Preview: Brewers at Diamondbacks
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers seem to be playing in unison this season. Strong relief corps. Injuries. Good defense. Injuries. Offense not hitting on all cylinders. Rotation injuries. Injuries.
Both teams have played through it. Arizona leads the NL West despite having lost six of its last seven games, and Milwaukee is in a virtual tie with Pittsburgh atop the NL Central after the Diamondbacks' 2-1 victory over the Brewers Tuesday.
The teams will meet in the deciding game of a three-game series at Chase Field on Wednesday afternoon, when Arizona right-hander Matt Koch will oppose Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff.
But the Diamondbacks are faced with another obstacle.
Center fielder A.J. Pollock, their most productive offensive player this season, is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks after suffering an avulsion fracture of his left thumb when he dove for Tyler Saladino's line drive that turned into an inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning of Arizona's 7-2 loss Monday.
Pollock is second in the NL with 33 RBIs and is slashing .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers, tied for third in the league. His WAR is 2.1. He will not require surgery, manager Torey Lovullo said.
"It's tough to lose anybody, but the way he was playing, it's a pretty big blow," general manager Mike Hazen said. "It's a hazard for playing the game the way he plays the game. Wouldn't expect it any other way. For guys like A.J., it doesn't matter what the score is. It doesn't matter what the situation is, he is trying to save runs there. And he is going to do that I bet a hundred out of a hundred times.
"It's bad luck."
Pollock missed most of the 2016 season with a fractured elbow and missed almost two months last season with a groin injury.
The Diamondbacks already have played without starters Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. for extended periods. Lamb played four games before going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and Souza missed the first month with a pectoral muscle injury.
Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker is expected to miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Robbie Ray has an oblique injury. Lamb is expected to return sooner rather than later on the nine-game road trip that begins Friday against the Mets.
Jarrod Dyson and Chris Owings are likely to split time in center field, Lovullo said. Owings played center when Pollock went out in 2016 before the team acquired Michael Bourn. Owings is hitting .204. Dyson is hitting .184.
"If we keep handing the bat off to the next guy instead of everybody try to do it themselves, we'll be OK," Hazen said.
The Brewers have not been immune.
Rotation members Jimmy Nelson, Wade Miley, Zach Davies and Chase Anderson are on the disabled list, along with first baseman Eric Thames. Outfielder Ryan Braun missed his second straight game Tuesday, and manager Craig Counsell said he would not rule out a stay on the disabled list.
"Winning games throughout the course of the season, you need different guys at different times to drive the bus, so to speak," Counsell said.
"That's how a team stockpiles wins. One night it is the bullpen, one night it is the starter, one night it is the big guys in the middle (of the lineup). One night it is the guys at the bottom. One night it's defense. We have had some unsung heroes (in the starting rotation)."
Milwaukee and Arizona entered Tuesday's game ranked 1-2 in the NL in "runs saved" over an average major league defense, according to baseballreference.com.
"When I watch this team I feel like I am watching us a little bit," Lovullo said. "They have a tremendous baseball IQ. They go out and compete every single night. Their bullpen is certainly an area of strength. When you look over their numbers, they are not giving anybody a chance to get a hit."
Woodruff (1-0, 8.03 ERA) will make his seventh appearance and third start of the season. He gave up nine hits and seven runs in three innings at Colorado on Friday, but he was not involved in the decision when the Brewers overcame a 9-3 deficit in an 11-10, 10-inning victory.
He is in his third stint with the Brewers this season after pitching well at Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in four starts. He has never faced the Diamondbacks.
Koch (2-1, 2.43) has made quality starts in four of his five starts this season, and he gave up two earned runs in five innings in the other start. He has opposed Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in his last three starts, going 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in that stretch. He has never faced the Brewers.