Coming off a dismal trip to Los Angeles that resulted in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, the Pirates (14-20) head inland to face a Diamondbacks squad that's off to a solid start under new management (GM Mike Hazen, manager Torrey Lovullo). They split a pair of midweek games against the Tigers.
Thursday, 9:40 p.m. - Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.14 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.09)
Friday, 9:40 p.m. - Tyler Glasnow (1-2, 6.33) vs. Patrick Corbin (2-4, 3.89)
Saturday, 8:10 p.m. - Trevor Williams (1-2, 7.98) vs. Taijuan Walker (3-2, 3.83)
Sunday, 4:10 p.m. - Ivan Nova (3-3, 2.23) vs. Robbie Ray (2-3, 4.14)
19-16 (20-15 Pythag, 4.83 RS/G, 4.17 RA/G)
Arizona's position players have amassed 4.4 fWAR, 12th-best in the majors. In addition to Paul Goldschmidt, a cast of mostly underrated regulars -- Chris Owings, Brandon Drury, Yasmany Tomas, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb -- are all OPSing over .800. Goldschmidt is still Goldschmidt, getting on base at a .461 clip. He and Lamb have each knocked seven homers. Pollock had a breakout 2015 before missing most of last season with an elbow injury.
The Diamondbacks are fifth in the league in ERA-, at 87, fourth when you're looking at starters. Greinke, the Game 1 starter, has been excellent in his second season in the desert, striking out 26.3 percent of batters and walking just 4.5 percent. Walker looks to be settling in after an offseason trade from the Mariners. Ray makes a lot of noise while racking up a reliever-ish 32.4 percent strikeout rate. Shelby Miller underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.
Their bullpen, like many, is a mixed bag. The shaky Fernando Rodney is still in the closer's role, it appears. Archie Bradley, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, is doing well for himself in a setup role, and Jorge de la Rosa looks like a Pirate-y (in a good way) bounce-back guy, shifted into relief after facing injuries as a starter. Veterans Tom Wilhelmsen and J.J. Hoover have been productive. In case you were wondering, Randall Delgado, who plunked Andrew McCutchen in 2014, is still here, too.
The D-backs were an up-and-coming, trendy darkhorse a few years ago, a perception that changed when Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa put their touch on things, notoriously trading the world for Miller. Still, a lot of those position players that had Arizona catching the eye of the detail-oriented are still around, and the D-backs have a nice little club.
It appears the Pirates are in for a challenge, but every time they've looked this bad, they've bounced back a little, to the point that people are no longer *completely* throwing in the towel. The biggest pitching concern is, of course, Williams on Saturday after he got lit up early in LA.