DENVER -- With the dazzling play of Colorado's Nolan Arenado earning highlights on television, and the Cubs' fan base drooling over Kristopher Bryant, Jake Lamb is sort of the forgotten third baseman in the National League.Except in Arizona.Much like the D-backs have surprised fans by becoming a factor in the
DENVER -- With the dazzling play of Colorado's Nolan Arenado earning highlights on television, and the Cubs' fan base drooling over Kristopher Bryant, Jake Lamb is sort of the forgotten third baseman in the National League.
Except in Arizona.
Much like the D-backs have surprised fans by becoming a factor in the NL West, battling with the Dodgers and the upstart Rockies, Lamb has quietly emerged as an elite third baseman, lifting his game to another level this year with a more complete offensive package.
It's not by accident.
"I think he has come out wanting to prove that he is one of the elite players in the league," D-backs hitting coach Dave Magadan said. "He has that rare look in his eyes when there are guys on base. That's when he has his best at-bats."
His best is pretty good, and getting better.
While the D-backs reworked their front office in the offseason with the hiring of general manager Mike Hazen, and overhauled their staff beginning with hiring manager Torey Lovullo, there were only a few outside additions to the roster, including catcher Chris Iannetta and right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Yet with a 10-3 win over the Rockies at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon, a D-backs team that has had a winning record just once in the last eight seasons moved into a tie for second place in the NL West with the Rockies.
They took two out of three games from the Rockies -- knocking them out of first place -- and have won 12 of their last 14. They now return to Chase Field -- where they have the best home record in MLB at 26-9 -- for a 10-game homestand that begins with four games against the Phillies, who have the worst record in the Majors.
So, what's been the difference?
Well, Archie Bradley has blossomed in the setup role in the bullpen (3-1, 1.10 ERA, 41 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings). Outfielder David Peralta is healthy, hitting .332 out of the No. 2 spot, setting the table for slugger Paul Goldschmidt. And Lamb not only has further improved on the power he showed a year ago, but he has become a more complete hitter, forcing pitchers to pitch more often to Goldschmidt, who hits ahead of Lamb in the lineup.
Lamb made his presence felt a year ago with 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. The year, he's increased the production, as he already has 16 home runs and 61 RBIs, while hitting .282.
That has been a key factor in the D-backs scoring 388 runs, third in the NL behind the Nationals (398) and Rockies (395).
"I think last year may have been a very, very key factor for him mentally, and physically," Lovullo said. "He is prepared. He is game planning. He is sticking with his own personal game plan, and not coming off that. He has shown a lot of mental toughness, and he's translating that into good, productive at-bats."
Lamb feels he belongs. He withstood the spring of 2015 when there was talk that Cuban addition Yasmany Tomas would get a shot at third base, leaving Lamb, who only had 37 big league games and 126 at-bats on his resume at the time, in limbo.
"I was still young, so by no means could I say it was my position," Lamb said. "It wasn't, but it was more motivation for me. You have to outwork everyone. I want to be the best. It was, `I want to win this job so go out and prove it.'"
Lamb did that, and he continues to reinforce his standing in the D-backs' lineup.
"It's just getting better over time," Lamb said. "I come up in so many RBI opportunities, and I have come through, but there are times I don't. But, through experience, I don't press at those times. I know my teammates are going to get me another opportunity. It happened [Tuesday]. I came up with two guys on and struck out in the fourth, and in that same inning, I came up later with two guys on and doubled off the wall."
"It is having confidence, you know?" Lamb said. "It's, 'OK, I didn't get it done. I know that's not me. I'm going to get it done the next time.'"
And he did, contributing that two-run double in a 10-run fourth inning in the D-backs' 16-5 win on Wednesday.
"You put a little extra pressure on yourself because you want those RBIs, but the biggest thing is I have learned to trust myself," Lamb said. "I have learned to trust my approach."
Along the way, the D-backs have learned to trust Lamb themselves.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.