Written off as pretenders rather than contenders at the start of the season, the Diamondbacks, for most of the 2015 campaign, have functioned on life support.
Only within the past few weeks have pundits, observers and fans detected slight movement on their life-support monitor. With about seven weeks remaining in the baseball season, the Diamondbacks cling to a faint post-season hope. At least, that’s what manager Chip Hale seemed to believe during the last home stand.
Following a 2-1 defeat in Atlanta on Sunday, the Diamondbacks lost two of three games in that three-game weekend set. That marked the first series in two weeks they dropped a series, but still did not prevent from all hopes dashed.
Coming into Monday’s game with the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Arizona remains in third place within the National League West Division, and nine games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Within the National League Wild Card contenders, they are third. While the Pirates and Cubs hold the best records among non-division leading teams, the Giants are 3.5 games out of wild card consideration, the Nationals are 9.5 games, and Diamondbacks sit 10 games behind the Pirates and Cubs.
More importantly, the Diamondbacks made a habit, recently, of inching closer to the .500 mark, but fail to push over. With the defeat in Atlanta Sunday, they remain two games under .500 at 57-59, and play their next 10 games against NL Central opponents. Once the calendar turns to September, the competition should heat up drastically.
For now, Hale constantly tells listeners that once his team reaches that elusive .500 mark and stays there, then wins could start to pile. That may be easier said than done because the Diamondbacks have not strung many wins together this season. Their longest winning streak was six games from July 25 until July 31. They also put together one, five game winning streak and one, four game streak.
Facing increasingly difficult odds to catch the Dodgers and those teams in Wild Card contention, the Diamondbacks must put together a string of considerable wins. To date, that has not happened and the team may be running out of games. From the time they engage the Giants at home on Sept. 7, the Diamondbacks then play 13 of their following 16 games against San Francisco and the Dodgers.
“We don’t look at reaching .500 that way,” Hale said at the end of the last home stand. “We’re playing well right now. We’re looking to September and playing for a playoff spot.”
At this point, perhaps Hale and his intrepid band of warriors might consider a history lesson. Turn the clock back to the golden age of the game and precisely, the early 1950s. That’s when the three New York teams seem to rule.
On August 10, 1951, the Giants were 12.5 games behind the first place Dodgers, and seemingly buried in second place. Yet, the New Yorkers managed to reel off 16 straight wins and eventually tie the Dodgers for first place. That precipitated a three-game playoff, and Bobby Thompson dramatic homer off Ralph Branca in the bottom of the ninth in game three propelled the Giants into the World Series.
While the task of pulling off 16 straight wins for the Diamondbacks, or any team in today’s game, is daunting, the bottom line is Arizona needs to cluster a bunch of wins together. The competitive level, in the Major Leagues today, is prodigious, and it’s likely the Diamondbacks will get help from other teams. Yet, this team needs some kind of turbo-charge, and quickly. Otherwise, they’re continue to echo that old adage from Brooklyn fans, “wait ’till next year.”
ON A JET PLANE …
The Diamondbacks current road trip continues in Pittsburgh.
In the three-game series opener Monday night, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (8-8, 4.73 ERA) takes to the hill against righty Gerrit Cole (14-6, 2.48). On Tuesday night, it’s righty Chase Anderson (5-5, 4.31) opposing lefty Francisco Liriano (8-6, 3.19). In the finale Wednesday night, look for lefty Robbie Ray (3-8, 3.29) to oppose lefty J. A. Happ (4.64).
The Diamondbacks enter PNC Park with a clear challenge. The Pirates have won 15 of their last 18 at home, and defeated National League West Division opponents 14 times in the last 16 games. They also swept the Diamondbacks back in Chase Field on April 24-26.
The trip concludes with four against the Reds in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks then return home for a seven-game home stand.
This stretch opens on Monday Aug, 24 against St. Louis. The original start time of 6:40 p.m. has been changed to 7:10 p.m., Phoenix time. That’s because this game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The contest will be blacked out on ESPN2 in the St Louis and Phoenix metro areas, but the game can be viewed in these markets through the team’s local television outlets.