Aug 23, 2023 - Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks surging as they battle for a wild card spot

Two baseball players in black helmets and red jerseys smile and celebrate while an umpire looks on.

Alek Thomas, left, and Gabriel Moreno celebrate in San Diego. Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

After a rough start to the second half of the season culminated in a nine-game losing streak to open this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks are on a roll and in the playoff hunt.

  • Thanks to a win Tuesday over the Texas Rangers, they'd be just inside the playoff picture if the season ended today, claiming the NL's third and final wild card berth.
  • The D-Backs' unexpectedly hot start that saw them not only leading their division but within striking distance of the best record in the National League gave way to a midseason slump.

State of play: Since that losing streak dropped their record to a season-low two games under .500, the D-Backs have gone 9-2.

  • Following Tuesday night's win and the San Francisco Giants' loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona is in second place in the NL West with a 66-61 record, with a half-game lead over for San Francisco.
  • Both teams distantly trail the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose 11.5-game lead in the division seems insurmountable.

The big picture: The D-Backs are tied with the Chicago Cubs for second in the NL wild card standings, leading the Giants and the Cincinnati Reds by a half-game.

Reality check: Rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll is no longer part of the NL MVP conversation, having fallen from second place in the betting odds to 15th, according to Vegas Insider.

Yes, but: Pitching ace Zac Gallen is still the favorite to win the NL Cy Young.

  • His 14-5 record leaves him in a three-way tie for the most wins in the NL with the Cubs' Justin Steele and Atlanta's Spencer Strider, edging out San Diego's Blake Snell, and his 3.11 ERA is third-best in the league.
  • Pitcher Merrill Kelly has 10 wins and his 3.13 ERA is just a hair behind Gallen's.
  • And Carroll is still the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. His .275 batting average, 21 home runs and 61 RBI are solid, but what really stands out is his 38 stolen bases, which ranks second best in the NL.

Between the lines: Arizona's weak spot has been the bullpen, which has become notorious for blown leads this year.

Jeremy's thought bubble: I think we all knew the dominant team we saw in May and early June was too good to be true.

  • But that shouldn't obscure the fact that this D-Backs squad has had a great year. There was more than a glimmer of hope at the start of the season, and Arizona has met those cautiously optimistic expectations.

What's next: The D-Backs have Wednesday off, and they'll be back in action Thursday when they start a four-game home stand against Cincinnati, with whom they're battling for a wild card spot.

  • The D-Backs' next three series against the Reds, Dodgers and Orioles won't be easy, but they've also got matchups against the struggling Rockies, Mets and White Sox before the regular season ends Oct. 1.

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