Going into this series, the Diamondbacks magic number for a playoff spot is one.
One win or one Cubs loss sends them to the playoffs, at least a year ahead of schedule.
To get that one win, they have to go through the Astros, who have just as much, if not more, to play for than Arizona does right now. They hold a slim lead for the third WC spot in the AL over the Seattle Mariners. Unlike the Diamondbacks, however, they don’t own the tie breaker, having lost 9-3 against the Mariners in the regular season. That makes their 1.5 game lead realistically only half a game.
Game 1 — 9/29, 6:40 PM: Zac Gallen (17-8, 3.49 ERA/124 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP) vs. JP France (11-6, 3.83 ERA/110 ERA+, 1.35 WHIP)
If Zac Gallen wants to make the Cy Young voters who left him off their ballots last year eat crow, this is the start to do it. Screw proving them wrong by getting more votes. Prove them wrong by going out and throwing the best game of your career in the most important game of your career. These games define pitchers. Are you a #1 or are you an ACE? It’s time for Gallen to decide.
Taking the mound opposite Gallen will be the rookie, JP France. He’s been effective for Houston, but his ERA is outperforming his 4.66 FIP. His ERA is slowly regressing towards that FIP number currently, as he’s seen his ERA go from 2.75 at the beginning of August to where it is today. Driving that are two starts this month where he gave up five earned runs, once to the Rangers and another time to the KC Royals. He’s done well, but he’s hittable.
Game 2 — 9/30, 5:10 PM: TBD (Merrill Kelly) vs. Justin Verlander (12-8 3.32 ERA/127 ERA+,
This one should be a lot of fun. It hasn’t been announced officially, but this is Kelly’s spot in the rotation, and I don’t personally see any benefit to skipping him right now. As the second half of one of the best 1,2 punches in baseball, he’s going to be either helping secure the missed opportunity on Friday to clinch a playoff spot, or he’ll be pushing the team towards clinching the five seed. Either way, Mainstay Merrill will be playing a lynchpin role once again. Not to bad for someone who just came back from Korea not that long ago.
September hasn’t been kind to 18 year vet Justin Verlander. In five starts, he has a 4.24 ERA and the Astros have gone 2-3 in those starts. All of the damage came really in two starts. The New York Yankees bombed four homeruns off him on September 1st in route to a 10-7 Houston loss. He also gave up five ER and two home runs to the Athletics of all teams. Other than that, it’s been mostly business as usual, including eight innings of one run ball last time out against the Mariners. That’s what the Diamondbacks should expect. There aren’t many better at playing in crunch time than Verlander.
Game 3 — 10/1, 12:10 PM: TBD vs. TBD
Also to be determined, the importance of this game. This could be the only meaningless game the Diamondbacks play in September. It could decide seeding. It could decide their ticket to the dance entirely. Only one way to find out!
I’ve said this once before, but it bears repeating. We all wanted meaningful September baseball. Just remember that when we are pulling our hair out this weekend.