Unlike 2016, the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks are contending in the second week of May. There are several reasons for the team's improvement and a healthy A.J. Pollock is certainly one.
But, the success of many major league teams starts and ends with starting pitching. It is hard to win without consistent outings because the startings staff often sets the tone night in and night out.
Through the first 36 games in 2016, Diamondbacks starters were 10-13 with a 5.09 ERA in 196.2 innings and opposing batters were hitting .276. In the same number of games this season, Diamondbacks starting pitchers are 14-14 with a 3.64 ERA in 210.1 innings and opponents are hitting .240. The drastic difference can be attributed to Zack Greinke's bounceback performance, along with the addition of Taijuan Walker.
In the National League, Arizona starters rank first in strikeouts (222) and strikeouts-per-9.0 IP (9.50), second in innings, third in ERA and they are tied for fourth in wins. As a team, the Diamondbacks are 13-6 when the day's starter works at least six innings.
With those numbers in mind, it should be no surprise why the Diamondbacks hit the 20-win plateau Thursday night. Last season, Arizona did not earn win No. 20 until May 20. Diamondbacks starters struggled in 2016 at Chase Field. To a certain extent, that is to be expected. But, the starters own a 3.82 in the first 20 home games of 2016.
Southpaw Patrick Corbin will try and build the bridge created by Zack Greinke the previous day and lead the Diamondbacks to their third win in a row after a mini two-game losing streak. In his last start, Corbin struggled at Coors Field but most people throw starts in Denver out of the picture. The difference for Corbin this season has been at home. Being back in the rotation, where he prefers has likely helped.
In 2016, Corbin was 1-8 with a 5.57 ERA at Chase Field. In four starts at home this season, Corbin is 2-1 with a 1.54 ERA and opposing batters are hitting .233. The team has won his last three home starts. The 27-year-old native of Clay, NY has already thrown five quality starts.
What: Pirates (14-21) at Diamondbacks (20-16)
Game No. 37 Home Game No. 21 (14-6)
When: 6:40 p.m.
Where: Chase Field (Roof Open)
Pitching Matchup: RHP Tyler Glasnow (1-2, 6.33 ERA) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (2-4, 3.89 ERA)
Weather: First pitch temperature of 97 degrees
Umpires: HP: Ed Hickox 1B: Chris Conroy 2B: Jerry Meals 3B: Tom Woodring
In three career starts against the Pirates, Corbin is 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA (10 ER in 17.2 IP). The lefty has made one career start against Pittsburg at home. On April 22, 2016, Corbin gave up 4 earned runs (5 total) and took the loss.
Corbin has been especially effective against left-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .167 average with 3 extra-base hits and no home runs. The Diamondbacks defense needs to start playing better behind the lefty. Since the start of the 2016 season, 24 unearned runs have crossed the plate with Corbin on the mound which leads the majors.
The 2013 all-star has allowed just 7 stolen bases since 2013 which is tied for the sixth fewest in the majors during that time period. Right-handed batters are hitting .301 off Corbin this season. The former
Rookie Tyler Glasnow has been charged with 3 earned runs or less in each of his last three starts after allowing 11 runs in his first two outings. Glasnow has struck out 28 batters this season, tops among National League rookie pitchers.
Before the game, the Pirates activated David Freese and Adam Fraizer off the disabled list. Freese, who was one of the Pirates best hitters before he got hurt, is in the lineup. The matchup to watch is Harrison versus Corbin. Among left-handed batters since the start of the 2013 season, only Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Johnson have a higher batting average when facing southpaws than Harrison. Harrison is hitting .333 off lefties this season.
Tomas, who is hitting .313 against right-handers this season, is back in the lineup. Tomas needs to get going or you could see Brandon Drury move up in the lineup.