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After scoring 11 runs in their previous five games combined, the Diamondbacks offense broke out for 11 runs on Sunday alone to snap a five-game losing streak and improve to 33-41 on the season.
It took until July 30 for last year’s Diamondbacks to win their 33rd game of the season, and they had 71 losses when it happened.
Sunday’s game was significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the Diamondbacks debut of former Cy Young winner and two-time All-Star Dallas Keuchel.
Starting with his performance, here are five takeaways from the series loss against Detroit.
1. “A lot more pros than cons” for Dallas Keuchel
When Dallas Keuchel admitted to manager Torey Lovullo before the game that he felt nervous, his manager saw it as a good thing.
“He talked about being anxious and feeling a little nervous,” Lovullo said. “For somebody that has won a Cy Young, I was kind of thrilled to hear him say that because I knew he was ready for this challenge.”
Keuchel ultimately threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, four runs and three walks on 98 pitches while striking out seven.
After three innings, just 17 of his 68 pitches were thrown in the strike zone.
Living outside the zone to that extent isn’t a recipe for success in the long run, but the fact that he got multiple strikeouts without touching the zone is an indicator of how good his stuff was.
It wasn’t the outing he hoped for, but Keuchel said “there were a lot more pros than cons,” coming off one of the worst stretches of his career with the White Sox.
“For me to corral some of that stuff and really dig in and make some pitches is a big confidence booster,” Keuchel said.
Keuchel was particularly honing in on retiring lefties, who have had more success against him this season than in the past.
The Tigers only had two of them in their lineup, Riley Greene and Harold Castro. They were 0-for-3 with a pair of walks against Keuchel.
“It was a great step in the right direction,” Keuchel said regarding those at-bats. “I felt like myself.”
Keuchel generated an impressive 15 whiffs in the game, and his seven strikeouts were the most he’s had in a start since June 10 of last season. Of the 13 outs he recorded, 12 came on either a ground-ball or a strikeout.
Prior to this start, both of Keuchel’s minor-league outings in the Diamondbacks organization came in the Arizona Complex League against mostly 18- to 21-year-olds. The leap back to the majors wasn’t a small one.
“For me it was just trying to control the box, control the strike zone, control my emotions,” Keuchel said. “Each pitch in the big leagues is amplified way more than something like the [Arizona Complex League].
“I’m a little tired now, but at the same time I know it’s a good base, a good foundation to move forward from.”
Lovullo did not commit to keeping Keuchel in the fifth rotation spot, but he was impressed.
“We’re going to evaluate a little bit deeper,” Lovullo said. “Of course, I’m very pleased with what I saw: the preparation, the ability to command the baseball [and] throw it where he wants to.”
2. Signs of life in Carson Kelly’s bat
Not to be missed from Sunday’s game was the fact that Carson Kelly hit his first homer of the season.
Kelly also drew a walk and drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, while catching newcomer Keuchel for the first time.
A batting line of .122/.173/.178 still doesn’t look great, but Sunday’s game was a step in the right direction for the Diamondbacks’ catcher.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to trust what you’re doing,” Kelly said. “Today was a good day to see some of the results on the field.”
With Daulton Varsho primarily playing outfield, the brunt of the plate appearances at catcher have gone to Kelly and Jose Herrera of late. Given that Herrera is batting .193/.247/.217, it’s no secret the Diamondbacks would like to get more offense out of the catching position.
On this day last year, Kelly was batting .260/.385/.460 and had just suffered a wrist injury that would sideline him for six weeks. Prior to that, he appeared to have a shot at making the All-Star team. Perhaps Sunday’s game can help him return to form.
3. Geraldo Perdomo struggling defensively at shortstop
Saturday’s game was one to forget for Geraldo Perdomo, who committed an error and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
Perdomo’s struggles at the plate are not necessarily surprising. While he took significant strides finding gaps and hitting homers in the second half last year in Double-A, no one expected that success to immediately carry over to the big leagues.
What’s never been in question about Perdomo from a scouting standpoint is his defense. The athleticism is there, but his ability to execute has come and gone — and it was particularly poor on Saturday.
Perdomo’s error came in the top of the third on a slow roller off the bat of Tucker Barnhart.
They may not have gone in the box score as errors, but Perdomo was unable to make several other plays in the game that should have been made.
In the top of the first, Javier Baez reached on an infield single. Perdomo waited too long to uncork the throw, and the throw itself was off-line.
Granted, that’s not an especially easy play, but it’s one that a major-league shortstop should be able to make more often than not.
Perdomo has also been eaten up by several sharply-hit grounders of late, including this one off the bat of Robbie Grossman from Saturday’s game.
Again, there’s a reason it wasn’t an error. It’s not an easy play. But it’s certainly not impossible for a major-league shortstop, either.
Finally, there was this play from Sunday’s game, in which Perdomo converted one out on what probably should have been a game-ending double play.
As with his hitting, Perdomo has plenty of time to right the ship defensively. Nonetheless, what was expected to be strength for him immediately hasn’t been so far.
For the season, Perdomo has posted minus 5 outs above average and minus 6 defensive runs saved.
4. David Peralta is finding his stride offensively
After batting .175/.195/.275 over the first two weeks of June, outfielder David Peralta appears to be finding his stride again offensively. He went 6-for-12 in the series, including a two-run homer in Saturday’s game.
Peralta is now batting .381/.435/.619 since June 14, and he is continuing a remarkable transition from one of baseball’s most ground-ball prone hitters to now having a ground-ball rate that is well below-average.
Following his performance in the series, Peralta is now slashing .245/.314/.448. His .762 OPS narrowly trails Christian Walker and Ketel Marte for the highest on the team.
5. I love my job
This weekend marked my first as a full-time Diamondbacks beat writer, and I can already say I am tremendously blessed to do what I do.
I am thankful for my fellow writers in the Diamondbacks press box who have embraced me as one of their own, as well as the hard-working members of the Diamondbacks communications department who have been very helpful.
I am also thankful for Peggy, who runs the media dining hall and is a joy to talk to while I fill my plate. I can’t leave out Austin, who has the unenviable task of sitting in the desert heat for hours upon hours to run the security line for the media. There are many others who make my work possible and whose names I’m still learning.
More than anything, I am thankful for you, the reader, for spending your hard-earned money to read my work and that of my talented co-workers here at PHNX.
I have some exciting story ideas in the works, and I cannot wait to share them with you.
Top photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports