The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a crucial home stand that was supposed to give us an insight as to who this team is and what we can expect. After going 3-3 over the six games I’m afraid we don’t know much more than when we started. The Diamondbacks have an off day today before starting a critical weekend series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Just a game and a half separate these two teams in the standings so this series has huge implications. This will be the last meeting between these two teams in the regular season so it is critical to take care of the Dodgers and not have to rely on help from someone else. From Los Angeles the Diamondbacks will travel north to San Francisco to play the Giants before returning home on September 12 to face the Cincinnati Reds whom they have not seen since Opening Day this season. With the Diamondbacks now out of town it is time for the latest episode of the State of the Home Stand Address” where I give a fan’s perspective of how the recent home stand went. As always the entry will cover the games as well as the fan experience. This time we will talk about the three game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the three game series with the St. Louis Cardinals. I’ll begin with my standard disclaimer that the views expressed within this post and this blog are my own and in no way indicate how others see the game or the series.
When the home stand started the Diamondbacks saw their closest rival the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town for a critical series. The Dodgers were in the midst of a 10 game road trip and entered the game 0-7 including sweeps by the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals. This was the time for the Diamondbacks to put some distance on the second place team. The first game of the series featured a pitching matchup that favored the Dodgers. Arizona would send Doug Davis to the mound to face Hiroki Kuroda. The Diamondbacks took advantage of the Dodgers jet lag and their pitching and scored often winning the game 9-3. Things looked bright for Arizona with a real possibility of getting a sweep with Haren and Webb pitching the next two games.
Game 2 of the series saw another start by Dan Haren where he was hit hard. Haren threw 98 pitches in just 6 innings allowing 5 runs on 10 hits. The Diamondbacks bats which were so active the night before were silenced by Chad Billingsley and the snakes were only able scrape out 2 runs from their 10 hits. The Diamondbacks continued to be susceptible to the strikeout fanning 11 times during the game. Instead of a win the Diamondbacks saw the Dodgers snap their losing streak and inch a game closer in the standings. With the series now tied the Diamondbacks would rely on ace Brandon Webb to give them the series win.
Like Dan Haren, Brandon Webb looked out of sorts. He looked more like someone going for their 20th loss than for their 20th win. Webb gave up 4 runs in the top of the first inning and the Dodgers never looked back. Brandon lasted just 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. He gave up 8 runs on 8 hits and walked 5 batters. Not exactly the kind of performance you expect from the guy being touted as the Cy Young award favorite for the National League. The Dodgers who had come in battered and torn; left town winning the series and gaining on the Diamondbacks in the standings.
Following the Dodgers were the St. Louis Cardinals who themselves had been struggling. Arizona sent Randy Johnson to the mound to attempt to win his 295th game of his career. Instead of a pitcher’s duel we instead saw a home run derby as both teams combined for 8 home runs. Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew made history becoming the first Diamondbacks player to hit for the cycle at Chase Field. Arizona came from being behind 5-1 to winning the game 8-6. Johnson did not figure into the decision and remains with 294 wins.
As dominating as the Diamondbacks looked in game one they looked equally inept in game 2 Yusmeiro Petit who has been pitching well as the fifth starter was hit hard lasting only 4 2/3 inning giving up 5 runs on 4 hits including another 2 home runs. The five run deficit became eight before the Diamondbacks would score their first run of the game. The Cardinals destroyed the Diamondbacks in an 8-2 romp to even the series.
The final game featured Doug Davis on the mound and looked to be starting very similar to the other two games in this series. St. Louis jumped out to an early lead and the Diamondbacks hitters struggled at the plate. They had no answer for Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse but quickly found a groove once he was out of the game. Arizona scored 2 runs to make it 3-2. It looked as though they would fall just a little short of winning when Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, and Adam Dunn came alive in the bottom of the ninth with the final blow being Dunn’s walk-off double to score Jackson from first base giving the home team a 4-3 win.
The crowds were decent for this home stand. The Dodgers always draw well and this weekend series was no exception. The Diamondbacks recorded a sell-out for Saturday’s game. The Cardinals also drew well. The most popular game of the series was the opening game which was a holiday day game. The least popular was the final game of the series which was also an afternoon game. During the summer the afternoon games draw well but now that kids are back in school and football season is about to begin these seem to be much less popular.
The Arizona Diamondbacks introduced a new All-You-Can-Eat section in the upper deck where on specific game days you can buy a ticket that includes all the food you can eat. There are special concession stands for the food and beverages. The choices include hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, bottled water, and soda. Guests are allowed to get up to 4 items at a time but can come back as many times as they would like. Fans in these sections are identified by a white wrist band that is given just before they reach their seats. The promotion seemed to be quite popular as these seats are rarely filled but during All-You-Can-Eat night they were packed. It will be interesting to see if they are packed every night or if this was just because the Dodgers are in town. The Diamondbacks will offer this for 4 more games this season: September 13, September 15, September 17, and September 27. Of those dates I expect September 13 to be the most popular as it is Dan Haren Bobble Head night and there is a Jessica Simpson concert after the game.
The playing surface looks very good considering how late in the season we are getting. The grounds crew at Chase Field should be commended for the job that they do. I constantly get comments from first time fans asking if the turf is real since it looks so good. This is especially impressive since the roof has remained closed even for night games due to the prolonged monsoon season we have been experiencing. Hopefully we’ll soon be able to play with the roof open for the remainder of the season.
This home stand marked the first time the stadium was set up for instant replay. Major League Baseball started to utilize that during the series with the Dodgers but there was not an instance where it was called upon so there is no telling how that will impact the game at Chase Field. The monitor for the umpire to see has been located near the visitor’s dugout near the on-deck circle. I could not tell if there were additional cameras positioned in the stadium besides what are there for Fox Sports Arizona broadcasts. I am hoping to get to the stadium a little earlier to check it out during the upcoming series.
The Saturday game against the Dodgers was the last food sample day for Season Ticket Holders. We were admitted 30 minutes prior to the gates opening and offered samples from some of the concessionaires. For the final testing we had Panda Express, Peter Piper Pizza, and Cold Stone Creamery. Panda was offering bite size pieces of orange chicken. The chicken was good but I was disappointed that they chose to offer their most popular item rather than use it as an opportunity to allow fans to try one of the lesser known menu items for a change. Peter Piper Pizza gave full slices of pizza and included all of their menu items giving you the choice of what you wanted to try. Trina had the Chicago and really liked it. Cold Stone was giving away bowls of their ice cream again offering all of their flavors on the menu. Trina had wedding cake while I tried mint chocolate. They were both very good and I highly recommend them. My one suggestion is that if you are going to get this item do so before the fifth inning. After that the lines go on forever and you’ll miss at least a couple of innings waiting.
Overall the games and the experience were very good. The Diamondbacks continue to focus on guest experience. The on-field product is getting better although the bullpen continues to struggle and the offense is very inconsistent. It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the final 9 games of the season that will happen the latter half of this month.