Series Previews

Phillies opposition preview: Arizona Diamonbacks


Now that we’ve reached the dog days of August, the roof at Chase Field is likely to be close for all three games of this week’s series in steaming hot Phoenix, Arizona. (Dicklyon)

The Philadelphia Phillies (58-53) are tied for the second of two National League Wildcard playoff positions as they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks (56-56) in a three-game series starting on Monday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Dbacks 2019 regular season has gone much as the Phillies own season, see-sawing back and forth between control of one of those NL Wildcard spots and then sitting just on the outside looking in at a possible postseason berth.

Victories in 10 of 14 games at the start of June lifted the Dbacks from fourth place to second place in the National League West Division. But then Arizona dropped six straight, and the club has pretty much tread water ever since.

At the MLB trade deadline, general manager Mike Hazen was a busy man. He made four trades on July 31, highlighted by a deal in which he dealt away the club’s pitching ace, Zack Greinke, to the Houston Astros for a four-prospect package.

Hazen also brought in two new arms for the rotation in veteran Mike Leake from Seattle and young Zac Gallen from Miam. Both of those pitchers will make their debut with the Dbacks in this series.

The Arizona offensive attack has been fairly solid this year, currently ranking ninth in all of Major League Baseball by scoring 5.21 runs per game. That is almost a half-run per game better than the 16th ranked Phillies. The Dbacks hitters rank 5th in the National League in both batting average and OPS, and have the fourth-fewest strikeouts in the league.

On the mound, Arizona pitching ranks 5th in the National League in batting average against and sixth in strikeouts. An area where the club truly excels is on defense, where they are by far the top-ranked defensive unit in baseball according to Fangraphs. That helped the Dbacks finish 7th in the August 1 MLB Power Rankings here at Phillies Nation.

These two teams met once earlier this season, with Arizona taking two of three games at Citizens Bank Park in the second week of June by two very different methods. They crushed the ball in a 13-8 victory in the opener, then received a gem from Merrill Kelly, who pitches the opener this time around, in a 2-0 victory in that June series finale. The Phillies won the middle contest by a 7-4 score.

This is a chance for Arizona to make up ground head-to-head with one of the teams it trails in the playoff hunt. It is also an opportunity for the Phillies to distance themselves from one of their nearest pursuers. If it goes anything like the vast majority of this 2019 Phillies campaign, one of these teams will simply take two of three. Which team remains to be seen.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Eduardo Escobar (30/3B): .279/.336/.531, 24 HR, 53 XBH, 88 RBIs, 69 runs, 4 steals

Christian Walker (28/1B): .257/.349/.483, 20 HR, 41 XBH, 53 RBIs, 59 runs, 7 steals

Nick Ahmed (29/SS): .265/.326/.429, 11 HR, 38 XBH, 55 RBIs, 58 runs, 7 steals

Carson Kelly (24/C): .263/.348/.535, 14 HR, 31 XBH, 37 RBIs, 29 runs (247 plate appearances)

David Peralta (31/LF): .282/.347/.457, 9 HR, 37 XBH, 47 RBIs, 43 runs

Adam Jones (33/RF):. 270/.320/.433, 13 HR, 36 XBH, 51 RBIs, 56 runs

Jarrod Dyson (34/OF): .250/.333/.356, 6 HR, 16 XBH, 23 RBIs, 48 runs, 24 steals

 

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Ketel Marte (25/CF): The switch-hitting Dominican made his big-league debut with the Seattle Mariners at the 2015 MLB trade deadline, then spent most of the remainder of that season and all of the following as the Mariners starting shortstop.

In November 2016, Seattle shipped Marte and pitcher Taijuan Walker to Arizona for current Phillies shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and pitcher Zac Curtis.

Marte’s career with the Dbacks organization saw him begin back at Triple-A. Following his promotion back to the big-leagues on June 28, 2018 he took over as the starting shortstop in Arizona.

This season, Marte has been used much as the Phillies have used Scott Kingery, as a super-utility player. He was featured mostly at second base and in center field, with occasional appearances at his natural shortstop position, for most of the first couple of months.

Now, Marte appears to have settled in as the regular center fielder, though manager Torey Lovullo will flip him back into the infield at times. He has responded well, breaking out to become a first time National League All-Star.

Marte enters this series with a .319/.380/.577 slash line His 24 home runs, 56 extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, 75 runs scored, and six stolen bases make him the single most dangerous all-around offensive performer in the Arizona lineup. And at just 25 years of age, he appears to be only scratching the surface of his talents and production.

Marte also has a Phillies connection. His uncle is former Phillies 2010-11 popular utility player Wilson Valdez. Marte is married to a cousin of Toronto Blue Jays third base phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

 

DBACKS SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAYMerrill Kelly (30/RH): 7-11, 4.52 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.277 WHIP, 127 hits over 125.1 IP across 22 starts with a 100/33 K:BB

TUESDAYMike Leake (31/RH): 9-8, 4.27 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 1.255 WHIP, 153 hits over 137 IP across 22 starts with a 100/19 K:BB, all with the Seattle Mariners.

WEDNESDAYZac Gallen (24/RH): 1-3, 2.72 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 1.183 WHIP, 25 hits over 36.1 IP across 7 starts with a 43/18 K:BB, all with the Miami Marlins in this, his rookie season, following a June 20 promotion.

 

THE SKIPPER

Torey Lovullo: Having turned 54 years old just last week, Lovullo is now in his third full season at the helm in Phoenix. He has a career 231-205 mark thus far. After leading Arizona to a 93-win, second place season and an NL Wildcard playoff berth in his first year back in 2017, Lovullo was named the National League Manager of the Year.

During those 2017 playoffs, Lovullo’s Dbacks outscored the division-rival Colorado Rockies by 11-8 in Phoenix to win the Wildcard Game. However, they were promptly swept out in three straight by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in an NLDS.

Arizona entered September in first place a year ago, but the Dbacks collapsed to lose 20 of their final 28 games to finish in third place. Despite a second straight winning record for Lovullo, it was considered a disappointing finish after the club had led the division for most of the season.

Lovullo is a SoCal native from Santa Monica. As a player, he was the fifth round choice of the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 MLB Draft out of UCLA. He would play in parts of eight big-league seasons, though only in 1993 with the California (now Los Angeles) Angels did he play regularly, spending much of that season as the Halos second baseman.

Lovullo actually wrapped up his playing career in Major League Baseball with the Phillies, appearing in 17 games with the club in the 1999 season. His final big-league home run came in a Phillies uniform on September 8 of that year against the Houston Astros. On October 2, he registered his final hit against the Montreal Expos at Veteran’s Stadium.

After playing the 2000 season with the Yakult Swallows in Japan, Lovullo retired. He was then hired by the Cleveland Indians to tutor their minor league infielders during the 2001 season, beginning a lengthy career as a coach and manager in the minor leagues.

After spending the decade of the 2000’s as a respected manager in the Indians farm system, Lovullo had become one of the top candidates any time a big-league managerial opening occurred. He interviewed for a few positions, and was finally brought on board as a coach under John Farrell with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.

When Farrell left for the Boston Red Sox managerial job after the 2012 season he brought Lovullo with him as the bench coach in Boston. The two would win the 2014 World Series together in Boston. Meanwhile, Lovullo continued to be one of the hottest names for any MLB managerial opening.

When Hazen took over as the Dbacks general manager in October 2016, Lovullo was his top name to take over as the new skipper in Arizona. Lovullo was hired on November 4, and has been in the position ever since. Highly respected in the game and with a strong relationship with Hazen, look for Lovullo to be just at the start of a long run as Dbacks manager.

THE BALLPARK

Chase Field: The first stadium in the United States to be built with a retractable roof, one that protects fans from the brutal heat of summers in the Arizona desert, Chase Field opened with the Diamondbacks first game as an MLB expansion team for the 1998 season, and has been their home ever since.

Located in dowtown Phoenix, Arizona, the fences are 330 and 334 respectively to left and right field. It is 374 to left-center, 413 feet to what is known as deep left-center, and 407 straightaway to center field. Around to deep right-center field the fence is 413 feet away, and then 374 to right-center field.

The stadium has played host to the 2001 World Series, in which the Dbacks led by pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling won the franchise only world championship. It was also host to the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.

Originally having a natural grass playing surface, for last season the Diamondbacks went to a synthetic sports turf. Chase Field also has a swimming pool located in right-center field, which is rented to patrons as a suite holding 35 guests.

 

 

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