Diamondbacks need better pitching in Game 3 or they're finished

The Arizona Diamondbacks need a win. In fact, if they don’t get one in Game 3 of their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, their season will be over.

So if we’re making a list of the things the Diamondbacks need to do, win on Monday is No. 1.

What comes next? How about a quality pitching performance. Or, you know, just an average one.

Both would be light years ahead of what Arizona has received through their first three postseason games. That includes the NL wild-card game, which they won against the Rockies 11-8, and is especially true of their two games in Los Angeles, where they’ve been outscored 17-10.

Those numbers won’t fly at any point in the season. They’re especially damaging come October, and even more so when you’re facing a team coming off a 104-win season.

Zack Greinke struggled in the Diamondbacks wild-card win against the Rockies. Now he’ll get the ball again in NLDS Game 3 against the Dodgers with the season on the line again. (AP)

As it tends to do in baseball, it starts with the starters. Pretty much every game this postseason has been marred by poor starting pitching to some degree. Hence the reason we’ve had 24 runs and 11 home runs in the first inning alone through the first 10 postseason games.

But it’s gone beyond that for Arizona. Zack Greinke, Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray have combined to throw just nine innings, while allowing 12 earned runs (four each). That’s left the bullpen to cover 16 innings over three games and four days, and not surprisingly they’ve struggled too, allowing 13 runs (12 earned).

The Diamondbacks even had Ray, their No. 2 starter and top Cy Young candidate, pitch in relief during the wild-card game. That’s how determined they were to advance. It’s difficult to question that thinking knowing their season was on the line, but it caught up to Ray as he struggled through 4 1/3 innings in Game 2. On the heels of Taijuan Walker throwing just one inning in Game 1, Arizona’s starters are threatening to pitch them right out of the postseason.

The good news? Arizona will have Sunday off to reset, refresh and refocus. Then they’ll go back to the top with their ace, Greinke, scheduled for Game 3 in Arizona.

Yeah, Greinke was roughed up by Colorado on Wednesday. He wasn’t real sharp in his final two regular season starts either, particularly against Miami where he allowed eight runs over four innings. But he’s the guy they want out there. He’s their ace. Perhaps most importantly, he’s had recent success against Los Angeles.

On Aug. 31, he limited the Dodgers to one run over six innings in a win. Five days later, he held them to one run over seven innings in a no-decision. He’s definitely had their number. But the Dodgers would also tell you that was right in the middle of their worst stretch this season. It matters little now, especially with their offense clicking.

It sets up an interesting and even more so troubling do-or-die game for Arizona. If Greinke falters again, manager Torey Lovullo has nowhere else to turn. He’s pushed most of the right buttons this season, but there would be no buttons left.

Several Diamondbacks pitchers will have to step up if they hope to stay alive in the 2017 postseason. (AP)

Ray’s not available. Walker might be, but he looked overmatched in Game 1. Next in line would be Zack Godley, but he threw five innings of relief in Game 1. That leaves Patrick Corbin, who the Diamondbacks have seemingly tried to avoid this series, and the regular bullpen arms, which include Fernando Rodney, Archie Bradley and David Hernandez.

Even if the Diamondbacks survive on Monday, those are the same arms that would have to carry them through two more games. That doesn’t inspire a great deal of hope. And if we’re being honest. the only hope they might have is for the NL’s fourth-highest scoring offense to carry them through.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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