Three crucial questions after D-backs swept
When it was all over and the Marlins had completed their three-game sweep of the D-backs with a 3-1 victory on Thursday night in Miami, there were three main questions for the D-backs as they packed their bags for a flight to New York and a weekend series against the Mets.
1) Why did Madison Bumgarner come out after six innings?
Bumgarner was outstanding for his fourth straight start. The left-hander allowed a homer to Miguel Rojas to open the Marlins' first and allowed just one more hit the rest of the way, throwing 85 pitches through six.
With the score tied 1-1, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo pinch-hit for Bumgarner in the seventh and the game unraveled in the bottom half of the inning when reliever J.B. Bukauskas allowed a pair of runs.
It turns out Lovullo's decision to take out Bumgarner did not have anything to do with pitch count, effectiveness or even wanting to get some offense. The real reason was concern about Bumgarner's right wrist.
Bumgarner was hit on the wrist by a Pablo Lopez pitch in the second and while it was his non-throwing wrist, Lovullo did not want to continue to have Bumgarner take at-bats (he struck out in the fourth) without the team knowing the severity of the injury.
"The grip strength was good," Lovullo said. "He was constantly getting tested by the trainers. He was in good shape. He said he felt fine. That was my decision to make that change."
X-rays taken postgame did not show a break in the wrist, but there was no way of knowing that when Lovullo made his decision. Even Bumgarner admitted that while he would have stayed in the game, he was wondering about the wrist.
"I was curious to know about it," Bumgarner said. "Usually, you can tell if it’s broken or not, but I didn’t know on this one. I wasn’t sure enough to say one way or another. There’s not a great amount of pain. It’s definitely swollen, but that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t broken, according to the X-rays that we took and got looked it. There was no fracture, so that’s good."
That was good news for the D-backs and explained the decision that Lovullo made. What wasn't good and is harder to explain is…
2) What happened to the D-backs' offense?
The bats had been rolling before their trip to Miami. Hitters were working deep counts, drawing walks and scoring runs in bunches.
In the three-game set against the Marlins, though, the D-backs scored just four runs -- three of which came in the first game -- and were 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
Lovullo was asked what changed.
"It’s a good question," he said. "That’s the frustration that we’re all feeling right now. We’ve got good hitters on this team, good hitters that understand who they are. I just think we’re trying to do a little too much in certain situations and going outside the zone or maybe offering at the pitch we shouldn’t necessarily be looking for. I feel like we were getting out on the wrong pitch today and we were getting out on the wrong pitch over the past two days. What does that mean? It means one of two things -- early count outs or swinging at the pitch that we aren’t looking for."
It's something they will need to figure out before they face the Mets on Friday night and a change of scenery may do wonders because…
3) Why have the D-backs struggled so much in Miami?
The D-backs' struggles over the past three days in South Florida are not a new development. This is the third time in the last five years that they have been swept in a series there and have lost 13 of their past 17 games in Miami.
"We need the candlesticks, the chicken bones, whatever they were talking about in [the movie] 'Bull Durham'," Lovullo said. "We’ve got to find a way to get it changed here. We’ve got a whole year to think about it. We’re going to find a way to make sure we’re ready to play next year. I think we need to acknowledge there’s something real here. Whatever it is, we’ve got some time to think about it and get it right."