Brandon Webb’s superb season has fueled the Arizona Diamondbacks’ chase for their second consecutive NL West title. The right-hander’s recent struggles, however, have had an equally big impact on the club’s flagging playoff chances.
Making his fourth attempt at his 20th win of the year, Webb looks to snap his three-start losing streak and the Diamondbacks’ season-high six-game skid as the team hosts the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
Webb (19-7, 3.41 ERA) leads the NL in wins and ranks near the top of the league in ERA, strikeouts (166) and opponents’ batting average (.241). He helped Arizona put together the majors’ best record through April and kept the team close in the race for the division crown.
Webb’s poor pitching in his last three outings, however, has taken a toll on the reeling Diamondbacks (71-74). Since the right-hander’s last win Aug. 21, he’s 0-3 with a 12.51 ERA over three starts, raising his ERA from 2.74 prior to the rough stretch. Arizona is 4-14 since Webb’s most recent victory.
The Diamondbacks have dropped 3 1/2 games behind Los Angeles for the division lead.
“Things are magnified right now because of (the playoff chase),” Webb told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site after giving up seven runs and walking a career-high six in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday.
“And the fact that me and (Dan) Haren haven’t thrown great the last few starts magnifies it even more. We’ll keep going out there trying to do it. I’ve got four starts left, I think, and those will be the biggest ones I’ve had all year. I’ve just got to bear down.”
The pressure on Webb is even greater after Arizona suffered back-to-back ninth-inning defeats to San Francisco to cap a winless six-game road trip. After falling 5-4 on a walk-off RBI single by Eugenio Velez on Tuesday, Arizona gave up a two-run triple to Velez in the bottom of the ninth in a 4-3 loss Wednesday.
“That’s the way it’s going right now but it’s to the point where sulking and getting down and pressing … it’s time to put an end to that stuff,” catcher Chris Snyder said. “It’s time to just go all out, play your hardest, lay your chips on the table and see what happens.”
The Diamondbacks hope they’ll benefit from a return to Chase Field, where they’re 40-31 and Webb is 9-2.
“It’s just weird how things are going but at the same time we can’t give up on ourselves,” center fielder Chris Young said. “It was a horrible road trip, no question about that. But we aren’t going to give up. No matter what people expect we’re going to still go out there and fight every day. That’s all we can do.”
The Reds (66-80) had won eight of 11 games before giving up three runs over the final three innings of a 4-3 defeat to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“It shouldn’t have been that close,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official Web site after his club stranded seven baserunners.
The Reds hope to bounce back behind a rejuvenated Aaron Harang (4-15, 5.18). The right-hander allowed a career-high eight earned runs each time in back-to-back losses after a stint on the disabled list with a strained forearm, but has a 3.12 ERA over his last four starts.
Harang allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings of Cincinnati’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
“I felt good today,” he said. “I made some good pitches in some key situations, did what I wanted to do and worked the plate inside.”
Harang is 2-3 with a 1.90 ERA in seven starts against Arizona, while Webb is 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA in nine outings versus the Reds.