Marcus Stroman are being traded relatively cheaply.

And he won’t even pitch this series

Instead, the D’Backs have Merrill Kelly, Mike Leake, and Zac Gallen lined up to start. Kelly was the aforementioned 30-year-old rookie, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be able to dominate the Phillies a second time this season. He’s given up seven runs in each of his past two starts.

Leake is an unoffensive mid-rotation starter whose biggest strength is that he doesn’t walk many batters. He hasn’t had much success against the Phillies throughout his career, with a 5.05 ERA against them.

Rookie Zac Gallen was recently traded to the D’Backs in exchange for a player named Jazz. If you’re ever going to be traded, I highly suggest you be traded for a player with a cool name. (As it turns out, Gallen’s nickname is The Milkman, so that balances things out a little.) He’s done well since his mid-June call up, but he wouldn’t be the first young starter to falter after a hot start.

Minnesota Twins v Miami Marlins
The Milkman cometh
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Flashback of Ineptitude: Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo’s major league career has not been a complete failure. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, made two All-Star teams, and once led the American League in home runs. However, none of that success came with the Diamondbacks.

After he hit 34 home runs in 2013, Arizona acquired Trumbo as part of a three-team trade before the 2014 season, in which they had to surrender outfielder Adam Eaton and pitcher Tyler Skaggs. He spent a good chunk of the 2014 season on the disabled list, and put up a sub-.300 on-base percentage when he was healthy.

Mid-way through 2015, the D’Backs tired of his disappointing hitting and awful defense, and traded him to the Mariners. He wasn’t especially great for them either, so they sent him to the Orioles, for whom he led the league in home runs.

Prediction

It just feels appropriate that the Phillies and Diamondbacks would split the season series, so the Phils will take two out of three.