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Diamondbacks Series Preview

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Entering the season, I thought the National League West would boil down to a two-team race between the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  As the D-Backs come to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series starting tonight, they are well below those expectations.

Both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks lost their opening day starter after one start.  Brandon Webb, out with a "strained teres major muscle in the back of his right shoulder," is expected back before the All-Star break, while Hiroki Kuroda will make his return tonight.

The Diamondbacks struggled at first under new manager A.J. Hinch, their former farm director, but part of that can be blamed on the turnoil of Bob Melvin's firing.  Bill Shaikin of the LA Times detailed the change:

The criticism came hard and fast, and not just anonymously. Byrnes wanted to retain pitching coach Bryan Price, but Price resigned and told the Marin Independent Journal that Byrnes made a "poor decision" to hire Hinch.

Price said Hinch lacked "any credibility between the lines as a manager" and called the decision "a slap in the face . . . to anybody who has actually managed or coached."

However, the Diamondbacks have righted their ship of late.  After losing six of their first seven games under Hinch, they have won nine out of 15.

The D-Backs have been led by Justin Upton on offense, and by Dan Haren on the mound. 

Upton is hitting .329/.404/.606, and his 22.1 VORP is 6th in the National League.

Haren has been very ace-like through ten starts, although he only has a 4-4 record to show for it.  In 71 innings, he has a 2.54 ERA and a 3.12 FIP with 71 strikeouts.  His 25.4 VORP leads NL pitchers.

Daniel Schlereth, the reliever who was Diamondbacks' top draft pick in 2008, and son of ESPN football analyst Mike Schlereth, was called up to the big club Friday.

The Dodgers have won 11 of their last 13 games against the D-Backs, including seven straight at Dodger Stadium.

2009 Diamondbacks
Record 22-29, 4th NL West
Runs Scored 4.25/gm (13th in NL)
wOBA .316 (13th in NL)
Runs Allowed 4.98/gm (11th in NL)
FIP 4.37 (9th in NL)

Probable Starters

Monday - Billy Buckner vs. Hiroki Kuroda

Tuesday - Dan Haren vs. Randy Wolf

Wednesday - Jon Garland vs. Chad Billingsley