Opposite dugout: D-backs relying on Goldschmidt, but need more reliable starting pitching

DiamondbacksLogo.jpgManager: Chip Hale (1st season)

Record: 14-16

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.345/.444/.646 with 9 HR, 27 RBIs), LF Ender Inciarte (.304 with 11 RBIs), CF A.J. Pollock (.306 with 3 HR, 10 RBIs), RF Mark Trumbo (.287 with 4 HR, 15 RBIs), RHP Brad Ziegler (1.35 ERA), RHP Josh Collmenter (3-3, 3.40 ERA)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (1-6 in 2014)

Pitching probables:

May 11: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Josh Collmenter, 9:40 p.m., MASN2
May 12: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Rubby De La Rosa, 9:40 p.m. MASN2
May 13: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson, 3:30 p.m., MASN

Inside the Diamondbacks:

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is raking, with a .345/.444/.646 slash line and team highs with nine homers and 27 RBIs, and Arizona's third basemen are producing, having reached base via hit or walk in 24 of the past 25 games despite being forced to shuffle personnel due to a troubling foot injury that sent Jake Lamb to the disabled list barely two weeks into the season. The Diamondbacks rank fifth in the National League in hits (278), fifth in runs (140), are tied for fourth in batting average (.263) and third in stolen bases (27). First-year skipper Chip Hale's club has already weathered four-game and three-game losing streaks in the season's first month, and might be lucky to be flirting with .500. But Hale has constructed a club that's not entirely reliant on power and can be a scrappy opponent.

Hale's team is mirroring its manager, who made the most of marginal talent in a seven-year big league career. But aside from Goldschmidt, the D-backs aren't beating anyone into submission. Players like left fielder Ender Inciarte and A.J. Pollock can be pesky, right fielder Mark Trumbo must be respected for his power and ability in the clutch, and Cuban rookie Yasmany Tomas is showing signs that he's learning how to succeed against the best pitching the game has to offer (though the third baseman is learning a new position and probably needs more seasoning).

A cursory look at the Snakes' recent pitching stats seems to offer some hope. Arizona's 3.86 team ERA is league average, the D-backs have the fifth-fewest walks (86) in the National League but also the third-fewest strikeouts (217). Their best pitcher, righty Archie Bradley, is on the DL after taking a liner to the face and Chase Anderson, who the Nats will miss on this trip, has a 2.97 ERA over six starts but has yet to win a game. Addison Reed, who had 32 saves last year, has only two so far, ranking the Diamondbacks dead last in the majors in that category. But he can't get saves when he doesn't have a lead to protect, baseball's most basic equation. Still, the middle relievers and setup guys have been performing well. But Arizona is asking a lot of guys who don't have a significant track record as starters in the majors, and the results have been mixed so far.

Right-hander Josh Collmenter draws the starting assignment in the Monday night series opener. Collmenter, Arizona's opening day starter, makes the most of a mid-80s cut fastball, which he throws almost two-thirds of the time, and sets it up with a slow change. He's only 1-3 at home this season, posting a 3.80 ERA in four starts. Despite his outstanding 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Collmenter has been hittable - lefties are swinging at a .311 clip against him, while his overall batting average against is .285. Still, he's been logging innings, working at least seven in three of his six starts. But his best outing came on the road on April 17 - a four-hit, complete-game shutout of the Giants. He's the only one of the Diamondbacks' scheduled starters this series to have faced the Nationals, boasting a 2-0 record, 2.57 ERA and sterling 0.857 WHIP in four games (two starts) versus Washington.

Tuesday night's starter is righty Rubby De La Rosa, once a top prospect in the Dodgers system who has been traded twice in his career and is finally getting his chance in Phoenix. He mixes a 94 mph fastball and an 86 mph changeup with great success, spotting in a low-80s slider. So far, the 26-year-old shows signs of that breakthrough season, like the 38 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched so far, along with only 10 walks allowed and a 1.162 WHIP. May has statistically been a strong month, though his 3-1 record and 2.25 ERA in six games (three starts) represent a small sample size. He's coming off his best start of the season, seven shutout innings of three-hit ball against San Diego on May 7.

In Wednesday afternoon's getaway day game, the Nats will face right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, whose first season with the D-backs has been nothing short of a disaster. Acquired in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay, Hellickson got a fresh start but isn't any closer to replicating the stats from his sparking 2011 season, when he was the American League's Rookie of the Year with a 13-10 record and 2.95 ERA. The biggest problem this season is that left-handed hitters are teeing off on Hellickson, slashing .424/.471/.661. With the bases empty, he's allowing a .386 average against and the first inning has been a problem, with foes battering him at a .464 clip. He's struggled at home, going 0-2 with a 7.90 ERA. The low-90s fastball he relies on just isn't getting it done. There's some chatter that Hellickson is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, and if that happens, the Nats could wind up facing Robbie Ray, a one-time Washington prospect who was part of the trade that brought Doug Fister from the Tigers two winters ago.

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