Dan Haren is building a strong case for Arizona’s rotation to earn another Cy Young Award, and the major league ERA leader will look to win his fifth straight start Thursday night in the opener of a four-game set with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brandon Webb and Haren gave the Diamondbacks (40-55) one of the top 1-2 punches in baseball in 2008, but Webb went down with a right shoulder injury in his first start this season.
Haren (10-5, 1.96 ERA), though, hasn’t missed a beat without the 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner in front of him in Arizona’s rotation. The right-hander leads the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.61) and opponent batting average (.187), and he’s in position to post baseball’s third sub-2.00 ERA since 2000.
Haren hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last 10 starts, going 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA. He’s 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last four outings after holding St. Louis to a run over eight innings - striking out eight - in a 4-2 win Saturday.
Haren is 3-0 with a 3.56 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh (42-52), and now faces a team that just traded its third key hitter in two months.
Arizona’s .247 batting average is the NL’s worst.
The Diamondbacks will hope for better luck against Charlie Morton (2-2, 3.21), but the right-hander should be confident after winning his last outing. Morton limited San Francisco to three hits over seven innings - striking out six - in a 2-0 win Saturday.
Morton, acquired from Atlanta in the Nate McLouth trade, was with the Braves when he won his only previous start against Arizona as he pitched seven scoreless innings at Chase Field in a 6-4 win Aug. 7.
Miguel Montero has caught 25 of the Diamondbacks' last 29 games while Chris Snyder has been on the disabled list.
It is almost enough work to suit him.
Montero, who turned 26 on July 9, fondly remembers when he played 85 consecutive games for Class A Lancaster in 2005 before being promoted to Class AA Tennessee at the halfway point.
"The first couple of games, yes, I was a little tired," Montero said of his current run, which could last another week since Snyder (lower back strain) is not expected back until the end of the month.
"But right now I'm feeling great. I'm feeling back to normal, back to where I felt in the minor leagues when I was playing every day. ... DH was my day off. Once you get on a roll, you are going to feel better and better and better.
"Every game is not going to be a great game, but I feel like I bust my (tail) out there to do my job and try to help the team win."
Montero is doing everything he can to remain in the lineup. He has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, during which he is batting .393 with five doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs. His three-run home off Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez accounted for all the D-backs' runs Wednesday.
In the five weeks since Snyder made his last appearance behind the plate June 17 in Kansas City, Montero is hitting .358 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 106 at-bats.
"Right now I feel like I have an opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it. You never know how long you are going to be in the game," Montero said.
ROCKIES 4, DIAMONDBACKS 3: Arizona could not hold a 3-1 lead and lost the series, two games to one. Todd Helton's 11th homer of the season with one out in the eighth inning off Scott Schoeneweis broke a 3-3 tie. The teams have split their first 12 games this season. C Miguel Montero's three-run homer with two outs in the third accounted for all of the D-backs' offense.
--RHP Jon Garland made his fifth consecutive quality start Wednesday and lowered his ERA to 4.41, the lowest it has been since May 6. However, was left with a no-decision after giving up the tying run in the seventh inning, when Colorado OF Carlos Gonzalez led off with a double. Gonzalez had two doubles and is 7-for-10 against Garland in his career. Garland, who snapped a six-game (nine-start) losing streak on July 11, has made 14 quality starts, and seven in his last eight appearances. "To me, we're going out there and playing like a last-place team," Garland said. "I don't see any fight in them. I don't see anyone that wants it."
--The D-backs, in partnership with utility Arizona Public Service Co., announced a plan to use renewable energy during its seven-game homestand against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that begins Thursday. Chase Field will be powered by renewable energy purchased from a 'Green-e certified' provider.
--OF Justin Upton had 218 career hits after Tuesday's game, the most among active major-leaguers under the age of 23. Cincinnati OF Jay Bruce (167) and San Francisco 3B Pablo Sandoval (157) were the only others with more than 100, according to STATS Inc. Upton turns 22 on Aug. 2. Bruce and Sandoval already are 22, and Sandoval will turn 23 in mid-August.
BY THE NUMBERS: 56 -- Quality starts by the D-backs' staff, tied for the most in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs through July 19.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He never even used the splitter against me, and that's probably his best pitch." -- St. Louis SS Brendan Ryan, after Dan Haren gave up one run in eight innings of a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals on July 18.
--SS Stephen Drew was called for obstructing Colorado baserunner Seth Smith after 1B Todd Helton's double off the scoreboard with one out in the third inning, and Smith was permitted to score after originally stopping at third. Helton was credited with an RBI because the official scorer ruled Smith would have scored on the play.
--RHP Tom Gordon (hamstring) was charged with three runs after giving up one hit and three walks in one-third of an inning Tuesday in his third rehab appearance with Class AAA Reno. Gordon, who has given up five runs, five hits and six walks in two innings total, will have several more rehab outings. "We'll formulate a new plan for him to get a few extra outings. We certainly want him to be sharp," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said.
--1B Brandon Allen, acquired from the Chicago White Sox for RHP Tony Pena on July 7, hit two homers for Class AAA Reno on Wednesday. That gives him seven home runs in his first 11 games with Reno. He is hitting .378 with 15 RBIs, seven walks and two stolen bases.
RHP Tom Gordon (torn left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list May 4, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 26. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 13.
OF Eric Byrnes (fractured left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list June 26, and he had surgery that day. He will be out six to eight weeks.
C Chris Snyder (lower back strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 21. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Visalia on July 20.
RHP Brandon Webb (right shoulder bursitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 7, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 9. He felt soreness in a June 18 throwing session, and was shut down. Further exams showed he won't need surgery, and he might be able to return in September.
OF/1B Conor Jackson ("Valley fever," pneumonia) went on the 15-day disabled list May 12, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 23. As of late June, there was no timetable for his return.