August 22, 2012
The one team that no one is talking about in the National League is the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have flown under-the-radar all year due to the attention that the Dodgers and Giants receive, but they are have managed to hang around for 3 quarters of the season despite MLB experts picking them to finish well out of the race and not make the playoffs. Game 3 of their series with the pesky Miami Marlins could be a turning point for this squad. They have their best starting pitcher on the mound in Wade Miley, which should give them their best opportunity to shut down the Marlins offense.
Miley has pitched far better than his 13-8 record indicates. An inconsistent D-Backs batting order has cost him wins in several starts, but he has been the most steady starter all season long. Leading the team in wins and earned run average (2.96) makes him the “Ace” this year, despite many baseball experts believing that Ian Kennedy is. It’s not that Kennedy has been a dud after a tremendous 2011, but he hasn’t been able to get batters out with as much ease as he did a year ago. He still leads Arizona in strikeout per 9 innings and quality starts, but he has had an inning or two every game that has put him behind the eight ball.
The Marlins have been one of the biggest disappointments in terms of MLB predictions for the 2012 season, but they have shown signs of what we all thought they should be at certain points of the year. Being 11 game below .500 and 21 games behind the Washington Nationals in the N.L East is nowhere close to what Miami had hoped for when the season began. However, a lack of pitching, and not getting production from their new acquisitions put them into a huge hole early on. They rank towards the bottom of the Major Leagues in runs, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. Injuries may have plagued this team all season long, but Jose Reyes and company never got into a groove that gave their pitchers leads that would have made them more comfortable. Reyes leads the team with a mediocre .288 batting average, but the rest of his stats are well below his career averages. Along with Hanley Ramirez who was traded to the Dodgers before the trade deadline, Reyes is the only player to qualify in offensive categories based on at bats per game. The Marlins have no chance of getting to the post season this season, but they are talented enough to be a thorn in the side of many that are.
Justin Upton has been the best player on Arizona for the past few seasons, but it’s been the play of their secondary players that has kept this team in the mix for so long. Jason Kubel has a team leading 26 homeruns and 79 runs batted in, and has led several rallies late in games to pull out wins. Miguel Montero is progressively improving at the plate, and Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill are having career years for the D-Backs. Being 5 games back and behind 4 teams for the wildcard lead has put Arizona in a tough position. However, a strong finish has the potential to get them back in the mix, and put them in a position to contend for the N.L. Pennant.
Baseball handicappers have the Diamond backs set as solid favorites for the final game of this 3 game set. Miley has a huge advantage on the mound, and will be expected to get the win at home. Tune in for what has the potential to be an important game for Arizona as they push for a late rally to pull closer to the wildcard leaders in the National League.