09/19/07 10:05 PM ET
Notes: D-backs practicing patience
Arizona getting on base via the walk more often lately
By Jason Grey / Special to MLB.com
That has been evident in the last three games for the D-backs.
Many have pointed out that Arizona ranks last in the National League in team batting average, but in the last few contests, the D-backs have been finding other ways to get on base.
On Tuesday, they got Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez deeply behind in the count often, as he threw just 16 of 36 pitches for strikes, leading to four first-inning runs. On Monday, the D-backs drew eight walks against San Francisco, after nine free passes against the Dodgers on Sunday.
With the club in a pressure-packed pennant race, you might think the inclination as a hitter is to be aggressive and try to make things happen with your bat, but lately it's been just the opposite.
"We go through periods of the season where we're way too aggressive, and other times not aggressive enough against pitchers that are going to try and get strike one," said manager Bob Melvin. "It's a credit to [hitting coach] Rick Schu and the guys to know who that particular pitcher is on that day and how we have to attack him.
"Whether we're going against a guy like [Esteban Loaiza, who pitched on Sunday], who's going to try to nibble at the strike zone with cutters, or Sanchez, who you have to make throw some pitches over the plate and not help him out, it's a testament to the players knowing each day what the plan is and following it."
Starter shuffle: With off-days on Thursday and Monday, and Micah Owings responding to being skipped in the rotation the last time through by hurling a two-hit shutout on Tuesday night, Melvin has a bunch of options for setting his starters for the final week and a half.
However, for now Owings' next start will have to wait. Melvin announced that Livan Hernandez, Brandon Webb and Edgar Gonzalez will start the three games of the Dodgers series this weekend and then he would reevaluate how things will shake out for the final week.
With the team finishing the season with games on six straight days, Owings will get at least one more start before the regular season is over.
Melvin has been watching Webb's pitch count a little more closely in recent games, with the reigning Cy Young Award winner leading the National League in innings pitched, ranking fifth in the league in pitches thrown and also not having one of his sharper outings last time out. There was speculation Webb might get an extra day of rest, but he will pitch on his regular day on Saturday.
One thing Melvin says he has not done is look ahead to start positioning his rotation for a potential playoff series.
"No way," said the manager. "We have to get there first."
However, one thing to note is that if Webb keeps taking his regular turn, he will be in line to start the first game of the playoffs, if needed.
Minor matters: With many of the players who performed well at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues this season spending time on the big club for the month of September, here are a few players who shined in the lower ranks of the D-backs' Minor League system this year:
Gerardo Parra, a 20-year-old outfielder, continued to impress this season between two levels of Class A ball. Parra hit a combined .313 with eight homers and 26 stolen bases in 134 games. He has been compared to another top D-backs prospect, Carlos Gonzalez.
Brooks Brown, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, acquitted himself well in his first full professional season. He advanced to Double-A halfway through the year and went 10-7 with a 3.20 ERA in 26 starts this year, striking out 128 in 146 1/3 innings.
It's hard not to root for reliever Kyler Newby, who was drafted in 2004 in the 50th round out of Mesa Community College. Newby posted a combined 2.11 ERA in his first two pro seasons at the Class A level before being sidelined by elbow problems at the beginning of this year. He returned to pitch for Class A Visalia in August and had a 1.50 ERA with two saves in nine games to finish the season.
Did you know? The D-backs have 12 pinch-hit homers this year, the most in the Major Leagues. ... Eric Byrnes had stolen 30 straight bases without being caught, the longest streak in the big leagues this season, before being thrown out by Bengie Molina while trying to steal second in the first inning of Tuesday's game. ... Arizona has 29 bullpen wins this season, the most in the National League. ... The D-backs are 38-24 since the All-Star break, the best record in the NL. ... With Owings' performance on Tuesday night, Arizona has hurled 11 shutouts this season, second in the league to San Diego's 20.
Up next: The D-backs have an off-day on Thursday, and then they start their final home series of the year on Friday as the Dodgers come to town for a three-game set. It will be a matchup of two veteran righties, as Arizona's Hernandez (10-10, 4.86 ERA) will take on Los Angeles' Loaiza (2-2, 4.55). First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. MST.
Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.