So far for the season the D-backs and Colorado Rockies have duked it out to a two-two split. Tonight Jeff Francis takes on Miguel Batista to try to give us an early edge. Is Francis fully prepped for the season? The first time through the rotation he certainly appeared the most unready, with both uncharacteristic wildness and less movement on his pitches than we are accustomed to seeing from him.
For his career he's averaged about 3.6BB/9IP, last week's start gives him an early rate nearly four times as high. Tonight look for him to paint a smaller box and bring some control back. Batista's tough, but many of our hitters have already tasted success against him.
keys to the game: Last time out against Francis, the D-backs played a very patient game right from the start, taking twenty-six of the thirty-six pitches Jeff threw in the top of the first. It's not like he was that wild at first either, nine of those pitches were called strikes. Not one D-back swung on the first pitch until Miguel Batista the second time through the order in the top of the third. Francis has to throw strikes early and often. If he starts letting D-back hitters get deep into counts early, watch out as it could spell trouble.
For our offense, I know Bad Altitude has said something similar to this, but the key is to get to Arizona's weak middle relief as early as possible. Let me highlight a couple of good and bad examples of how this might be done from the first time we faced Batista.
Bad Example #1: Danny Ardoin in the bottom of the second with two outs gets ahead of Batista in the count 2-0. In my mind this is almost a certain take situation unless the pitch is fantastically hittable, Batista isn't going to give Ardoin much, knowing the pitcher's due up next. But no, Ardoin flails away at the next pitch, hitting a weak grounder to end the inning. The next time the Rockies are up, Francis leads off as an almost automatic out, severely diminishing the scoring chances off a Clint Barmes triple later in the inning (a guy on third with two outs is vastly different than one on third with one out).
Good Example #1: In the bottom of the sixth, Todd Helton draws a leadoff walk, which will happen frequently since he owns Batista. The next batter, Matt Holliday, gets ahead 2-0. Now, here he's got to be looking to swing at the ball, why? Because he's Matt freakin' Holliday, and he knows Batista isn't normally going to pitch around him to get to Garrett Atkins. Anyway, Holliday jacks a homer, the Rox get on the board finally and Batista's done an inning later. Yeah, alright, so it won't always work out like that, but the Rockies have to be aware of the game situation and push Batista to throw the maximum amount of pitches every inning he's out there.