D-backs looking for spark to jump-start season

D-backs looking for spark to jump-start season

D-backs looking for spark to jump-start season
PHOENIX -- It is a long season, but sometimes one game out of 162 can help a team turn things around.

Last year on May 14, the D-backs were seven games under .500 and had lost five straight games -- all by one run -- when Josh Collmenter took the mound at Dodger Stadium.

The D-backs managed just one hit in that game, yet they found a way to win, 1-0. It turned out to be the game that turned around the season, as Arizona went on to win 17 of its next 19 games to take over first place in the National League West.

Nearly one year later, the D-backs are in a similar spot, seemingly running in place, losing close games and struggling to put together a winning streak.

"Just like last year, I think we're just looking for that spark, and it can come at any time," Collmenter said. "We've had some injuries, some guys get banged up and it just seems like everything is going against you, and then all it takes is one thing to turn it around. It can be a big hit in a game, or a good performance on the mound and then it catches fire. Because as contagious as it is going downhill, it's just as contagious the other way."

The D-backs started off their recent 10-game road trip by taking three of four from the Marlins and winning the first game in Washington.

But what started off as a potential season-changing road trip finished with a thud, as Arizona dropped four of the final five games to finish the trip at 5-5.

"We were pretty down [last year] and then we had that one game where it clicked and we kind of just took off and we won 17 out of 19," veteran pitcher Joe Saunders said. "So we all know we can do it. That one game can click us together. Whether it's a walk-off or a shutout or a no-hitter, who knows. I think we've come up just short a lot of times this year, we've lost a lot close games, we've played a lot of close games. It seems like every game we win, it's by one run or two runs, so I think it's just a matter of time before things turn around, and I think we're in a good spot right now."

Last year, the D-backs were 73-4 when they led after seven innings. So far this year, they are 12-4.

"We've suffered a little bit late in the game, which didn't happen to us last year," GM Kevin Towers said.

Still, despite the frustration, the D-backs are just 6 1/2 games back of the first-place Dodgers.

"Nobody's panicking here," Towers said. "It's a long season. I think there's as much parity in the NL West as any division in baseball. I think at the very end everyone is going to be right together. It's really going to come down to who plays well the last two months of the season. I don't think anyone is going to separate themselves from the pack."

One difference between this year and last year is health. Or, rather, a lack thereof.

The D-backs' only real injury of significance came when shortstop Stephen Drew fractured his right ankle on July 20 and missed the rest of the season.

This year, the D-backs have already lost center fielder Chris Young -- who was their hottest hitter -- and starter Daniel Hudson for significant periods.

All three could be back in the next month, which could provide a jolt.

"In the next four weeks I think we have a chance to have everybody back, which just increases our depth in all areas," Towers said.

In the meantime, the D-backs have to walk the fine line between knowing that the fact they did it last year means they can do it again, and not taking for granted that it will happen.

"You always feel like things are going to turn around, but I don't think we're comparing it to last year," Young said. "We have a group of guys that are capable of doing it, it's just a matter of making it happen and not just assuming it's going to happen. We have to take the right steps to make it happen.

"When you try to compare stuff to last year, it makes it come off as if we're going to expect it to happen because we know we're good. I don't think it happens like that. I think you have to earn it. You have to understand the things that you did in the past when you did have success, you have to realize how much work you put in, what your mentality was at the time, and that's the only way you're going to be able to put yourself back into a good position."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.