Wilmer Flores of the Arizona Diamondbacks Is on Fire

Wilmer Flores
PHOENIX - AUGUST 17: Wilmer Flores #41 of the Arizona Diamondbacks turns a double play on a ground ball hit by Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants as Stephen Vogt #21 is forced out at second base during the sixth inning at Chase Field on August 17, 2019 in Phoenix. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Wilmer Flores Is on Fire

Not much went right for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their four-game home series against the division rival San Francisco Giants this past Thursday through Sunday. Arizona had a tremendous opportunity to heat up the Wild Card race, but instead, they lost three out of four, falling to 62-63 on the season. When the series ended, they were four and a half games behind. There was one bright spot from that series, though – Wilmer Flores.

Flores has had a tremendous August, even though he’s only started seven of the 15 games he’s played in. In that span of time, he has gone 16 for 35 at the plate – a .457 batting average – with two doubles, four home runs, seven RBI, two walks, four strikeouts, and eight runs scored.

The Giants Series

However, the series against the Giants was insane. In that four-game span, he went 8 for 14 – a .571 average – with a double, three home runs, four RBI, a walk, four runs scored, and no strikeouts. Before the Giants series, his batting average for the season was .291. At the end of the series, it was .312. That one series raised his average by 21 points.

In Saturday night’s 11-6 loss – one that saw Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar have a 5-for-5 game and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt drive in six runs – Flores went 4 for 5. His only out came in the ninth, on a deep fly to left, but he still hit the ball hard. On Friday, when he entered in the sixth inning, he hit two home runs in three at-bats. On Sunday – the only Diamondbacks win of the series – he had two hits in five at-bats, with one hit being a home run.

The last game of the series in Denver against the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday – one that got away from the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth – was a sign of things to come. In that game, he went 3 for 4 with a homer and two RBI. That means that over the last five games, he went 11 for 18 (a .611 average!) and raised his season average from .280 to .312 – 32 points.

Wilmer Flores vs. Each Pitcher

This raises the question of why he’s been so successful. Is it the pitchers he’s facing? In the Colorado game, his first three at-bats came against Kyle Freeland. Before that game, Flores had faced him nine times. Last year, while still with the New York Mets, Flores went 0 for 4 against him with two walks. This year, with the Diamondbacks, he had faced Freeland three times – all on May 4th in Denver. There, he singled to left, hit an RBI double to right, and popped to second. In Wednesday’s game against Freeland, he hit an RBI single to center, popped to short, and homered down the left field line.

The fourth at-bat in that game came against Wade Davis. Flores had only seen Davis twice before, in the 2015 World Series when Davis pitched for the Kansas City Royals. His first at-bat against Davis came in the bottom of the eighth of Game Four. He struck out swinging. The other came in Game Five, when Flores made the last out of the entire Series on a called strikeout. In Wednesday’s game, Flores singled to left.

Vs. Giants Pitchers

Thursday night, he faced Dereck Rodriguez and Sam Coonrod, both for the first time in his career.  He walked and grounded to short, respectively. On Friday, he faced Fernando Abad, Tony Watson, and Will Smith. He grounded into a fielder’s choice and then hit two home runs, respectively. That was only the second time he had seen Abad, and he did not get a hit either time. His at-bats against Watson and Smith were the fourth time he had seen each pitcher, and both of those hits were his first career hits against them.

On Saturday, he faced Logan Webb (who was making his Major League debut), Andrew Suarez, and Jandel Gustave. He faced Webb thrice, hitting a double and two singles. He also singled off Suarez but flied to left against Gustave. Of those three, the only one he had seen before was Suarez, and this hit was his first against him in four tries.

On Sunday, he faced Madison Bumgarner, along with Abad and Coonrod. He was hitless against the latter two, facing each once. Against Bumgarner, however, he went 2 for 3 with a grounder to short, a single to right, and a home run to left. Those were his 19th, 20th, and 21st plate appearances against Bumgarner, and they made him 5 for 20 overall against Bumgarner with two doubles, a homer, one walk, and no strikeouts. In his career, he has only faced Gio Gonzalez and Julio Teheran more times than he has faced Bumgarner.

Outlook

Wilmer Flores has not changed his stance or swing mechanics. Of the pitchers he faced, he had only had prior success against Bumgarner. Four of those pitchers were guys he was seeing for the first time. Sometimes hot streaks have no explanation. This seems to be one of them. Baseball has taught us many things over the years, and one is to respect hot streaks. Don’t question them or expect them to last forever – just enjoy them while they last.

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