PHOENIX — This is the time of year that the memory of Michael Jordan comes into focus.
The Diamondbacks are invoking it, too, as their offense looks for a reboot after a tough three weeks.
“Hitting is hard,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
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“Hitting is mechanical. Hitting is mental. And sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it to. It is one of the hardest things to do in sports. You can ask Michael Jordan that. He was quoted as saying that. A lot of great athletes have said hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports.”
The Diamondbacks made it look a little easier in their 12-5 victory over Cincinnati on Monday, ending a streak in which they lost 15 of 17 games while scoring only 34 runs and falling to .500 for the first time this season.
Nick Ahmed homered and had four RBIs, Chris Owings hit a three-run homer and John Ryan Murphy also homered for the Diamondbacks, whose four-run second inning was their biggest inning since they scored five runs in the third inning of an 8-2 victory over Philadelphia on April 26.
“This was just a game we all needed, something to get out there and get everybody on the bases, everybody swinging the bat,” Owings said. “We just need to keep having at-bats like that. The lineup really turned over today. It was good to have the energy in the dugout.”
Arizona right-hander Zack Godley will oppose Cincinnati right-hander Luis Castillo in the second game of the series Tuesday. Both are 4-4.
Owings’ three-run homer with two outs in the fifth inning broke open a 6-5 game and snapped a personal 4-for-51 slide.
“I think everybody is,” Owings continued when asked if he were pressing.
“When you are not getting any hits, it is tough as a group. Everybody is trying to help out. Everybody is trying to get that big hit. We talked about it today. It is just trusting the process. Just take it pitch by pitch.
“That’s what we did all April. We just need to get back to doing that. Everybody had that mind set this is just another game, we’re going to our foot right back on the gas pedal.”
Godley gave up one run in 14 innings in his first two starts this season but the league has been tougher on him since. He is 2-4 with a 5.83 ERA in his previous eight starts, having given up 50 hits and 28 walks in 41 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs (six earned) in his last outing, a 9-2 loss in Milwaukee in which he went 3 1/3 innings.
He developed a curve ball that he used 36 percent of time after joining the starting rotation when Shelby Miller suffered a season-ending elbow injury. His curve ball rate has increased this season, but he is getting fewer swings and fewer swings on pitches outside the strike zone than at any point in his four major league seasons.
“This is such a good league because these hitters understand what is working for particular pitchers and with particular pitches,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
“I think the league has made a little adjustment to him, which is making it a little more challenging for him. I know that he is aware of it. He just has to land different pitches in different areas at different times. I know that he’s working as hard as he possibly can to make that happen. When you look at the entire body of work, he is having a good year.”
Godley has four quality starts and has pitched into the sixth inning seven times this year after a breakout 2017 in which he was 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA after filling the rotation vacated when Shelby Miller suffered a season-ending elbow injury in April.
“He spoiled us last year,” Lovullo said. “He was dominant at times. He ran off 10, 12 exceptional starts in a row. The league has made a little adjustment to him and it is making his ride a little bumpy. But he is keeping us in games. He’s pitched into the sixth and seventh inning at times, and that’s impressive.”
Godley was 1-1 in two starts against the Reds in 2016, the last time faced them, giving up 19 hits and 14 runs in 7 2/3 innings.
Castillo was 1-1 against the Diamondbacks last season with two quality starts. He struck out eight and gave up three hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings of a 7-0 victory at Chase Field on July 8.
Castillo, 25, made his major league debut last season. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in each of his five starts in May, lowering his season ERA to 5.34. He relies on a fastball that sits at 96 mph and a changeup that is 10-12 mph slower.
“He’s a tough challenge for hitters,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
“He’s a very talented guy. He has a good arm. He has a nice repertoire of pitches with a good changeup. He’s pitched a lot. He’s kind of coming into his own as a pitcher. He had some good ones last year, and he’s kind of moved that way this year in the last few outings.”