After a disastrous weekend in Seattle, Max Scherzer stopped the bleeding on Tuesday night for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The young power pitcher shut down the slugging Texas Rangers, and the top of the D-Backs' batting order poured on the offense in an 8-2 win at Chase Field. Everything that could go wrong for the D-Backs did in the Emerald City, but they made up for it upon their return home as Felipe Lopez, Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew went 8-for-13 and drove in seven runs.
Scherzer didn't dominate (and found himself in trouble a couple of times), but made good pitches when it mattered against a potent but slumping Rangers offense. Scherzer threw a hefty 119 pitches in only six innings but minimized the damage, giving up only two runs on seven hits. He also struck out seven as he lowered his earned run average to 3.53 and improved his record to 5-4. At only 24 years old, Scherzer is starting to look like the heir apparent to ace Brandon Webb, who is likely out for the season and whose future with the D-Backs appears tenuous, at best. Scherzer has turned in very good performances in six of his past outings for the D-Backs.
Meanwhile, the cornerstone of the D-Backs' offense, Justin Upton, keeps on punishing opposing pitchers. He hit his 14th homer in the first inning and drove in his 43rd, 44th, and 45th runs of season, raised his batting average to .324, and further made his case as the best right fielder in the National League. Now that he's on pace for a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, the sting of trading Carlos Quentin to the White Sox has all but gone away. Upton looks determined and hungry, rarely giving away at-bats, and looking nothing like the kid who struggled to hit major-league pitching in the first weeks of the season.
Drew continued his quest to erase a forgettable April and May, as well. His three hits raised his average to .246 and his 28th RBI in the fourth inning gave Scherzer a comfortable 6-2 lead. Felipe Lopez has been nothing but solid in the leadoff spot all season long. He went 3-5, raising his average to .303, scored twice, and drove in three runs. Some fans grumbled when the D-Backs let second baseman Orlando Hudson get away in free agency at the end of the 2008 season, but Lopez has really been Mr. Consistent at the plate and in the field, very nearly matching Hudson in terms of productivity.
It should be noted that the bullpen, the source of so many of the D-Backs' woes this season, relieved Scherzer admirably. Perhaps it says more about the Rangers' offensive struggles of late (they've lost five games in a row and fell into a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Angels), but Esmerling Vasquez, Juan Gutierrez, and Tony Peña threw three scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. For once, a six-run lead actually looked as if it would hold up with these guys on the mound.
The D-Backs, who've struggled mightily at home (they're a pitiful 15-23), actually looked comfortable and poised at Chase Field on Tuesday night. Tonight against the Rangers, they'll try to nail down a rare series win. Here's how the match-up looks:
Vicente Padilla (5-3, 4.79 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (6-4, 2.23, which is second-best in the NL, and 96 strikeouts in 101.1 innings), 6:40 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.