Three takeaways from D-backs' road slide

May 24th, 2021

walked off the Coors Field mound, a trainer by his side, and returned to the visitors’ dugout. He threw his glove against the bench, removed his hat, sat down and wiped his brow in visible frustration.

No sight better encapsulates how May is going for the D-backs. The injuries and losses keep piling up.

After missing a month due to a right groin strain, Widener was activated to start Sunday’s series finale, but he then departed in the second inning with right groin discomfort. Arizona went on to lose, 4-3, as Colorado’s Trevor Story led off the ninth inning with a walk-off homer against right-hander Stefan Crichton.

After going 0-7 on this road trip against the Rockies and Dodgers, the D-backs have lost eight games in a row and 17 of their past 20. They’ve also lost 13 consecutive away contests, the second-longest road losing streak in franchise history (one shy of the longest, which occurred from May 18-June 18, 2010).

Here are three takeaways from the past week as the team heads home to Phoenix:

1. The rotation depth will continue to get tested
Widener’s return was a brief one, as he allowed one unearned run on one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. He loaded the bases in the first with a walk and a pair of hit batters, but he escaped the jam by striking out Ryan McMahon and getting Josh Fuentes to fly out.

During that inning, Widener ran over to cover first base while Pavin Smith caught a Story popup. That’s when Widener began to notice his recurring groin issue.

“I still had the adrenaline in the first inning, so it felt fine,” said Widener, who threw 40 pitches in his outing. “Then after I went and sat down and came back out, that’s when I could really feel it.”

Widener added that the discomfort “doesn’t feel as bad as last time.” But he’ll be further evaluated during Monday’s off-day.

If Arizona loses Widener for another period of time, it will need to continue to find other ways to fill its multiple rotation holes. Right-handers Zac Gallen (right UCL sprain) and Luke Weaver (right shoulder discomfort) remain on the IL, and manager Torey Lovullo said Sunday that Weaver is still waiting to get a second opinion on his ailment.

Earlier on the road trip, Corbin Martin (the D-backs’ No. 7 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) made his first start for the team, while Seth Frankoff and Matt Peacock each made their second career starts. The trio of right-handers may get plenty of opportunities moving forward, and their results could heavily influence Arizona’s level of success.

2. The offense is still lacking consistency
After scoring seven total runs in the first six games of this losing streak, the D-backs showed encouraging signs while plating six runs in Saturday’s loss to the Rockies. Then, Arizona had a three-run rally in the sixth on Sunday, which included a go-ahead two-run homer by Smith.

Still, it wasn’t enough for the D-backs to hold onto the one-run lead they took into the eighth, as they finished with only four hits.

“I think we just need to see a couple fall and get that momentum back on our side,” Smith said. “As much as anyone says, hitting is definitely contagious. You definitely feed off one another, and when people start getting some hits in big spots, I think it will roll into the next one.”

Arizona went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. On the trip, it went 5-for-43 in those situations.

3. The D-backs have fallen in the standings
The D-backs are the first team in MLB to lose 30 games this season. They’re now in last place in the National League West with an NL-worst record of 18-30.

While Arizona is 9-21 on the road, it is 9-9 at Chase Field, where it returns for a nine-game homestand that starts Tuesday. However, the D-backs will face some tough competition, with matchups against the Giants, Cardinals and Mets, a trio of teams likely to remain in the postseason hunt this summer.

Lovullo remains optimistic that better days are ahead for Arizona.

“It’s because we care so much that it is a little frustrating,” Lovullo said. “As that frustration mounts, I think we’ve got to pull back and understand why certain things happen. For me, it’s fairly simple: We’ve got to eliminate our mistakes and play the type of baseball that we know best.”