The Arizona Diamondbacks got off to a scorching start to the season, but have been stuck in a bit of a rut lately.
It could be worse. They could be stumbling like the defending NL champion Colorado Rockies.
The NL West-leading Diamondbacks look to bounce back from being swept when they open a three-game series against the Rockies Tuesday at Chase Field.
Arizona (23-15) won 19 of its first 26 games and finished April with a 5 1/2-game lead in the NL West - no other team led its division by more than 1 1/2 games. The Diamondbacks still lead the West, but have lost six of eight.
They lost to the Chicago Cubs 6-4 on Sunday, getting swept for the first time since losing three in a row to Cincinnati July 6-8.
The Diamondbacks entered the series at Wrigley Field leading the majors in runs (201), but managed only seven runs and 13 hits in the three games.
“We’re not pushing the panic button,” Arizona first baseman Conor Jackson told the team’s official Web site. “We’re still in first place, right? We had a tough stretch the past three games. We’re not going to sit here and dwell on this. We’re going home to some nice weather, and get back to where we started.”
The Diamondbacks started the year with two of their first four series against the reigning NL champs, and met little resistance from the team that swept them out of last season’s NLCS. Arizona has already won five of six over the Rockies (15-23), outscoring them 38-10 in the victories.
Justin Upton is just 2-for-14 (.143) with a solo homer in his last five games, but is batting .440 (11-for-25) with four home runs and eight RBIs versus Colorado this season. He’s also 4-for-9 with two homers lifetime against Tuesday’s scheduled starter Jeff Francis (0-3, 5.27 ERA).
Mark Reynolds was hitless in 10 at-bats in the Cubs series, but is 9-for-24 (.375) with two home runs and eight RBIs against the Rockies this year.
Colorado has dropped 15 of 21 and owns one of the worst records in the majors.
The Rockies lost at San Diego 6-1 on Sunday, and have scored only three runs in dropping their last two games. Colorado has plated just 28 runs in losing eight of its last 10 on the road.
Matt Holliday, given the day off Sunday, is batting .375 (9-for-24) with two homers and five RBIs in six games versus the Diamondbacks this season. The reigning NL batting champ is just 1-for-8 with a triple lifetime against Tuesday’s scheduled starter Randy Johnson (2-1, 5.06).
Johnson was supposed to start Sunday, but Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin decided not to send out the 44-year-old left-hander in the rain and wet conditions in Chicago.
Johnson hasn’t pitched since allowing four runs and six hits in six innings of 6-4 win over Philadelphia on May 6.
In his only start against Colorado last season on May 15, Johnson allowed one hit and struck out nine in six innings of a 3-0 victory. He has not faced the Rockies at Chase Field since 2004, but is 8-2 with a 1.11 ERA in 11 career starts against them there.
Francis is again seeking his first win of the season. The left-hander, who emerged as the Rockies’ ace last season with 17 victories, is mired in the worst winless drought of his career.
Two of his losses this season have come against Arizona, as he’s been tagged for 12 runs, 19 hits - including six home runs - in 11 1-3 innings over two starts.
Francis has lost his last three starts versus the Diamondbacks after opening his career 7-1 with a 3.35 ERA in his first 13 starts against them.
On Wednesday, Francis yielded three runs, six hits and five walks in five innings of Colorado’s 4-3 win over St. Louis.