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Overhauled D-backs couldn't sustain fast start

Grittier club, led by Corbin's arm, Goldy's bat, overtaken by surging Dodgers

PHOENIX -- If 2013 felt a lot like 2012 for the Arizona Diamondbacks, that's because, well, it was eerily similar.

Much like the year before, the D-backs opened camp in 2013 looking to recapture the magic that led them to the 2011 National League West title and once again they finished with an 81-81 record.

That's the same mark they ended up at in 2012.

"I would say disappointed, really, just because our expectations are very high," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said in summing up 2013. "We fully expect to be in the postseason each and every year and the last two years we've been .500. We're ready to put this year in the rearview mirror."

Most fans would certainly agree that it is time to say goodbye to 2013, but before we do, let's take a look at the top five storylines from the year gone by:

5. Goodbye to Justin Upton

As the days ticked away in January, it appeared that the much-rumored trade of Upton would not happen, especially after the slugger nixed a deal to the Mariners.

But just when you thought the organization and Upton would have to reconcile their differences and hurt feelings and go forward together, the D-backs completed a deal with the Braves that netted them third baseman Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado and a trio of prospects.

It was a turning point for the franchise that seemingly had Upton at its center since making him the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.

4. The Gritty Grinders

The D-backs made a series of moves during the offseason designed to change the culture of the clubhouse, and the national narrative became that of the D-backs as a "gritty" club that would be "grinding" out wins.

In truth, the team had undergone a pretty significant overhaul in terms of what had been its core from 2006-11. Shortstop Stephen Drew and outfielders Chris Young and Upton were no longer with the organization and the focus was getting on base over strikeouts and home runs.

3. A promising beginning

It is easy to overlook in the disappointment of the final win total, but the D-backs actually held on to first place for 67 days and were in the top spot as late as July 21.

Doing that was no easy task given the injury challenges the club faced.

Newly signed outfielder Cody Ross injured his leg in Spring Training and began the year on the disabled list, as did starting center fielder Adam Eaton, who wound up missing most of the first half with a strained elbow.

Starting second baseman Aaron Hill was hit on the hand by a pitch in late April and missed more than two months.

On the pitching side of the ledger, starter Daniel Hudson reinjured his elbow during his rehab and had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery. Right-handers Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill also battled various injuries.

2. Battling with the Dodgers

On June 21, the D-backs were 9 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Dodgers, who seemed buried and ready to fire their manager Don Mattingly.

However, the Dodgers managed to go on a 42-8 run to lap the D-backs and the rest of the division.

The fireworks between the two teams began 10 days before, however, as the D-backs and Dodgers had a nasty scuffle at Dodger Stadium after exchanging hit by pitches.

The fight resulted in suspensions and bad blood between the two franchises that lingered into the offseason.

When the Dodgers clinched the division against the D-backs on Sept. 19, they added insult to injury when they jumped in the Chase Field pool to celebrate, something the D-backs had done back in 2011 when they won the division.

The two teams open the 2014 season against each other with a two-game series in Sydney, Australia.

1. The emergence of Patrick Corbin and the outstanding season by Paul Goldschmidt

The D-backs inked Goldschmidt to an extension during Spring Training, and the first baseman went out and made the deal look like a bargain.

Goldschmidt, who finished second in the MVP voting, slugged 36 homers and drove in 125 runs to lead the NL in both categories. Along the way, he played great defense at first base and earned a Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

Meanwhile, Corbin went to Spring Training battling for the No. 5 spot in the rotation with Tyler Skaggs and Delgado.

Corbin won the job, but quickly became the team's ace, and he was named to the NL All-Star team along with Goldschmidt.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Adam Eaton, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Daniel Hudson, Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross