Surging Diamondbacks sweep Dodgers in Los Angeles

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The Dodgers remade their lineup Wednesday to fit in new arrival Shane Victorino, but it led to just two hits — one off the bat of starter Stephen Fife — as the Diamondbacks won 4-0 to complete a three-game sweep in Los Angeles.

Manager Don Mattingly, too often limited to one or two quality hitters in his lineup early on this season, decided to frontload his lineup today. Not only did Victorino lead off, but Andre Ethier was moved up to the two hole, allowing Hanley Ramirez to bat cleanup behind Matt Kemp.

Mattingly’s plan seems like a good one, but Patrick Corbin completely shut down the Dodgers today. Kemp had the only hit from a Dodgers position player. Diamondbacks pitchers were perfect after a Jerry Hairston Jr. walk to lead off the fourth, facing 17 batters and getting 18 outs (A.J. Ellis hit into a double play to end the fourth).

Corbin, who was removed after six innings, was just added to Arizona’s roster before the game. When he was scratched from his Triple-A start Monday, some thought it might signal a trade. The Diamondbacks, though, just wanted Corbin up to replace Josh Collmenter in the rotation. He was stellar today and now 3-4 with a 3.60 ERA in six starts and five relief appearances over all.

Also worth mentioning: third baseman Chris Johnson had a stellar series for his new team. He was already hot before the trade from Houston, but he’s gone 6-for-11 with two homers and seven RBI in three games for Arizona. He even has two walks versus no strikeouts. In Houston, he had a 92/23 K/BB ratio in 92 games.

The Diamondbacks have gone 10-3 in their last 13 games to move three games over .500 on the season. They’re three games back of the Giants in the NL West and 1 1/2 back of the Dodgers.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.