Success on the road fueled a franchise-best start for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Struggles away from home have been just as significant in the club’s decline.
Hoping to pull back to .500 by winning consecutive games for the first time in nearly three weeks, the Diamondbacks turn to Brandon Webb as they open a six-game road trip Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals.
After going 9-5 on the road in April to finish the month with the majors’ best record, Arizona (44-45) has lost 21 of 29 away from home. Now in a wide-open race in the NL West, the Diamondbacks are feeling pressure to turn around their road fortunes during this trip against Washington (34-56) and NL East-leading Philadelphia.
“We’d like to play well for a number of different reasons,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin told the team’s official Web site. “One, to get our record better. We’d love to get back to .500. Two, to kind of get past the road woes we’ve had as of late. It wasn’t trouble for the first month. We need to play better on the road.
“This is a big road trip for us to kind of set a tone going into the second half.”
Arizona’s hoping to build on a 3-2 win over San Diego on Sunday. Randy Johnson snapped a six-start losing streak and helped the Diamondbacks avoid a three-game sweep at home by holding the Padres to one run and three hits while striking out 10 in 6 1-3 innings.
“It was a big win for us,” said Melvin, whose club hasn’t won back-to-back games since beating Oakland on June 18 and 19.
The Diamondbacks will have a good shot at ending that drought behind Webb (12-4, 3.43 ERA), who’s tied for the major league lead in wins and ranks near the top of the NL with a 2.70 ERA on the road.
While there’s little doubt that Webb earned his spot on the All-Star team, he’s fallen off since winning his first nine starts with a 2.56 ERA. In nine outings since that franchise-record start, the right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA. He gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings against Milwaukee on Thursday before Arizona rallied with six runs in the ninth to steal a 6-5 victory.
Webb is looking to win his fourth straight start against the Nationals. He entered the 2007 season 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA against the franchise, but has allowed one run over 25 innings to win his last three outings versus Washington. Webb has posted consecutive shutouts against the Nationals, including a 4-0 victory May 31.
That doesn’t bode well for a Washington team that couldn’t take advantage of an off day from another All-Star pitcher in its last game. The Nationals scored three runs in six innings against Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez on Sunday, but stranded nine baserunners in a 6-5 loss.
“We should have won the game,” said Nationals manager Manny Acta, whose team has dropped five straight for its longest losing streak since a nine-game skid from April 3-12. “We caught Volquez on one of his bad days. We should have scored eight runs against him.”
The Nationals hope to rebound at home, where they’ve won three of four. They’ll hand the ball to Odalis Perez (2-5, 3.78), who’s 0-2 with a 2.27 ERA in seven starts at Nationals Park. The left-hander made his last start on the road, giving up two runs in 6 2-3 innings of Washington’s 4-2 loss to Florida on Wednesday.
Perez is 5-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 20 games - 18 starts - against the Diamondbacks.