Coming off his first shutout in more than two years, Batista looks for a fourth straight win and 10th this season as the resurgent Diamondbacks open a 10-game road trip against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
Arizona (50-48) could have left for this trip tied atop the NL West, but blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday and lost 9-7 to Colorado. However, it was just the Diamondbacks’ third loss in 13 games, emerging from last place while getting within 1 1/2 games of division-leading San Diego heading into this series.
The team had gone 8-20 in June, including one stretch during which it lost 20 of 23 games.
“It’s been a complete turnaround in our locker room,” Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez said. “When you’re not playing well, everybody’s just kind of leery about what you’re doing. But now, you can see the confidence when guys walk in here.”
After posting a 5.89 ERA in June, the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff is 12-6 with a 4.13 ERA this month.
Batista (9-5, 4.58 ERA) has played a big role in that turnaround. He’s 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA in four outings in July after posting a 7.76 ERA last month.
“If we’re going to compete and go all the way down to the end in this division, Miguel’s going to be a key guy for us,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “Coming in, that was the plan. ‘Miggy’ was going to be one of the go-to-guys.”
Unbeaten since June 20, Batista is looking to win four consecutive decisions as a starter—he spent all of 2005 as a reliever—since winning four straight starts from June 20-July 6, 2004 while with Toronto. This run of three consecutive wins follows three straight losses, which came after another three-game winning streak.
His nine wins are two shy of his career high, set in 2001 during the Diamondbacks’ run to the World Series championship.
Batista won his third straight in last Wednesday’s 8-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching a six-hitter for his first shutout since June 9, 2004 and third complete game of the season.
Another of his 10 career complete games came in his most recent start against Philadelphia, a 10-1 win on May 5, 2003. He’s 3-3 with a 3.48 ERA career ERA against the Phillies.
While the Diamondbacks are beginning a road trip which also takes them to Houston and Chicago, the Phillies (44-52) are off to a bad start on their 11-game homestand.
They lost the final two games of their three-game set against the Atlanta Braves, including a 10-8 defeat on Monday. Following this three-game series, Philadelphia plays five games against Florida.
“The two series coming up are very big,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s time for us to get going if we’re going to go (to the postseason).”
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was 2-for-3 in Monday’s loss to run his career-best hitting streak to 24 games, longest in the majors this season. He’s hitting .402 in that span.
Utley has never faced Batista, who will be opposed by right-hander Ryan Madson (8-7, 6.25).
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in seven games against the Diamondbacks. He won his only start against them this season, allowing three runs and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings of Philadelphia’s 7-3 win at Arizona on June 7.
Madson has lost to San Diego in his only two starts this month, getting tagged for 12 runs and 18 hits in 10 1-3 innings. Last Tuesday in a 10-6 defeat, the seven earned runs and 10 hits he allowed were the most he’s surrendered since April.
“I don’t know what happened,” Madson said. “I tried to mix it up. In the later innings, I felt out of rhythm.”
Philadelphia has won 13 of 17 against Arizona, including all three meetings this season.