As losing skid hits 7, D-backs seek answers

August 26th, 2020

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo tried his best to explain it.

For 16 minutes after Arizona dropped its seventh straight game -- this one a 5-4 loss to Colorado on Tuesday at Chase Field -- Lovullo patiently took question after question.

But the answers are elusive for a team that has fallen to 13-18, last in the National League West.

Recently, it’s been the D-backs' lack of offense. Before that, their starters had some issues. There have been struggles in finding the right combination of setup men to get the ball to Archie Bradley.

When one area comes together, it seems another falls apart.

“It’s frustration,” Lovullo said. “It’s very hard. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what’s going on. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to find a way out of this. These guys are going to fight together and dig their way out of it together.”

It will have to start with the offense. On Tuesday, the D-backs went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. During their seven-game skid, they are 4-for-45 in those situations.

Lovullo has had players into his office for meetings during this stretch, not so much as a way of delivering a message, but as a way of helping them deal with their own struggles.

“I've had a lot of one-on-one meetings in my office, sitting down with guys and just getting aligned with them,” Lovullo said. “Just listening to them and talking to them about what they're experiencing and letting them offload a lot of that information.”

Coaches, too, are doing their best to listen, as well as teach and carry a consistent message each day.

Lovullo has what he calls the “Leadership Committee,” made up of a handful of players who he turns to for input. He’ll meet with them in the next day or so and see what they think is going on.

If Lovullo saw a lack of effort from his players, he would have no hesitation about airing them out. But each day, he sees them working hard. So to yell at them just to make himself feel better would be pointless.

“Fundamentally and physically, these guys are ramped up and ready to go,” Lovullo said. “We're stumbling because I think we're just trying so hard to make something good happen. And like I said, I want these guys to remember they're good baseball players and just being themselves is good enough for me.”

So, Lovullo tells his team to relax and trust their talent. And they tell themselves that as well. But still, in the heat of the game, the emotions take over and the pressing begins.

“I think that's a big battle right now,” said shortstop Nick Ahmed, who struck out with the bases loaded to end Tuesday's game. “Everyone on our team, in our clubhouse gives it everything they have every single day from the minute they step into the clubhouse. There’s nobody on our squad that has any lack of effort at all. So the biggest thing we need to do collectively is try to relax. We know that. We’re trying. We’re doing the best we can, we just need to do a little bit better job of executing.”

Now in his fourth season as D-backs manager, Lovullo knows that it’s in the tough times that he earns his paycheck.

“When things aren’t going right and you feel like you want to crawl in a hole, that’s when I feel like I have to be my strongest and go into my reserve and find a way to keep this ship afloat and keep it moving in the right direction,” Lovullo said. “The fact that the highs and the lows have happened -- one player gets hot, another cools off -- it seems to be a little excessive at times, but I remember one thing. I remember that when you come out the other end, when you struggle the way we are, it feels just a little bit better. That’s what motivates me every single day.”