Don’t start planning the Diamondbacks’ parade route through downtown Phoenix just yet. A swing-and-miss at a sweep of the Dodgers Sunday at Chase Field wasn’t the party-pooper. The calendar is. Even if the Diamondbacks had polished off their rivals instead of getting tripped up 6-2 to pry just two out of three from the Dodgers, the reality of their situation would have remained the same.
It’s still April.
All they’ve won so far is our attention.
But an encouraging debut and the best start at home in franchise history is praise-worthy, especially since the team’s 12 wins ranks among the most in baseball.
And the entire organization deserves credit.
Let’s start at the top with ownership and management.
First-year general manager Mike Hazen’s initial read on the club he inherited looks accurate based on his offseason changes.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker hasn’t dominated, but he’s intrigued enough to suggest that he very well may provide consistency at the top of the rotation like some have predicted.
Adopting a defense-first mentality with their catchers has to have contributed to the strong start by the starters. And while closer Fernando Rodney can mimic a tightrope walker when he takes the mound, he’s done his job – going 5-for-5 in save chances.
One of the front office’s best decisions might have been to give right-hander Shelby Miller a do-over instead of severing ties.
Miller’s road to redemption after a putrid 2016 took a slight detour Sunday when he exited the game after just four innings with right forearm tightness. He’s set to undergo an MRI Monday.
“Personally I feel like I’ll feel probably better tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that big of an issue.”
After impressing in the third when he got first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to bite on three straight fastballs, the last peaking at 96 mph, Miller’s command slipped in the fifth. He walked two, and then shortstop Corey Seager laced a two-run double to center to tie it at 2.
Reliever Randall Delgado came on to replace Miller and wasn’t able to nix the Dodger’s momentum, surrendering a single, double and then a home run to catcher Yasmani Grandal to put Los Angeles ahead 6-2.
The postgame scene inside of the Diamondbacks clubhouse was subdued, perhaps in part to the uncertainty surrounding Miller’s status, but the vibe overall has been loose.
That reflects the culture manager Torey Lovullo has helped establish in just a few months – an atmosphere that seems to unite by being more relaxed than restrictive.
“I want these guys to be able to color outside the lines a little bit, scribble when they want to, get creative when they want to,” Lovullo said. “But what I was going to do was give them the space to go out and perform without feeling like I was micromanaging them.”
This approach is working.
Arizona’s rotation has looked promising, flashing its potential on a recent 10-game road trip, and the offense has overwhelmed at times – like the first two games of this series against the Dodgers when the Diamondbacks racked up 24 runs.
And it wasn’t just one player leading the charge.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt rediscovered his groove after a sluggish road trip, chipping in six RBIs in the series.
Outfielder David Peralta continues to look reenergized after spending much of last season on the disabled list. Same with center fielder A.J. Pollock, who took a break Sunday and did not play.
Who knows if the Diamondbacks would have been able to rally Sunday with Pollock in the mix; shortstop Chris Owings and outfielder Yasmany Tomas also didn’t start. But considering the depth of scoring of late, juggling the lineup didn’t seem like a misguided call.
“We’re winning our share of ballgames,” Lovullo said. “We’re playing good baseball. I’m pleased in just about every area.”
Make no mistake, though, the Diamondbacks have perspective about their start.
An offense that appeared to be unstoppable Friday and Saturday stalled Sunday.
And how will the rotation continue to settle in, especially if Miller gets sidelined?
Many more ballgames have to be logged for labels to stick, and the Diamondbacks know that.
“We just take it day-by-day,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s really easy to do. I couldn’t tell you what our record is or standings or stats or any of that. If you try to look too far ahead, that can definitely be a distraction.”
Staying levelheaded has been a successful tactic so far.
And if they keep their blinders on for the rest of the season, the Diamondbacks might just find themselves still relevant when they take them off in October.