D-backs seek 10th series win to open season vs. Dodgers

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo spent time Wednesday mulling over potential lineups for the time in the near future when Steven Souza and Jake Lamb return from the disabled list.

One decision is clear.

A.J. Pollock will remain in the cleanup spot.

“I believe in lineup continuity,” Lovullo said. “I know that when guys are in a certain spot and feeling good, I’ve learned over the years not to mess with the DNA of the game and of the lineup. I feel like A.J. is going to stay there until something hits me over the head the other way.”

After hitting four homers in the first two games of the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pollock had two more hits in a 2-1 loss Wednesday. The Diamondbacks have not lost two games in a row this season, and if they win the final game of the series Thursday they will have won their 10th consecutive series to open the season, one short of the major league record.

Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin (4-0, 2.25 ERA) will oppose Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood (0-3, 4.11) Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers then will fly to Monterrey, Mexico, for a three-game weekend series against San Diego.

Pollock and Lamb alternated in the cleanup spot in the first four games of the season, and Pollock has been there since Lamb went to the disabled list after suffering a shoulder injury in the fourth game. Pollock has thrived there, and has 10 homers and 25 RBIs this season.

Souza is “about as close as you can get” to being activated after playing in the field in an extended spring training game for the second day in a row Wednesday. He seems likely to return this weekend for a three-game series against Houston, and the original plan was to have him hit fifth in the order.

“Being as proactive as possible,” Lovullo said of his look at potential combinations. “Looking at how an opposing manager would counter-punch, shifting things. You want to make sure you are maximizing your lineup’s potential. I’ve been taking some notes so I can ask the right questions as the right times.”

The Dodgers’ bullpen had struggled in the past fortnight, but it came up big Wednesday, after starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was forced to leave in the second inning with a strained groin.

Five relievers gave up a run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings. Their success, plus the loss of Ryu for an indefinite period, should quell speculation that Kenta Maeda could return to the bullpen after excelling in that role in the postseason.

Manager Dave Roberts said he has not moved Maeda back to the bullpen yet, although Walker Buehler’s impressive early starts could cause a re-evaluation. Buehler appears to be the top candidate to start Saturday against San Diego in Monterrey, Mexico, where rain is forecast all weekend.

The first priority, Roberts said, is “to figure out the guys we do have and get them going before totally pivoting. I think that Walker is a (rotation) option down the road, and sooner than later. But right now we are not at the point where we feel we essentially have to overhaul our ‘pen. Right now Kenta is a starter. He’s earned it. Would he be open to it? I’m sure he’d be open to it if it comes about for the benefit of the ball club, but right now internally we are not talking about it.”

Corbin is off to his best start since 2013, when he won his first nine decisions and made the All-Star team. He has 55 strikeouts in 40 innings and has given up only 23 hits and seven walks. His 0.75 WHIP is second in the National League to San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto.

Corbin is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts at Chase Field this season. He struck out a career-high 12 in a 3-0 victory over the Dodgers on April 4, giving up only one hit, Matt Kemp’s looping single to right field. Corbin threw a one-hit shutout in his next home start April 17 against San Francisco, giving up only a check-swing single by Brandon Belt while striking out eight.

He is 4-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 17 career appearances (15 starts) against the Dodgers. No team has beaten him more times.

Wood won his first 11 decisions in a breakout 2017 but does not have a victory through six starts this season. Wood gave up three runs in six innings in his one start this season against Arizona in Chase Field on April 4, his first loss of the season.

Wood was 3-0 in four appearances (three starts) against the Diamondbacks last season and is 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 13 appearances (nine starts) against them in his career. He has won two games but has a 5.20 ERA in seven appearances at Chase Field, giving up 16 earned runs (and four homers) in 27 2/3 innings.