PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks found their offense again Tuesday.
Their mission now is to hang onto it for awhile.
The D-backs used a four-run fourth inning — their biggest inning since June 21 — and left-hander Wade Miley to subdue Tampa Bay, 6-1, on Tuesday, to keep from falling to .500 for the first time since the second game of the season.
At times, scoring has not been an issue. The D-backs scored 10 runs twice in a four-game span in late July against the Cubs and San Diego, and they had seven runs in two games of their recent six-game road trip. But they scored only five runs total in the other four games, all losses, and returned home Tuesday to find themselves six games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Their 59 runs since the All-Star break was in the lower third in the majors, as were their 12 home runs.
“Don’t know that I have a ouija board in front of me that tells me exactly what the right thing to do is,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said before the game.
“Just not very consistent. We need to search for some more consistency and have better at-bats.”
The D-backs’ offense has been a season-long balancing act, as Gibson searches to find a complement to Paul Goldschmidt, who leads the NL with 89 RBI. He was walked three times Tuesday, as teams have finally reached the conclusion that someone else will have to beat them.
Several of the most consistent D-backs stepped up Tuesday. Cody Ross homered to cap a four-run fourth inning for a 4-1 lead. Eric Chavez had two run-scoring doubles, and Martin Prado drove in another run with a double.
Ross has started the last six games, a first since early July, and he has responded with 14 hits in his last 31 at-bats, with two doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI. Chavez has 12 hits and 10 RBI in his last 37 at-bats, and Prado has nine hits in his last 24 at-bats, with four doubles.
“Anybody will tell you that getting consistent at-bats and going out there every day, you are going to put up numbers,” said Ross, who is hitting .279 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs. “Over the course of my career, I’ve been able to do that when I am getting consistent at-bats.
“We have five (outfielders) who are everyday players, and it is tough for Gibby to get us all in there. He is doing the best he possibly can to try to get us in there and try to match up. Definitely playing consecutive games helped.”
Ross said he has gotten back to basics recently, which for him means remaining calm at the plate.
“The one thing that I concentrate on when I step in the box is just being calm and not having too much movement. When you have a lot of movement, a lot of things can go wrong with your swing. So standing there, as quiet as I possibly can, as relaxed as I possibly can, and try to see a pitch I can handle,” he said.
The D-backs (57-55) gained a game on the Dodgers in the division and remained 4 ½ games behind Cincinnati in the race for the second NL wild card spot Tuesday. With 50 games remaining, it might be time to go with more of a set lineup down the stretch.
“We need to get hot offensively,”
said Chavez, who is hitting .303 with
39 RBIs and once again was slotted into the cleanup slot to protect
Goldschmidt against Tampa Bay right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. “We have to put runs on the board to be effective. The bullpen is throwing the ball really well. The starters are doing their job. If we are going to get back in this, we have to get a lot better at the plate.
“It’s just consistency. Cody’s hot. Hopefully we can run out a consistent lineup and guys get comfortable and offensively. We’ve had a deep bench, and we have a lot of good players, but it’s that time of the year, I think you need to start running guys out their regularly.”
Miley continued on the kind of run that got him into the NL Rookie of the Year race last season, when he won 16 games and had a 3.33 ERA. Miley has not given up more than three earned runs in any of his last 12 starts and has won five of his last si. He was 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA in six July starts and over his last 12 starts has a 2.34 ERA.
“Just more aggressive. Confidence,” Miley said. “Going right after guys. Just trying not to do too much. Earlier I was getting upset with myself when I had or two minor mistakes, and it was causing things to escalate.”