If the Arizona Diamondbacks ever hope to reverse their cellar-dwelling ways and field a competitive team next year, there are a few things they need to work on during the off-season.
Besides firing their bullpen en masse, one of the first things on the "to-do" list is to figure out how to stop wasting golden opportunities to put runs on the board, much like they did in their three-game series with the San Francisco Giants this past week.
The D-Backs blew plenty of chances against the Jints. Over the course three games, they had runners in scoring position 21 different times, but only capitalized on the situation twice. They also failed to make the most of the weak and wild pitching of San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez, not to mention a few fielding errors by their opponents.
Instead, the Snakes allowed the Bay Area Bombers to run roughshod all over their asses all week long and take a few steps closer to clinching the National League West crown.
The penultimate series of the 2010 season began with a 4-2 loss to San Francisco on Tuesday night at AT&T Park. The aforementioned Sanchez seemed like he couldn't throw a strike to save his life, as he walked four of the first 10 Arizona batters. Forcing pop-outs and relying on the Giants' defense to get him through, the pitcher's shortcomings finally caught up to him in the third when Rodrigo Lopez's sacrifice fly scored Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson homered.
That's all the scoring that the Snakes could summon, as Sanchez settled down and San Francisco began producing runs. Mike Fontenot had an RBI single in the third, Juan Uribe yielded a solo jack in the fourth, and Nate Schierholtz and Pat Burrell provided ribbies in the later frames.
Wednesday's contest got off to a rousing start when Stephen Drew homered to begin the game. Fans were still filing into the ballpark when the Arizona slugger turned Tim Lincecum's 0-1 fastball into a 372-foot dinger. Too bad they couldn't capitalize further with their 1-0 lead, as it was all downhill from there.
Ian Kennedy was near-perfect on the mound, striking out four Giants players and making things look easy until Burrell stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning. Aubrey Huff had singled to center and Buster Posey received a walk, but Kennedy seemed calm, cool, and collected as he faced down the third batter in the frame. Burrell took a single strike looking before he walloped the ball 390 feet into McCovey Cove to give his team a 3-1 advantage and, ultimately, the win.
The Jints weren't done with their home run heroics, as they offered up moonshots aplenty during yesterday's 4-1 win. Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres, and Posey each nailed longballs into the bleachers, making a tough night for Arizona's Barry Enright. The starting pitcher only lasted five innings, he attempted to make up for his poor showing on the hill by bringing in the D-Backs' lone run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth. Enright finishes the year at 6-7 and a respectable 3.91 ERA (as well as 49 strikeouts). Here's hoping that newly hired general manager Kevin Towers keeps him around for 2011.
But before those big decisions are made, Arizona has one last series before cleaning out their lockers. After a season filled with frustration and futility, the Diamondbacks (64-95) will commence their final games of 2010 this weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers (78-81) at Chavez Ravine.
It's also the last round up for Mr. Joe Torre. The venerated skipper -- who brought four World Series trophies to the New York Yankees, but wasn't able to do much during his tenure managing the Boys in Blue -- will hand over the reigns to Don (a.k.a. "Donnie Baseball") Mattingly next year. Torre's hoping his squad can finish out the season with a .500 record with three straight wins over the D-Backs.
Manager Kirk Gibson and his crew will be doing everything they can to deny the Dodgers this meager accomplishment as they send out rookie lefty Zach Kroenke (0-0, 21.60 ERA) against John Ely (4-9, 5.10) later tonight, followed by a battle between Joe Saunders (3-6, 4.40) and Chad Billingsley (11-11, 3.61) on Saturday. Lopez (7-15, 5.03) gets the honor of the last starting spot of the season when he faces Ted Lilly (6-4, 3.75) in Sunday's finale. The end begins tonight when the first pitch is thrown at 7:10 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For more information, go to www.diamondbacks.com.
Benjamin is the clubs editor at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.