Series win on the line in Padres, Diamondbacks matchup
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks are not surprised with their strong start after a breakout 2017 season in which Torey Lovullo won the National League Manager of the Year award.
With all due respect, they kind of expected it.
“That’s who we are,” Lovullo said Saturday.
After making the playoffs for the first time in six seasons last year, the Diamondbacks have maintained their competitive excellence through the first month of this season despite playing all of it without right fielder Steven Souza Jr. and all but four games without 30-homer third baseman Jake Lamb.
With a 6-2 victory over San Diego on Saturday, Arizona is 14-6 and one game shy of the best start in franchise history. Doubling up with a victory Sunday, Arizona would be the first team since the 2003 San Francisco Giants to win its first seven series of a season.
The Diamondbacks already have set a franchise record by winning their first six series, the first NL team since 2012 to do that. They have led the NL West or been tied for the lead every day since beating Colorado in the season opener.
“I think we are starting to establish that we are a good team,” Lovullo said. “We have our own set of expectations each day that we are going to go out and win, and once the day is over we are going to accept what happened win or lose and turn the page and be ready for tomorrow.
“With that, we had certain expectations. That we wanted to be ready out of spring training. Check that box, see where we were at the end of the first homestand. I don’t want to say that we thought this was going to happen, but we feel good about it knowing that we were prepared to make something like this happen. We have to embrace it and continue to march on.”
Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin (3-0) is to face San Diego rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi (2-0) in Sunday’s series finale, a match of two of the most effective left-handers in the league this season.
Corbin (1.65) and Lucchesi (1.66) rank sixth and seventh in the NL in ERA, and Corbin is second in the league with an 0.70 WHIP and fourth with an average of 12.18 strikeouts per nine innings. Lucchesi has an 0.97 WHIP. Both have shown exceptional command of the strike zone — Corbin has 37 strikeouts and five walks and Lucchesi has 25 strikeouts and four walks.
Corbin took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his last start Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, losing it on Brandon Belt‘s two-out, check-swing infield single on a grounder toward third base into an over-shift to the other side of the field. Corbin finished with a one-hitter and his first career complete game in a 1-0 victory.
“That was fun,” Corbin said. “I feel like I’d feel the same if I had a no-hitter. To come away with a win was huge.”
Lucchesi, a fourth-round draft pick out of Southeast Missouri State in 2016, has won his last two starts, giving up one run and five hits in six innings of a 10-1 victory over the Giants last Sunday. He struck out a career-high nine and did not walk a batter.
“He was always the young guy who was going to come the fastest,” San Diego manager Andy Green said. “He was the one that we knew was the most advanced, the one that we felt could pitch in the big leagues because of deception pretty quickly.
“He did nothing but reaffirm that in spring training. He threw the ball very well all the way through spring, rarely had a hiccup, and when he didn’t have his stuff, he was able to keep us in ball games still. And that is a sign of a guy who has a chance to have a really good career.
“When you are off, when nothing is working for you, can you still put up that three- or four-run performance in six innings and give your team a chance to win a baseball game instead of a cascading eight- or nine-run performance? He did that all the way through spring. He did it last year … and that’s all you can really ask for from a young starter.”
San Diego welcomed the return of center fielder Manny Margot on Saturday while placing Hunter Renfroe on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Wil Myers, who returned from the disabled list Friday, was given a day off after playing four straight games, the first three rehab games in the minors.