It's amazing how quickly storylines can change over the course of just a couple of months.
When the season began, most people had the Arizona Diamondbacks pegged as the favorites to win the National League West. Of course, they got off to a brutal start, became somewhat of an afterthought, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were everyone's flavor of the month. Then the Dodgers cooled off and the San Francisco Giants got going and suddenly Matt Cain & Co. were the talk of baseball. Well, the D-backs haven't caught up just yet, but they're making it clear they should not be written off.
On Friday, Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill made history by becoming just the second player of the modern era to hit for the cycle twice in a season, and the D-backs thrashed the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 9-3.
Unlike their counterparts in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the D-backs have yet to really hit their stride this year. Sure, Hill (.849 OPS) and left-hander Wade Miley (2.19 ERA) are probably playing a bit over their heads, but a lot more has gone wrong than right for Arizona this year, which bodes well for a resurgence. For example:
1. Stephen Drew didn't play until this week.
2. Ian Kennedy hasn't been himself.
3. Justin Upton hasn't hit his stride.
4. Daniel Hudson is going to have elbow surgery.
Now, it would be easy to point to Hudson's injury as evidence that the D-backs can't win the NL West, but the one thing this club has is pitching. Trevor Bauer made his debut Thursday, and while it was rocky, there is plenty of reason to believe he can be a factor. And if not him, Arizona also has Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs ready to step into the rotation. Also, as the Cardinals proved last season when they won the World Series in a year in which Adam Wainwright didn't pitch an inning, no pitcher is completely indispensable, and I think we can all agree that Wainwright is better than Hudson.
Now that the likes of Hill and Miley have done their part to keep Arizona alive, it's up to Upton, Kennedy and Drew to pick up the slack. Upton, who was bothered by a thumb injury earlier in the year, has been hitting about .500 over the past 10 days, which is a great sign for Arizona fans. Kennedy has an ERA of 4.20 and a FIP of 3.82, which suggests he's actually pitched a lot better than his traditional stats indicate. As for Drew, he'll almost certainly be an upgrade over Willie Bloomquist, who has actually been pretty good, but whose career .660 OPS suggests his current line of .297/.327/.407 is unsustainable.
Arizona is just four games behind San Francisco in the loss column, and considering all that has gone wrong thus far, that's a pretty good place to be.