It was just two weeks ago that the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the midst of a death march up and down the California coast, blowing close games left and right and looking like a team that would be out of contention by Memorial Day.
Looking at the roster and the solid play of division rivals like San Francisco and Colorado, there was every reason to believe Arizona would be a lap down and playing out the string with more than 100 games still to trudge through.
One respected local wag opined that the National League West race was over because the Giants had built a five-game lead playing most of their games on the road and were poised to pull away from there. It was hard to argue.
But what a fortnight it's been since then. Arizona shook up the back end of their rotation - trading Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga to AAA Reno for Jason Collmenter and the second coming of Micah Owings - and good starts suddenly rolled into their good bullpen.
One-run losses became one-run wins. While the rest of the division went into a simultaneous tailspin, the Diamondbacks started climbing the ladder two rungs at a time.
Over a span of 10 games that ended Thursday, Arizona (9-1) gained four games on the first-place Giants (5-5) - who were swept at home by the Marlins this week - and six games on Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego (3-7). Over that same span, the Rockies lost a top-notch pitcher (Jorge De La Rosa) for the season, and the Giants lost their best hitter (Buster Posey) for at least eight weeks (possibly the season) with nasty injuries.
That's about as good as it gets when you're talking about quick turnarounds. The D-Backs took a few baby steps in improving their roster, while their main rivals each took a rocky, giant step backward.
It's amazing how much taking a few hundred strikeouts out of your lineup squeezes out a few more runs. While Mark Reynolds endears himself to the boo-birds in Baltimore, Chris Young and Kelly Johnson have both cut down on their whiffs and made themselves tougher outs. It's not exactly the Big Red Machine just yet, but it's much more palatable to watch.
The question is how Arizona management will react if this team can tread water into late June and prove they deserve to be bolstered for the second half of the season. I'm sure that would be a pleasant problem for Kevin Towers and Ken Kendrick to ponder, but the pressure quickly comes to them to provide a bat - or two - to help an inconsistent offense and another proven starter to augment the duct tape and bailing wire holding together the back end of the rotation. Arizona is fighting for first place, and Joe Saunders won his first game of the year this week.
This team isn't going to win, or even contend over the long haul, relying on Melvin Mora. Is there enough money in the kitty and fire in the belly to do what's right for the fans? Hopefully, that's a decision that the team on the field will force the suits to make.
• More addition by subtraction, this time for the local basketball team. With Jim Buss now calling the shots in Los Angeles with the Lakers, the Pacific Division could be up for grabs again very soon. In the last week alone, Buss has (1) referred to Andrew Bynum as "untouchable," (2) made a curious hire in head coach Mike Brown and (3) hacked off Kobe Bryant by not even seeking his superstar's input.
Boy, are they touchy in Tinsletown. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants a statue. Kobe wants to pick a coach. Next thing you know, we'll find out Lamar Odom is mad at Kris Humphries for giving his Kardashian a bigger ring.
• If anyone knows where I can buy a Big 10 football championship ring, let me know. I called Ohio State football players, but they're fresh out. I can understand that - all the rings are mismarked, since there are 11 teams in the conference.
That stuff isn't going on in Tucson, where I can safely report that no Wildcat player has ever sold a Pac-10 championship ring - or a Rose Bowl ring, for that matter.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every weekend in the Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com