While Tuesday’s start against the St. Louis Cardinals was rather important for Shelby Miller, it’s the kind of beginning to the Diamondbacks’ portion of his career which is vital. Ditto for Zack Greinke, whose three starts in his home park have been filled with horrors.
Because the Diamondbacks’ offense is considered lethal and one of the best in the National League, the two starters at the top of the rotation, Miller and Greinke, need to elevate their game. That was the conclusion of manager Chip Hale in his daily session with media prior to Tuesday’s game with St Louis at home.
For Greinke, he has a 2-2 mark for his opening give starts, and an uncharacteristic 6.16 ERA. In his first four starts, Miller is 0-1, an 8.59 ERA and allowed 14 runs, all earned, in 14.2 innings. Greinke is not much better. In his 30 innings thus far in 2016, he yielded 21 runs, all earned.
The reputation of Chase Field as a premier hitter’s park and the reality that Greinke and Miller have not turned in monster starts at home, some argue, is a time of concern. Not so, Hale reminds listeners, and, he indicated, “we expect they will pitch to their strength. Not worried, and this will come.”
With three weeks into the season, the Diamondbacks continue to display their penchant for scoring runs. While Hale identifies this team’s approach as displaying at “relentless attitude,” the results are telling. Over their last nine games for Tuesday night, the Diamondbacks are hitting .299 as a team (118-for-395) with 49 extra-base hits and 66 runs. That’s an average of 6.6 runs per game, and the 30 home runs hit in April is the most for March/April in five years.
“Chase Field is playing offensively,” Hale said before Tuesday’s game with the Cardinals. “Right now, we’re getting contributions from different players. Plus, Jean Segura in the leadoff spot has helped. He’s exciting to watch, and I also think the emergence of Yasmany Tomas is important. He’s stabilized the middle of the line-up.”
In their opening 22 games, the Diamondbacks have not been shut out, and scored one run in only one game. That was a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles on April 13. In the two contests prior to the Tuesday’s game with St. Louis, the Diamondbacks scored 22 runs. Individually, Tomas, coming into the Tuesday’s game, has an 11-game hitting streak (.347, 17-for-49), and Segura leads the National League in hits (32) and eighth in average at .352.
If Greinke and Miller can complement the offense, this team will begin to realize some of the promises made before the season. That includes being quite competitive, and have equal standing with the Dodgers and Giants in the division.
“For Zack, he is not locating his pitches,” Hale said. “(On Monday night against the Cardinals), he wanted to pitch up a little because many Cardinals’ hitters are good low ball hitters. Instead, his pitches were not up that much and they put good swings in them. (Monday night’s game) could have been easily 5-2, but, at this time, this ball park is unforgiving.”
KEY START FOR MILLER
Coming into his start Tuesday against the Cardinals, right-hander Shelby Miller had a troublesome 0-1 record and an 8.59 ERA. Injured during his second start of the season in San Diego with a bruised hand, and plagued by control issues in San Francisco, the start against his former team is critical.
At least from a confidence level, manager Chip Hale believes Miller will quickly turn things around and have, in the skipper’s words, “a really good game.” The start Tuesday night then becomes critical.
Drafted originally by the Cardinals, Miller was St. Louis’ first round pick, and the 19th overall, in the 2009 draft. By the 2013 season, the 25-year-old out of Houston, was in the Cardinals’ rotation. He finished with a 15-9 season, and a strong 3.06 ERA for 31 starts.
Yet, he fell out of favor with the Cardinals’ organization on philosophy, and was dealt to the Braves. After one season in Atlanta, the Diamondbacks traded two former number one picks, pitcher Aaron Blair and first overall pick in the 2015 draft, shortstop Dansby Swanson, along with outfielder Ender Inciarte, for Miller. The deal was viewed as top-heavy in favor of the Braves, and Miller has yet to show the tools from which the Diamondbacks traded.
“He had some nice seasons for us,” said Mike Matheny, the Cardinals manager “But, sometimes, guys need fresh starts, and then try and make the most of that.”
Before the Cardinals’ current four-game set with the Diamondbacks in Chase Field, they took two of three from the Padres in San Diego. Matheny made the compassion with his second baseman Jedd Gyorko, who played parts of the previous three seasons with the Padres. In those three years, Gyorko hit a collective .236, but was dealt to the Cardinals for outfielder Jon Jay during the recent off-season. For his first 14 games for St. Louis, Gyroko hit .268, and Matheny cited Gyorko as one player who could benefit from a change of scenery. He also put Miller in the same category.
Right-hander Josh Collmenter, on the disabled list since April 2 with right shoulder inflammation, was back on the mound Monday. In one inning of work in an extended spring training game against Colorado, the 30-year-old native of Homer, Mich. pitched one inning, and tossed 11 pitches. Reporting to Advanced A Visalia, Collmenter is expected to pitch three innings for the Rawhide on Thursday night. After this outing, his health and work load will be elevated.