Braves, Diamondbacks open four-game weekend series
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks will enter the most treacherous portion of their schedule on a bit of roll. Atlanta visits Arizona after an ambush.
The Diamondbacks emerged from an offensive funk in a 6-0 victory over San Diego on Tuesday, the first time they have scored that many runs in more than two weeks, and also received a strong start from left-hander Robbie Ray as they prepare for a stretch of 17 straight games against division leaders.
National League East-leading Atlanta is first up, for a four-game series at Chase Field that begins Thursday.
Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke (13-9, 2.97 ERA) will oppose Atlanta right-hander Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.98) in the opener.
The Braves lost some ground in the division to Philadelphia earlier in the week when they were swept in a three-game series by Boston, which overcame a six-run deficit in the eighth inning and a one-run deficit in the ninth to hand the Braves an excruciating 9-8 loss Wednesday.
“Definitely the toughest loss of the year,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, among the leading candidates for the NL Manager of the Year.
That Atlanta native Brandon Phillips’ two-out, two-run homer in the ninth was the telling blow only seems to make matters worse.
“That game stunk,” closer A.J. Minter, who gave up Phillips’ homer, told reporters.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’re going to come back, keep grinding.”
Arizona came back to stop a four-game losing streak Tuesday in an exemplary outing from Ray, who struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings while showing the form that made him a 15-game winner and a first-time All-Star in 2017.
The Diamondbacks enter the Atlanta series 1 1/2 games behind first-place Colorado and one-half game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. They are scheduled to play Colorado (four), Houston (three), the Cubs (three) and Colorado (three) again after Atlanta.
Arizona had not scored more than five runs since an 8-7 loss to San Diego on Aug. 18, and had scored only 14 during a 2-6 skid capped in a lackluster loss to the Padres on Monday.
“It’s been a grinding year for us offensively,” manager Torey Lovullo said, “because we’ve lacked the consistency that we expected. But when you lay down the entire body of work, we are in a really good spot.
“Knowing that these guys are truly capable of lighting it up offensively if it happens the way we want it to happen and see it happening and have seen it happen in spurts, it can be a very special month.”
Greinke had one of his best outings of the season in the first series, when he gave up four hits in 7 2/3 innings of a 3-0 victory at Sun Trust Field on July 14. He struck out seven without a walk.
Greinke won his only start against the Braves last season and has had limited exposure to them during his career, going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in nine starts.
He is 6-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 home starts this season after going 13-1 at Chase Field in 2017. He has won only one of his last five decisions over six starts, but he had not received much support along the way. He has a 2.97 ERA in those games, although he has allowed seven home runs. Justin Turner beat the Diamondbacks with an eighth-inning homer for a 3-2 victory Friday.
Sanchez is one of three pitchers to have no-hit the Diamondbacks in their 21-year history, beating them 6-0 on Sept. 6, 2006 while with the Florida Marlins. Oddly, that broke the longest drought between no-hitters in league history, dating to Randy Johnson’s perfect game in Atlanta in 2004.
Sanchez, in his 13th season, signed late in spring training and was on a pitch count early in the year. He has gotten into the seventh inning only twice this season. He has lost three of his last four decisions.
He had one of his best outings in a no-decision against Arizona on July 13, giving up one run and five hits while striking out six without a walk. He is 4-1 with a 4.14 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against Arizona, 2-1, 6.66 at Chase Field.