D-backs eye quick start after strong 1st half

Lamb, Goldy among players who've led Arizona into contending position

D-backs eye quick start after strong 1st half

PHOENIX -- While D-backs players will say their performance in the first half of the season was not a surprise to them, it certainly was to the rest of baseball.

After a disappointing 2016, the D-backs have been one of MLB's best teams through the first half of this year. They've dominated at Chase Field, played right around .500 on the road and have proven to be resilient in leading the National League in comeback wins for much of the first half.

The rest of the league has started to take notice as four players -- first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, third baseman Jake Lamb and pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray -- were elected by their peers to go to the All-Star Game.

For a team not expected to contend for a playoff spot, the D-backs enter the break with a firm grip on a Wild Card slot, setting up what figures to be an exciting second half in the desert. Manager Torey Lovullo wants his club to capitalize on other teams who fall into the trap of starting the second half slowly.

"We want to make sure we come out of the break and take advantage of those trap moments," Lovullo said.

What went right
Just about everything. Among the position players, Lamb took his game to another level, Chris Owings continued his development, Brandon Drury has shown he can play second base and David Peralta has been able to stay healthy. The entire starting rotation has pitched well, with Greinke and Ray both pitching like aces. Taijuan Walker, Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin have also pitched well, with Walker and Godley consistently providing good outings.

D-backs discuss first half

What went wrong
Not a whole heck of a lot. Really the only thing that went worse than expected was injuries. Right-hander Shelby Miller was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery after having a promising spring and early April. Outfielder A.J. Pollock, who missed almost all of last season, injured his groin in mid-May and missed seven weeks. In addition, outfielder Yasmany Tomas finished the first half on the DL with a groin issue.

What we learned
New GM Mike Hazen made the right call this winter when he looked at the roster he inherited and decided that tweaking it was a better strategy then tearing it down and rebuilding. Hazen believed the core of young position players, which had been playing together for two to three seasons, were ready to take that next step. He surrounded them with a veteran catching crew to help the pitchers, revamped the bullpen and acquired an exciting young arm in Walker.

Walker fans Schebler

First-half top everyday player
There are a number of worthy candidates for this, but we'll go with Goldschmidt. Right from the start, he's been locked in at the plate while once again providing Gold Glove-level defense at first and stealing bases. At the midway point in the season, Goldschmidt is in the conversation for NL MVP.

First-half top pitcher
Ray has come into his own after increasing the tempo in his delivery and reducing the amount of time he takes in between pitches. He has scrapped his changeup and instead added a curveball to go with his slider, which has helped him begin to fulfill his touted ace-like potential.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.