The Diamondbacks did not have a fast start in their 2011 NL West Division winning season as they were 5.5 games behind the Rockies in 4th place at this same point last year. This year they come into Dodger Stadium for the first time in third place, 8.5 games behind the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks have had their share of injuries. Chris Young will miss this series but will be playing in California as he starts a rehab assignment today. Young could be back this week and will probably be in the lineup next week when the Dodgers go to Arizona for the first time this year. Stephen Drew has not played in rehab games yet, he just started sliding the other day. Daniel Hudson, their No. 2 starter, did throw a bullpen the other day and they hope he will be back by the end of the month.
I think you get this image that the Diamondbacks are a young team; injuries have taken some of that away, but right now, 3/4 of their infield is 30 or older. Overall, the strength of their team will probably be their starting pitching as they will get Hudson back soon and they have Bauer and Skaggs a phone call away. But right now, their main problem is their inconsistent offense that is back to leading the league in strikeouts.
1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a poor April (.193/.288/.281) but has perked up in May (.275/.293/.450). Lyle Overbay, who started his career in Arizona, returned last year and has done well this year in platoon starts against right-handed starters, I would expect both first basemen will start a game this series.
2nd baseman Aaron Hill was acquired from Toronto last August as part of the Kelly Johnson trade and then re-upped with Arizona, signing a 2-year contract. Hill had a great month in 2011 with Arizona (.315/.386/.492) and while his numbers have come down, he is still providing good defense and doing okay (101 OPS+) with the bat.
Shortstop has been a place holder position as they wait for the return of Stephen Drew. Willie Bloomquist has started most of the time and he could be considered to have had worst offensive season than Dee Gordon. John McDonald has split time in May with Bloomquist and they could also split time this series but it won't be a platoon situation as both are right-handed hitters.
Third baseman Ryan Roberts was one of the good stories in 2011 for the Diamondbacks. After a decent debut in 2009, he had a down 2010 season but in 2011 he rebounded to hit 19 home runs and steal 18 bases. However 2012 is looking a lot like 2010 so far. Cody Ransom has been better at the plate but it is unclear when manager Kirk Gibson decides to play him.
Left field has been manned mostly by free agent signee Jason Kubel who had spent his formative years with the Twins. He has taken to striking out more (28%) but otherwise has done a solid job for them.
Center field will have Chris Young there in Arizona, but for this series in LA, Gerardo Parra will be patrolling there. Parra's offensive line is similar to many other Diamondbacks (.252/.302/.398).
Right fielder Justin Upton is 24 and is now entering his 5th full season. He is signed through 2015. Last year he finish 4th in the MVP vote and appeared to be on the verge of being the superstar that was predicted back when he was the first overall pick in 2005. 100+ PA into 2012 and Upton is like his fellow D-Backs in terms of a poor start. Striking out nearly 30% of the time, his .225/.318/.342 looks good when compared to his lifetime record against Kershaw (in 19 PA, .000/.053/.000)
Catcher Miguel Montero has been news early this year because of his pending free agency. Montero hasn't hit with the same power like last year but he is hitting .270 with a .367 OBP. Henry Blanco is the back up catcher.
As far as pitching goes, the Diamondbacks allow 2 runs less per game on the road then at home.
Gary Scott previewed the two starting pitchers here.
Ian Kennedy still leads their rotation as far as being their number one starter but he has not captured his Cy Young Award contender form from last year. Kennedy was the winner in his one 2011 duel with Kershaw in Arizona last year and the only Dodger batter with any success against him is James Loney who has 3 doubles and a HR in 11 career at bats.
In the final game of 2011, Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run off a pitcher he had never faced before. Left-hander Wade Miley is that pitcher, who gave up three hits to the four Dodgers he faced (Loney and Sellers also got hits). Miley, a 2008 1st-supplemental draftee, has stepped into the rotation for Daniel Hudson and was the NL Rookie Pitcher of the Month for April.
The bullpen does a good job. J.J. Putz has had a couple of bad games, including an outing on May 9th against the Cardinals where he gave 4 runs, which is the reason for his high ERA. But their other relievers have done a good job.
The only bench player of note I have not mentioned is their A.J., A.J. Pollock, he will likely one of their pinch-hitters.
The Diamondbacks do have some arms that should bolster their season and they will at some point begin to hit. But both Kershaw and Billingsley have had experience pitching to this team and I expect a low scoring but ultimately two-game sweep of the Diamondbacks.