Aside from their struggles with the bullpen, there has been something amiss for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It has been production with runners in scoring position. They were getting it early in their 10-game road trip, but it disappeared in the last half. You will note that Arizona started the trip 4-1, but then went 1-4 in their last five games.
In particular, it has been the lack of production from the team's two supposed most important bats in the middle of the lineup -- outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Kubel. Upton is only 2-20 this season (.100) with runners in scoring position, and has struck out eight times. Kubel is not much better. He is 5-27 (.185).
Between the two, only 13 RBI in 47 at-bats. That is not going to work in the middle of the lineup.
For Upton, this is a part of his game that has kept him from blossoming into a superstar. In 2011, he only batted .239 with runners in scoring position. It is for that reason many people outside of Arizona scoffed at the idea that he was even mentioned as an MVP candidate.
A star player has to be the guy that steps up when run-scoring opportunities arise. Upton isn't quite there, yet.
Kubel, on the other hand, was brought to Arizona for this very reason -- to be a run producing bat in the middle of the lineup. His drop off so far this season is a stark contrast from a season ago. In 2011, he batted .324 and drove in 48 runs when up with runners in scoring position.
Manager Kirk Gibson noted that both those of them need to improve in this situational hitting."That's where they have to be better," said Gibson. "Guys are pitching them tough, but they're the 3-4 (hitters). It's going to happen."
Upton says that it was "just a cycle of the game." This is true and it stays true to the Gibby way of looking at things without overreacting. However, while we shouldn't expect them to get the run in every single time, his struggles in such situations are documented.
If the Diamondbacks are going to reach their potential this year, it has to come in large part to Upton's and Kubel's run production. If they don't, they will be hard pressed to repeat in the NL West.
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