On Sunday, we saw what could be a potential World Series preview when the Houston Astros faced the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. And it was a tight game all the way through. Starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Matt Koch went toe to toe, with the Astros striking first with one run in the second. But that’s all Koch and the bullpen would allow, and the Diamondbacks came out on top thanks to a controversial obstruction call in the sixth inning.
It happened after Daniel Descalso walked to lead off the inning. Once Paul Goldschmidt popped out, A.J. Pollock knocked a triple to deep center field. Descalso scored to tie the game, and as Pollock was sliding into third, he had to go through the legs of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman to get there. The throw from shallow center got away and Pollock scrambled home. Pollock would have been out had it not been for Bregman. The umpires ruled it was obstruction and gave Pollock the base, which put the Diamondbacks up 2-1. Not surprisingly, the Astros weren’t too happy about the call, with Verlander even accusing Pollock of flopping and selling the obstruction to the umpires.
Right or wrong, that call allowed the winning run to score. The Diamondbacks would score one more run, but they didn’t need it. They won the game and the series against the Astros. In all, it was their 11th straight series win. That’s every single series they’ve played so far. As of yet, they haven’t lost a single one, which is pretty impressive.
All that winning hasn’t been in vain. The team’s 23-11 record is the best in the National League. It’s third-best in baseball, behind just the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The Diamondbacks are atop the National League West, with their perennial foes the Los Angeles Dodgers sitting fourth.
And the Diamondbacks have been doing all of this with some less-than-great offense. Looking at their hitting, the only direction is up. They have one of the worst team averages in the majors, hitting .227, which ranks 28th. Two of their everyday players are hovering near the Mendoza line. And catcher Alex Avila is decisively below it, hitting just .143 on the year. Paul Goldschmidt, who has finished in the top three of NL MVP voting in three of the last five years, is hitting .225/.350/.417 with only four home runs.
If the past is any indication, these slumps won’t last forever (especially for Goldschmidt). But in the meantime, other guys have been picking up the slack. Outfielder David Peralta is proving that his breakout 2017 wasn’t just a fluke. He’s hitting .295/.389/.518, and with six home runs has almost half of his total for 2017 (14). A.J. Pollock looks like he did three years ago when he was an All-Star. He’s got the highest average on the team (.306) and the most home runs (10).
With so many issues on offense, the Diamondbacks’ pitching has been keeping the team afloat. Their staff has an ERA of 3.05, second only to the Astros. Patrick Corbin and Koch have been lights out —they both have ERAs under 2.20. Corbin looks better than he ever has, even before his 2014 Tommy John surgery. And Koch is pitching like Justin Verlander instead of a guy who had an ERA of infinity in his one appearance with the Diamondbacks in 2017. And that’s not even bringing up the bullpen, which has the lowest ERA in baseball (2.19) and the lowest home run rate (0.45).
The Diamondbacks shouldn’t get comfortable. Their 3.5 game lead in the NL West could disappear in an instant, and the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants (yes, seriously) are following closely behind. But winning isn’t always about having the best of everything at the same time. It’s about luck and timing as much as it’s about talent. Right now, that’s helping while the offense struggles to find its feet. If the offense starts to pick up, though, watch out. We might just see this Arizona-Houston matchup play out again in five months or so.
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