ATLANTA – Though his offense continued to sputter in a loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo says he still has faith in his group of hitters, believing that they’ll return to their early-season form sooner than later.
The Diamondbacks scored just three runs on Friday and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Since June 28, the Diamondbacks have scored the second-fewest runs (37) in baseball, posting the third-worst batting average (.216) and fourth-worst OPS (.677). They’re 3-9 in that span.
“We got so used to it all year long where these guys were just making things happen, setting up innings and then getting the big hit to finish it off, that when these things happen like this at this pace we’re not quite used to it,” Lovullo said. “Hitting with runners in scoring position is probably the hardest thing to do offensively. I know these guys are working at it, they’re talking about it and I know it’ll change quickly.”
The club is hitting 14 for 88 (.159) with runners in scoring position over the past 12 games. Prior to that, the team was hitting .293 in those situations.
“It’s nothing that is overly concerning because it’s the same group of hitters that have done it all year long,” Lovullo said. “I know that I believe in these guys and I think they’ll be just fine.”
Another change offensively for the Diamondbacks has come on the basepaths; they’re running less frequently than earlier in the season. Lovullo says this mostly has to do with the league adjusting to their aggressiveness.
“We were running into some really, really rough outs on the bases in certain parts of June,” he said. “We are identifying these areas a little more carefully. Not that we were running recklessly, but I think we were taking advantage of some teams that didn’t know how to stop us and teams have made that adjustment and are slowing us down.”
Since June 21, the Diamondbacks have attempted just nine steals but have been successful in eight of them.
On second thought
Lovullo said he replayed parts of Friday night’s 4-3 loss to the Braves “5,000 times,” wondering if he could have or should have done things differently given the way the game turned out.
Specifically, he was questioning his decision to pitch to Braves slugger Freddie Freeman with a base open in the eighth inning, and whether he should have removed pitcher Taijuan Walker for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth.
Both moves did not work out for the Diamondbacks. Freeman delivered a go-ahead single and Walker bounced into a double play.
“It’s hard,” Lovullo said. “You want to make the right decision and sometimes you don’t. It obviously was a part of the game that was very, very important and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. If we could replay it, redo it again, I might choose a different path.”
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Left-hander Robbie Ray will start on Tuesday in Cincinnati and right-hander Zack Greinke will follow him on Wednesday. It will be the pitchers’ first starts since the All-Star break; the Diamondbacks pushed them back to the second series after the break because both made the All-Star team and were candidates to pitch. Ray, however, did not appear in the game in Miami.
*The Diamondbacks had to get creative on Friday night when the phone to the bullpen stopped working. “(Pitching coach) Mike Butcher did his best MacGyver imitation and got it done,” Lovullo said. “He was doing hand signs.” Lovullo said the phones appeared to be working fine on Saturday.