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NL West: D'backs play safe with Unit
Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, Randy Johnson had only one quality start in his return to Arizona through the Diamondbacks' first 35 games of the season. Coming off a 2006 season in which he had a 5.00 ERA, it would have been reasonable to wonder whether the 43-year-old Johnson would ever dominate again.
But then over a 4 1/2-week period, Johnson knocked out six consecutive knockout starts, allowing eight runs over 35 2/3 innings (2.02 ERA) while striking out 51 and walking five -- a ratio few achieve at any point in their careers. According to Baseball-Reference.com, opponents had an on-base percentage of .222 against Johnson and a slugging percentage of .233 in that span.
The only difference between this Johnson and the ideal Johnson was not getting past six innings in any of the starts. Johnson averaged 91.5 pitches per start, only once exceeding 101.
In a further sign that the Diamondbacks were keeping caution from the wind, they put Johnson on the disabled list last week with "glute tightness" even, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported, before team doctors finished reviewing an MRI exam.
"We are going to err on the side of caution," Melvin told Piecoro. "I said that from Day 1. That's how we're going to handle it. We're not going to run him out there in a situation where it could get worse."
Johnson's return could come as early as June 26, in a home game against the Dodgers. Arizona had a down-and-up week, following a sweep by the Yankees with a sweep of the Orioles.
Colorado has furthered its attempt to go from pretender to contender. Since May 21, the Rockies are 17-7, even including Sunday's 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay. However, in that time Colorado has only gone from being seven games out of first place to 5 1/2 games out, because San Diego (which was in second place May 21) has gone 16-8.
On May 14, I wrote that "the Rockies' main problem this year is that their pitching isn't as deep as they might have hoped, at home or on the road. .... The Rockies are hardly dead and buried, but they have got to get their pitching turned around to stay in the competitive division race." In the 31 games since, Colorado's team ERA, 5.10 prior to the article, has been 3.67, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The resurgence has been led by Jeff Francis, who has a 1.76 ERA in six starts (41 innings) over that stretch. And the bullpen has been on its game, with Brian Fuentes, Manny Corpas, Jeremy Affeldt, LaTroy Hawkins, Tom Martin and Jorge Julio all boasting above-average ERAs.
The oft-maligned Hawkins has been charged with one run in nine innings over 10 games since returning from the DL May 22. Martin has been tagged with one run in his past 10 innings. And Julio has decimated the 12.54 ERA he had with Tampa Bay this year, coming over in a trade to throw eight innings of relief with a 1.13 ERA.
(On the other hand, last month I also highlighted the fact that Todd Helton was batting .397 on May 11. Since then, he is hitting .243.)
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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