The postseason begins in five weeks and the playoff picture is taking shape. The National League is competitive in terms of division and wild card races. In fact, the competition is so fierce it’s do or die for eight teams, including each division leader. The NL West is once again the division to watch, much like it was in 2007 when the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, and Colorado Rockies all took the race for the division title to the final day of the season. Arizona would win the division and take the top seed in the NL playoffs, but September 2007 wasn’t nearly as important as September 2018 will be for the Diamondbacks.
The Snakes have been in first place in the division 104 days out of the season. A 21-8 start to the year was the best in franchise history, but it was quickly forgotten with an 8-19 record in May. Inconsistency from the offense has plagued the team from running away with the NL West and now the Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers have found themselves right on the Diamondbacks’ tail in the division race. As exciting as the division race is, the Diamondbacks can’t afford any setbacks if they expect to win the division, let alone make the postseason for the second straight year.
What does the rest of the season look like?
In 2007, Arizona’s offense was inconsistent, hitting a league-worst .250 as a team. However, a 4.13 team ERA was fourth best in the league, saving the offense. This season, the Diamondbacks .241 team batting average is 11th in the NL and their team ERA of 3.58 is second. As good as the pitching has been for most of the season, the offense must hold its own and support the starting pitchers more than they have all season.
The Diamondbacks have the toughest schedule to finish the season, which started with a seven-game road trip in San Francisco and Los Angeles last night. They will play 21 games against division rivals to finish the season, with 14 combined against the Rockies and Dodgers. They will also play four at home against the Atlanta Braves, three against the Chicago Cubs and three in Houston. A mini two-game series and the final series of the year against the Padres will be the only team under .500 the club will face for the rest of the season.
What’s at stake?
The Diamondbacks cannot afford to lose any key series, those being against the Rockies and Dodgers. If the club can win against those two clubs a division title will heavily be in their favor. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, they also have to play well against the Braves, Cubs, and Astros. If they fail to perform against non-division rivals, winning the division or clinching a wild-card berth will be difficult.
A mediocre September could cost the Diamondbacks a playoff berth altogether. The Rockies are 33-17 since June 28 and the Dodgers recently swept a three-game series from the Padres, putting them 1,5 games back in the NL West. The Diamondbacks also lost a three-game series to the Seattle Mariners at home, with one loss coming in extra innings after closer Brad Boxberger blew a save with a 3-1 lead in the ninth. The Rockies also lost two out of three against the St. Louis Cardinals, but they’re only a half-game back in the West.
The NL West is too tight for any team to make mistakes. With the Diamondbacks, they will have to perform better than ever on both ends of the field. Paul Goldschmidt will have to keep performing like an MVP for the final five weeks and David Peralta must continue to add on to his career season. Pitching-wise, the club needs the Patrick Corbin of April to show up and help ace Zack Greinke during his dominant stretch. The club will also need Archie Bradley and Boxberger to anchor down leads when they enter late-game situations. If the Diamondbacks can put all the pieces together during the most important month of baseball in franchise history, they will secure their sixth-ever NL West title. If not, they might seal an NL Wild Card berth for the second straight season, but they could just as easily lose a postseason appearance after a hot start to 2018.
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