PHOENIX — Measurable rain fell Saturday in Phoenix for the first time in three months, much-welcomed relief for a very parched city. Luckily for the Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt’s drought ended a long time before then.
Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks’ franchise icon and top-producing offensive player for several seasons, started the season in quite a dry spell, too. A slugger who has homered at least 33 times and driven in at least 110 runs three times since 2013, Goldschmidt inexplicably saw his average plunge to as low as .198 on May 22.
Not surprisingly, his team was faltering as he did. The Diamondbacks opened the season 21-8, but during a dreadful May in which they went 8-19, they slid to 26-26 on May 27.
Since then, there’s been little stopping Goldschmidt and little stopping the Diamondbacks, who have reclaimed the NL West lead by going 13-5 in their last 18 games heading into the finale of a four-game series with the New York Mets on Sunday.
Not surprisingly, Goldschmidt has been the man in the middle of it.
Still, Mets left-hander Steven Matz (3-4) managed to stop the Diamondbacks on Saturday night at Chase Field, limiting them to a run over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-1 New York victory. It was an anomaly of sorts because Arizona had won the first two games of the four-game series and the Mets had dropped four in a row and 12 of their previous 13.
However, Goldschmidt drove in the only Arizona run, giving him four RBIs in the series and 15 in his last 10 games, a stretch in which he’s hit six homers and raised his average to .261.
“It was a little bit of a slow night for us offensively,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We did have some opportunities, but we couldn’t get a big hit.”
Or the kind of hits Goldschmidt has been giving them almost nightly.
Michael Conforto had a couple of big hits for the Mets, most importantly a three-run homer in the second inning off Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin (6-3), the third of Conforto’s career off the left-hander. Conforto also added an RBI double for a Mets offense that had scored three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games.
“They need to take some confidence out of tonight. They did a really good job,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “We’ve been getting on base more and more the last few games. We got the big hits to get the runners in and we need to keep building that momentum.”
Still, the Diamondbacks will go for the series win Sunday when they send right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-1) to the mound to oppose Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler (2-5).
“We’ve got to make a quick turnaround. (Sunday) is a day game we’ve got to digest this one and get it out of our system and be ready to play some baseball,” Lovullo said.
Buchholz sat out most of last season with the Philadelphia Phillies due to an elbow injury, then was released from his minor league contract by the Kansas City Royals in May. He hooked on with the Diamondbacks franchise shortly after that and has been a pleasant surprise by posting a 3.21 ERA in five starts, including allowing only five earned runs in 24 innings in his first four starts.
Buchholz’s last start was his roughest with Arizona, as he lasted only four innings Tuesday in a 13-8 Diamondbacks win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He allowed seven hits and six runs, five earned, in four innings.
Buchholz faced the Mets in his first start for Arizona, giving up one run on two hits in five innings of what became a 4-1 Mets victory at Citi Field on May 20. He is 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in two career starts against the Mets, yielding 10 hits and seven runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera gives him the most trouble, going 8-for-16 (.500) with two homers and two RBIs against him.
Wheeler last pitched Tuesday, giving up six runs and eight hits while walking four in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s not like they were killing him all over the park,” Callaway said. “It was a bloop here and a bloop there. Our starters have been so good, you want them to try to get out of their own jams.”
Wheeler is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four career games against Arizona, giving up 25 hits but only six earned runs while striking out 20 and walking five in 25 1/3 innings.
Goldschmidt is 3-for-12 (.250) against him, while Chris Owings is 4-for-9 (.444).
Wheeler last faced the Diamondbacks on May 15, 2017 but didn’t figure in the decision of what became a 7-3 Arizona win after permitting only one run in six innings.