D-backs lose steam after ceding first in West
Goldy, Corbin emerge, but injuries, Dodgers' run too much to overcome
PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson sat in silence in the home dugout at Chase Field a couple of weeks ago and watched while the Dodgers celebrated their National League West championship.
Only the D-backs manager knows what was going through his mind, but there had to be a bit of disbelief.
For 67 days, Gibson's team held onto first place in the division and on June 21 it was a whopping 9 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Dodgers.
Yet while the Dodgers would catch fire and go on a 42-8 run, the D-backs would struggle to play .500 baseball the rest of the way and find themselves at home again come October.
"We probably had more days in first place than the Dodgers did this year," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. "They had a historic run; 42-8 is hard to overcome. I'm sure it took a little wind out of our sails when they passed us, and we just couldn't put together any streaks. Some of that had to do with the health of our club, not having an everyday lineup that we kind of had penciled in [during] the wintertime how it was going to look."
The players were just as puzzled.
"The pieces are here," veteran third baseman Eric Chavez said. "It's hard to put your finger on why things didn't work."
When the D-backs got good outings from their starters, the bullpen could not seem to hold the lead. When the starters and relievers pitched well, the offense seemed to go missing.
"Just couldn't sync up for some reason," Towers said.
They will have the offseason to try to figure out why that was. And while the D-backs look forward, we take a back at the 2013 season:
Record: 81-81, second place in the NL West
Defining moment: The D-backs had a chance to stop the Dodgers' momentum and turn their own fortunes around when they played host to L.A. on July 8-10. With the D-backs riding a five-game winning streak, the Dodgers came into Chase Field and swept the three-game series, winning the first two games handily and then outlasting Arizona in 14 innings in the finale.
What went right: The D-backs inked first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to a five-year extension during Spring Training and he went on to establish himself as one of the NL's premier players. ... Patrick Corbin gave the D-backs a legitimate ace throughout the season. ... The D-backs showed plenty of heart in playing in a franchise-record number of extra-inning games and posting a better than .500 record in those games. ... Brad Ziegler stepped into the closer's role just before the All-Star break and provided a stabilizing force at the end of games. ... Gerardo Parra was a dominant force defensively in right field. ... Wil Nieves provided offense when catcher Miguel Montero was lost to injury. ... Center fielder A.J. Pollock showed he was an elite defender. ... Right-hander Randall Delgado overcame a poor Spring Training to become a solid contributor in the rotation.
What went wrong: The D-backs were beset by injuries starting in the spring when outfielder Adam Eaton, the expected Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter, went down with an elbow injury and missed three months. Second baseman Aaron Hill and outfielder Cody Ross each missed significant time with injuries as did pitchers Brandon McCarthy and closer J.J. Putz. Daniel Hudson was expected back from Tommy John surgery, but he re-tore the his elbow ligament during his rehab and was forced to have a second surgery. Left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds pitched well in the first half, but then was lost to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. ... Montero started off the year in a horrible slump, and though he started to hit better later in the season, he was not the offensive force the team was counting on. ... The bullpen was expected to be a strength and it wound up leading the league in blown saves.
Biggest surprise: That despite the moves made in the offseason to try to improve from last year's .500 record, the team hovered right around the break-even mark for most of the second half, unable to put together any kind of sustained winning streak.
Hitter of the Year: Goldschmidt set career highs in nearly every category while rarely getting a day off. While other players may have turned in good offensive seasons, none did so with the consistency of Goldschmidt, who became a first-time All-Star and is a front-runner for the NL Most Valuable Player Award.
Pitcher of the Year: Corbin had to battle to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation during the spring, but he quickly proved to be the D-backs' ace. He joined Goldschmidt as a first-time All-Star and made every start and showed that he could handle the big league workload.
Rookie of the Year: When Spring Training began it looked like Pollock might start the year with Triple-A Reno. Injuries gave him a chance to make the Opening Day roster and he made the most of his opportunity. He provided some pop at the plate, but it was his work in center that really stood out.
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.