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Series Preview: Talking D-Backs with AZ Snakepit

Take a moment today to get ready for this four-game series with friend of the site Jim McLennan.

37-53 (5th place, NL Central)
47-44 (1st place, NL West)

GAME 1: July 11, 2013 @ 8:40 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

: July 12, 2013 @ 8:40 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 3: July 13, 2013 @ 9:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin and MLB Network; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 4: July 14, 2013 @ 3:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

Chase Field | Phoenix, Arizona

A View from the Other Dugout: AZ Snake Pit

Game 1 Yovani Gallardo (7-8, 4.85) vs. Wade Miley (5-7, 4.06)
vs. D-backs (0-0, 6.00) vs. Brewers (1-0, 1.50)
Game 2 Tom Gorzelanny (1-2, 2.12) vs. Patrick Corbin (10-1, 2.40)
vs. D-backs (0-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers (1-0, 3.00)
Game 3 Kyle Lohse (5-6, 3.47)
vs. Randall Delgado (1-3, 3.82)
vs. D-backs (0-0, 1.50)
vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)
Game 4 Wily Peralta (6-9, 4.82)
vs. Ian Kennedy (3-5, 5.31)
vs. D-backs (0-0, ---)
vs. Brewers (0-0, 6.00)

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Frosty Mug is off Thursday, but will return on Friday. - KL

As the Brewers head west for a weekend road trip, Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit was kind enough to answer some questions about the Diamondbacks and this series.

BCB: A year ago at this time the Diamondbacks were under .500 and looking up at the Giants and Dodgers, but this year they're the NL West's best team. What's changed in the last 12 months?

AZS: Not actually all that much - our record is only three games better than it was at this point last year. As much as the D-backs have improved, the Dodgers, and particularly the Giants, have got worse. There have been changes. Paul Goldschmidt and Gerardo Parra have blossomed, and Patrick Corbin too, but these have been countered by disappointing performances from the likes of Martin Prado and Ian Kennedy.

Perhaps the biggest single impact has been a team that has been a lot better in one-run games. Last year, the D-backs went 15-27: this year, the same number is 19-13. That more than explains any turnaround in our actual record. Which is odd, because the usual explanations of good records there, such as a shutdown bullpen, don't really seem to hold, as we've blown more saves than any other NL team. Perhaps the difference is, we are 9-9 in games after we've blown a save, which is not what you'd expect.

BCB: On Friday the Brewers will face 23-year-old Patrick Corbin, who is carrying a 2.40 ERA and heading to the All Star Game for the first time. Is he likely to stay this good going forward?\

AZS: Probably not "this good", but still "pretty good." He has benefited from a lucky BABIP, and his home-run rate is also going to regress over the longer term. But his FIP is 3.28 and his xFIP not much higher, at 3.62. We'd certainly settle for that, considering he wasn't assured of a rotation place coming in to spring training, had to compete with Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado to win the fifth spot, and wasn't named to that role until late March. If it wasn't for the bullpen, he could easily have followed Max Scherzer to 11-0.

His slider is perhaps the key pitch. When it's on, it's just about unhittable. Earlier this season, Todd Helton said it was the best slider he'd ever seen - and don't forget, that's coming from a guy who had to deal with Randy Johnson in his prime, and "Mr. Snappy," as the Big Unit called his slider. Mind you, Corbin has owned the Rockies. He's faced them three times this year, and has a K:BB ratio of 25:2. But Patrick has certainly been the most pleasant surprise we've seen in 2013.

BCB: Elsewhere in young stars, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is 25, has already set a career high with 21 home runs, leads the NL with 74 RBI and is also an All Star for the first time. Are there any weaknesses in his game we could pass along to Brewer management?

AZS: Nope. He's perfect. There was talk - especially from a certain un-named ESPN pundit - coming in that Goldschmidt was a platoon guy, who couldn't handle right-handed pitching and feasted on lefties, but he has a .954 OPS vs. RHP this season. Or his defense was suspect. Not been the case. Hell, he even leads the team in stolen-bases: how many other first-basemen can say that? Right now, getting Goldschmidt locked in to a nice, cheap long-term contract could be the best move the team made this off-season.

BCB: Since June 12 this team has had a five game winning streak, a four game winning streak, and losing streaks of three, four and five games. How do you explain these hot and cold stretches?

AZS: Random fluctuation would be the obvious answer: all teams have spells like that. One thing I do note, is that our starting pitchers performances seem to build off one another. If one does well, it seems more likely the next one will; conversely, it feels like if one has a bad outing, that sets off a domino effect down the line. We saw that during the five-game winning streak: every starter pitched well, went deep into games and held the opposition in check. Conversely, over the losing streak that preceded it, the bullpen was getting taxed and the offense was having to play permanent catch-up.

BCB: What's the upcoming trade deadline look like for the Diamondbacks? Assuming they're in position to buy, what might they be looking for?

AZS: Light buyers, I think. A left-handed relievers will likely be top of the list, with Matt Reynolds out of action for the foreseeable future: Tony Sipp hasn't been getting it done in the role. It's possible we may go for another closer-type, but J.J. Putz has looked better since coming back off the DL: with both David Hernandez and Heath Bell struggling, he'll likely be given a chance to occupy the spot. Generally, I think Gibson will keep faith with the players who have got this far into the season in first place.

Any second-half help is more likely to come from underachievers performing better down the stretch. If the likes of Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy can perform at their career norms the rest of the way, that'll probably have a bigger, better impact on the team than any credible trade at the deadline.

Thanks again to Jim for taking the time, and check out AZ Snakepit for more on the Diamondbacks!