Diamondbacks host Rockies before heading to Dodger Stadium (Jul 02, 2017)
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks aren't just competing with the Colorado Rockies this weekend. They're also taking on adversity and, perhaps, the natural tendency to anticipate what might be ahead of them in two days.
With their 51-31 record, they've been told all season about how they're overachieving, how they're on pace for this franchise milestone or that personal achievement.
They also heard in advance of their 10-game homestand that wraps up Sunday against the Rockies that this was the time to make a real push to overtake the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
But instead of moving upward after winning four of the first five games in the homestand, they suddenly stalled -- losing three in a row at Chase Field, where they won 30 of their first 40 games. It was a rare dose of adversity for a team that has been winning a lot during a season in which they weren't expected to win that much.
So it became a test for first-year manager Torey Lovullo, who to date, has dealt mainly with trying to keep his players from not getting complacent, thinking the wins will keep coming automatically.
"These guys know that good teams don't carry over bad moments. It's one of those things we talked about during spring training, good teams know how to spit out today to get ready for tomorrow, and not let things linger," Lovullo said. "We were in the middle of a losing streak ... so it's not easy to come to work, and say, 'Great, let's go do our thing.' "
They did exactly that Saturday night, winning 6-3 over Colorado behind Zack Greinke's dominating-at-times seven innings (three hits, zero walks eight strikeouts).
The Rockies were dealing with the same thing, losers of eight in a row until Jon Gray pitched them to a 6-3 victory Friday night over Arizona, only to lose again Saturday for their seventh loss in eight games on their current road trip that also ends Sunday.
"I don't think taking until the seventh inning to get a couple of runs is doing our job," Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon said. "We should do better than that."
Lovullo knows what losses like that feel like.
"There's a little bit of a grind (when you're losing), but you would never know it (in the Arizona clubhouse)," Lovullo said. "These guys are relaxed, comfortable. They know what they need to do today, and I think it changes from day to day whether we win or lose. That's a key quality these guys have. We have good leadership, we have trusted leadership and the leaders do their job getting everybody ready to go."
Especially when the Diamondbacks will get on a plane Monday and go to Los Angeles for a three-game series that's arguably the franchise's biggest since 2011, when Arizona last made the playoffs and won the division.
The tendency to look ahead to that series would be understandable, except that it could throw off their focus against the Rockies.
That's why Lovullo is very comfortable sending right-hander Taijuan Walker (6-3, 3.50 ERA) to the mound Sunday to oppose Rockies right-hander German Marquez (5-4, 4.38 ERA), who gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings during a 9-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Monday. Before that he'd won three in a row, just as Walker currently has.
"I believe in all of our starters," Lovullo said. "When I get up, I think, OK, Zack (Greinke) is pitching today or Zack Godley or Patrick Corbin. It's a nice, comfortable feeling. Driving to the ballpark, I can't wait to see what this game will bring."
Then he'll be ready to see what the next series will bring.
"These guys are aware what's happening, they know they're on pace to do something special -- (but) we respect what the Dodgers have done, (and) the Rockies are right in back of us," Lovullo said. "The Dodgers are the defending NL West champs, and they're not going to collapse. We know they're a quality team, led by a quality manager. When our time comes to play them, we're going to give them everything we can for the three games we play them.
"(But, right now), out guys are focused on today. They'll probably scoreboard watch, see the scores on SportsCenter tonight like we all do, and just say, "Hey, look, whatever happened happened.' (Now) we've got to go get 'em, good or bad."