With 10 of their 55 remaining games against each other, both red-hot teams will have plenty of chances to take control of the race for baseball’s weakest division.
That starts with a four-game set this weekend at Dodger Stadium, as Arizona’s Brandon Webb looks to become the majors’ first 15-game winner in Thursday’s series opener.
The Diamondbacks (55-52) have won five of six to start their 10-game road trip, as their resurgent offense has recaptured the form that propelled Arizona to a major league-best 28-16 start.
After a 7-3 victory at San Diego on Wednesday, they’ve now averaged more than six runs in their last 16 games. They had managed just 3.3 runs per game in their previous 47 contests.
“It’s all about momentum, especially going into LA,” catcher Chris Snyder said. “These guys aren’t backing down. It’s not going to be easy.”
The Dodgers (54-53) have matched Arizona stride for stride lately, also winning five of six to start their current homestand - largely thanks to superior pitching.
Led by Chad Billingsley’s five-hitter, Los Angeles’ 4-0 win over San Francisco on Wednesday was the club’s fourth shutout victory in its last five games.
“This is remarkable, the number of shutouts,” manager Joe Torre said. “… We have more consistent focus. We’re more determined at this time. We just seem to be going at it a lot better.”
Derek Lowe (8-8, 3.74 ERA) started the shutout binge, allowing one hit in eight innings of a 6-0 win over Washington on Saturday. He retired the last 13 men he faced, but came out of the game after throwing 107 pitches with Thursday’s start in mind.
“My next start is going to be a big one against Brandon Webb,” Lowe said Saturday, “so I need to save those 15 or 20 pitches for them and be as fresh as I can, rather than go out there for the ninth.”
Webb (14-4, 3.14) has been impressive all season, but he’s been especially good lately—going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last four starts. He has also dominated division opponents, going 7-0 with a 2.20 ERA in eight starts as NL West hitters are batting .199 against him.
The lone no-decision came in his only outing against the Dodgers, as he gave up one run in eight innings on July 20, but closer Brandon Lyon blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning of Arizona’s 6-5 defeat. Webb had won his previous seven starts against Los Angeles, allowing eight runs in 60 innings against them since the beginning of the 2005 season.
He’ll face Lowe for the second time in less than two weeks. Lowe gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings and did not get a decision on July 20 against the Diamondbacks, and he’s 4-6 with a 4.44 career ERA against them.
All four wins have come at Dodger Stadium, however. He has a 2.71 ERA at home this season, and he’s allowed just three hits in 15 2-3 innings in his last two home starts. Los Angeles’ 2.91 team ERA at home this year - which includes 10 shutouts - is the best in the majors.
The clubs split two games in Los Angeles on April 23-24, but the Dodgers have dropped five of eight overall this season to Arizona.