MILWAUKEE — When they open their best-of-three NL Wild Card series against the Brewers here on Tuesday evening, the Diamondbacks will be coming off a stretch in which their offense did not produce. They struggled to get men on base and struggled to get them home when they did.
General Manager Mike Hazen admits it is not the sort of momentum he would prefer to be riding into the postseason. He would rather have the opposite, of course, but he also is not sure how much it matters.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s going to translate just because for the last week this is how we swung the bats,” Hazen said. “The environment changes completely (in the playoffs).”
For the past five games, facing both an accomplished Houston Astros staff and less-impressive White Sox pitchers, the Diamondbacks have hit just .149 as a team. Over their past 22 games, they have just a .649 OPS.
Concerning, to say the least, and even more so, perhaps, because it is not a stretch that can be brushed aside as a one-off. During the 32-game stretch that nearly derailed their season, they hit just .224/.301/.368 while averaging only 3.5 runs per game.
Hazen said the offense — and the forces that power it — has been a regular internal topic of conversation for much of the year. The Diamondbacks have a lineup filled with players who take good at-bats, make contact, are able to manufacture runs and utilize speed. And yet they seem just as streaky as a team filled with sluggers who strike out.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations around where the disconnect may exist within the lineup,” Hazen said. “Whether it’s in situations where we have runners in scoring position or just some games where it’s gone dry for us and we haven’t put a lot of runners on base, I don’t know. The talent is for sure there.”
Certainly, the offense has had stretches in which it has been more than capable. Long ones, too. There was a point in late June when they ranked second in the National League in runs scored.
“Our offense,” Hazen said, “is capable of exploding.”
The running game figures to be an advantage for the Diamondbacks, who finished second in the league in steals. Atop their lineup is rookie Corbin Carroll, who was successful on 54 of 59 stolen base attempts. While the Brewers have some base stealers of their own, the Diamondbacks employ catcher Gabriel Moreno, who was one of the best in baseball at throwing out attempted base stealers.
“I definitely think it could play a factor and be something that we use to our advantage, but it’s kind of situation dependent and we’ve got to take what they give us,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to be out there with reckless abandon. We’re going to take smart, calculated decisions. We’ll see what happens.”
Another benefit for the Diamondbacks could be the news that Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff, their anticipated No. 2 starter, will miss the series due to a right shoulder injury. Woodruff, who logged a 2.28 ERA in 11 starts this year, has been one of the better starters in baseball over the past five years. The Brewers have competent fallback options in right-hander Freddy Peralta and left-hander Wade Miley, but neither is on Woodruff’s level.
“The common thought is to exhale and say, ‘Well, Woodruff isn’t starting,’” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’re not going to fall for that. They’ve got very capable replacements and they’re well run.”
The Diamondbacks have a handful of players with postseason experience, but many of their most important players, from Carroll to starters Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt, who will take the ball in Game 1, have never been in a playoff game before. That could work against the Diamondbacks, but Hazen suggested other factors could trump those concerns.
“I think our team is going to have the ability to go out and play free, go out and play with an ease about us,” he said. “Nobody expected us to be there at the beginning of the season. I think we expected to be here. I’m not sure too many people else who did, other than recognizing that we had a young, talented team that had some skills on it. Now, it’s about going out and showing that we can play in this environment. I think it’s going to be a great test for our younger players.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: DBacks hope to snap offensive slump in MLB Wild Card series vs. Brewers