Torey Lovullo’s insights on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff aspirations and their recent offensive challenges. Get the latest updates on their journey to secure a postseason spot.
Torey Lovullo’s entrance into the press room was marked by the absence of any telltale signs of celebration: his tan cap remained dry, and there was no waft of champagne clinging to his black t-shirt. Beneath the confines of Chase Field, cases of Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot lay untouched, their expiration date deferred for another day. Not a single locker was cloaked in plastic wrap.
Rather than reveling in the post-game festivities, Lovullo’s thoughts were consumed by a singular statistic, a detail that might have been lost in the frenzy had the ball taken a different bounce or the spin of fate been altered. Through the first two innings, the Astros’ starting pitcher, José Urquidy, had thrown 36 pitches. In the subsequent four innings, he required only 34 more.
In Lovullo’s estimation, these numbers were the crux of the matter. They represented the fine line between defeat, as the Diamondbacks experienced with their 2-1 loss, and securing a coveted playoff berth, a path that could have been traversed.
Speaking candidly, Lovullo commented, “There were at-bats that needed more maturity. We must continue emphasizing this to our young hitters who are succumbing to early counts in pivotal moments.”
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An examination of the at-bats revealed a recurring theme: several instances of first-pitch outs. In the first inning, Christian Walker skied a pitch with runners on first and second. In the third, Ketel Marte lazily flied out to right after Corbin Carroll’s lead-off double. The fifth inning saw Jace Peterson popping out after leading off. In the eighth, Geraldo Perdomo replicated the pattern with a fastball popped to third following Peterson’s lead-off single.
In the aftermath, Peterson chose to commend Urquidy’s performance, a pitcher whose ERA, it’s worth noting, stood at 5.84 before the game. When asked if the pressure of clinching a playoff spot had unnerved the hitters, Peterson replied, “I don’t think that played a role.”
However, his manager held a different viewpoint.
Lovullo remarked, “This time of year, the atmosphere is playoff-like. Strong teams consistently grind down their opponents, making them throw the pitches they desire.”
On Friday, the Diamondbacks fell short in this regard. They managed to put nine runners on base, comprising four hits, four walks, and an error. Though not an impressive total, it should have sufficed to tally more runs. Unfortunately, they went 0 for 9 in the at-bats immediately following those baserunners.
This offensive drought extended back nearly three full games. Starting with the dominating 15-4 victory against the White Sox on Tuesday, they seemed poised for a playoff berth. Yet, the final six innings of that game yielded no runs and only one hit. Thursday’s 3-1 loss followed with just three hits. On Friday, they mustered only four hits.
Since the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game, their offensive performance stood at 8 hits out of 77 at-bats, equating to a bleak .104 batting average.
This was not the first instance of the Diamondbacks’ bats mysteriously falling silent. The memory of August’s nine-game losing streak still loomed, during which they averaged just 2.1 runs in a 12-game stretch. Earlier this month, they went through a seven-game phase with an average of 2.3 runs per game.
In both previous instances, Lovullo had criticized their overly aggressive approach. This time, he believed it was an isolated occurrence. While conceding there were scattered poor at-bats against the White Sox, he asserted that it hadn’t been as pervasive as it was on Friday.
As the game unfolded, Lovullo shared his observations with hitting coach Joe Mather from the dugout. He chose not to address the hitters directly after the game but instructed Mather and the coaching staff to relay the message during their meetings ahead of Saturday’s game.
“(Mather) agreed,” Lovullo affirmed. “We discussed it and reviewed some at-bats that ended far too quickly. We need to raise our standards.”
There remains a chance that the Diamondbacks may not need to improve their performance further. If the Cincinnati Reds suffer just one more loss in their final two games, the Diamondbacks will clinch a wild-card spot, regardless of their own results.
Alternatively, they could make their path to the playoffs much simpler.