PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks, who just a week ago were riding high with the finest record in the National League, suddenly can’t buy a win, and now must find a way to turn around their fate without their finest player this season.
Center fielder A.J. Pollock, who was having a monster season towards a huge payday in free agency, was diagnosed Tuesday with a fractured left thumb after making a diving attempt at a ninth-inning catch Monday night.
He will be out at least four weeks, the Diamondbacks say, but likely closer to eight weeks.
And the D-backs, who just broke a season-long six-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, will somehow have to find a way to stay alive in the NL West without him.
“It’s tough to lose anybody, but A.J., the way he was playing,’’ D-backs GM Mike Hazen said, “is a pretty big blow. You can’t feel sorry for us. We’ve got to pick up and move on. We feel bad for A.J. He was having a great season and he’ll be back to continue that at some point.
“But in the interim, we’re going to have to figure out how to put the pieces together to cover for him, that spot, and win games.’’
The Diamondbacks won’t pursue an outside trade Hazen said, instead relying on Chris Owings and Jarrod Dyson to man center field. Perhaps in a month there will be outfielders available on the trade market, but not now, Hazen said, calling it “unrealistic.’’
“I think at this point of the season,’’ Hazen said, “internal is your only real option.’’
The Diamondbacks, 25-17, somehow have managed to lead the NL West despite having the worst-hitting offense in the National League, hitting a league-low .222, and ranking just 12th in slugging percentage and 13th in on-base percentage in the NL. It has been their pitching, yielding the league with a 3.20 ERA, that has been responsible for their success.
Yet, without Pollock, who was hitting .293 and leading the team with 11 homers, 33 RBI, and the league in slugging percentage (.620), they not only lost their offensive catalyst but finest defensive player.
“Look, I hurt with A.J. just like everybody else does,’’ D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We are all aware of the season that he was having. I can’t give you his gut reaction but mine is one of empathy and understanding of what he’s probably walking through right now in dealing with frustration.’’
It is Pollock’s stellar defense that had him even attempting to make the diving catch with two outs in the ninth inning of their game against the Brewers, and the Diamondbacks even down by three runs. He couldn’t make the play, and Tyler Saladino wound up with an inside-the-park home run in the Brewers’ 7-2 victory.
“You wouldn’t expect any other way,” Hazen said. “For guys like A.J., it doesn’t matter what the score is. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. He’s just trying to save runs there. He’s going to do that, I bet, 100 out of 100 times.
“It’s bad luck.”
Said Lovullo: “We never ask our athletes to back down from any challenge, from any play, and that’s what good teammates do. They feel like they can go out there and make a play to help out an inning, help out a situation and win a moment.
“That’s all A.J. was doing. We will never ever fault our guys for getting after it because we ask that they do that every single day. It’s just a very, very unfortunate situation.’’
The Diamondbacks, who played the first five weeks without right fielder Steven Souza, are at least expected to get back third baseman Jake Lamb in the next week. Still, the loss of Pollock will have a huge impact, on not only the D-backs season, but perhaps his free agency.
Pollock was having such a magnificent season that he was expected to command a contract similar to center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers, or even more, but this is the third time in the last four years he will miss a huge chunk of the season. He has missed 287 games with injuries in three of the last four years.
“There’s just things you can’t control in this game,” Steven Souza says. “No matter what you say or do or how much you prepare or what you eat, weird stuff like that can happen.
“Nobody gets through the season without some sort of trials, and we’re in the midst of one.’’
May 15: The Seattle Mariners’ Guillermo Heredia celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning RBI single against the Texas Rangers during the 11th inning at Safeco Field. The Mariners won the game, 9-8. Joe Nicholson, USA TODAY Sports
May 13: JaCoby Jones, left, and Jose Iglesias, right, of the Tigers celebrate Iglesias’ walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning against the Mariners at Comerica Park in Detroit. Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports
May 12: The New York Yankees’ Brett Gardner douses Neil Walker after Walker hit a walk-off single to drive in Gary Sanchez for the winning run in the 11th inning of a 7-6 win over the Oakland Athletics. Julie Jacobson, AP
May 11: The Toronto Blue Jays congratulate Luke Maile after his two-run walk-off home run in the 12th inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays won the game, 5-3. John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports
May 9: Nomar Mazara is greeted at home plate by his Rangers teammates after hitting a walk-off solo home run in the 10th inning against the Tigers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Ray Carlin, USA TODAY Sports
May 9: Reds players wait at home plate for teammate Adam Duvall (not pictured) after his walk-off home run against the Mets in the 10th inning at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports
May 6: The Nationals’ Wilmer Difo, middle, celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single against the Phillies in the ninth inning at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports
May 6: Yankees rookie Gleyber Torres is doused with Gatorade by his teammates after hitting a walk-off three-run home run to beat the Indians at Yankee Stadium in New York. Wendell Cruz, USA TODAY Sports
May 5: Seattle Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy (27) celebrates after hitting a game-winning RBI-single against the Los Angeles Angels during the 11th inning at Safeco Field. Joe Nicholson, USA TODAY Sports
May 4: The New York Yankees’ Miguel Andujar is congratulated after hitting a walk-off game winning RBI single against the Cleveland Indians during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won, 7-6. Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports
May 3: The Chicago White Sox’s Trayce Thompson celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off solo home run against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. The White Sox won the game, 6-5. Kamil Krzaczynski, USA TODAY Sports
May 1: The Los Angeles Angels’ Justin Upton (8) celebrates with taemmate Luis Valbuena (18) after Upton hit a walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning of a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports
May 1: The Miami Marlins’ Miguel Rojas (mask) hits teammate Cameron Maybin with a shaving cream pie after a 2-1 walk-off win over the Philadelphia Phillies in 10 innings at Marlins Park. Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports
April 24: Cincinnati Reds players wait at home plate for Scooter Gennett after Gennett hit the game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves in the 12th inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won, 9-7. David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports
April 22: The Philadelphia Phillies’ Aaron Altherr is doused with Powerade by teammate J.P. Crawford after hitting a walk-off RBI single during the 11th inning of a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
April 20: The Rays’ Denard Span is congratulated by teammates after Tampa Bay’s walk-off victory against the Twins in the 10th inning at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports
April 20: JaCoby Jones celebrates with his Tigers teammates after hitting a walk-off solo home run the 10th inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit. Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports
April 18: The Athletics’ Matt Olson, left, celebrates with teammates Chad Pinder (18) and Matt Chapman (26) after hitting the walk-off RBI single against the White Sox in the 14th inning at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports
April 18: The Tigers’ Dixon Machado, right, is congratulated by teammates after his walk-off home run in the ninth inning against the Orioles at Comerica Park in Detroit. Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports
April 17: The Blue Jays’ Luke Maile (21) celebrates with teammates Devon Travis (29), Randal Grichuk (15) and Kevin Pillar (11) after Maile’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning during the second game of a doubleheader against the Royals at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Gerry Angus, USA TODAY Sports
April 15: Mets 1B Wilmer Flores is doused by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes during a post game interview after hitting a walk-off solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in the ninth inning at Citi Field. Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
April 11: The Philadelphia Phillies’ Scott Kingery is mobbed by teammates after a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 12th inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won the game, 4-3. Eric Hartline, USA TODAY Sports
April 10: The Giants’ Andrew McCutchen is mobbed by teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Diamondbacks 5-4 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
April 10: The Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter throws his helmet as he celebrates his walk-off two-run home run against the Brewers in the 11th inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Jeff Curry, USA TODAY Sports
April 8: Yan Gomes (left) celebrates with Yonder Alonso after hitting a game-winning two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. The Indians won the game, 3-1. Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports
April 7: Colorado Rockies catcher Tony Wolters (right) celebrates a win after a walk-off walk against the Atlanta Braves during the 10th inning at Coors Field. The Rockies won the game, 3-2. Troy Babbitt, USA TODAY Sports
April 7: Andrew McCutcheon exults over his game-winning three-run home run in a 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 14th inning of a baseball game at AT&T Park. D. Ross Cameron, USA TODAY Sports
April 6: The Brewers’ Orlando Arcia is dunked by teammate Hernan Perez after driving in the game-winning run with an RBI single in the ninth inning against the Cubs at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports
April 2: Jeff Mathis is doused with Gatorade by teammate David Peralta after getting the game-winning hit in the 15th inning of an 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
March 30: The Miami Marlins’ Cameron Maybin celebrates after teammate Miguel Rojas hit the game-winning RBI single during the 17th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park. The Marlins won the game, 2-1. Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports
March 29: The Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off three-run home run against the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth inning at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports
March 29: The Orioles’ Adam Jones celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th inning to beat the Twins 3-2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Evan Habeeb, USA TODAY Sports