Well that had to have been the most frustrating series win ever. Though I also feel like I’ve said that before this season? The missed chances all kind of blur together sometimes. Despite those missed chances, though, the Diamondbacks did put together a fairly convincing series win against the last place Rockies. Then after the series, Mike Hazen had a mini trade deadline and made a bunch of changes, not the least of which was DFA’ing veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed and promoting top prospect Jordan Lawler.
With that, the Diamondbacks make the trip to Chicago, to take on the Cubs for the first time. In a way, it kind of feels like we’ve been playing them every day for the last month, as one the teams direct competitors for a wild card spot. Going into the series, the Cubs are the only wild card team with a realistic chance at winning their division still, at a game and a half back of the Brewers in the Central. A series win for AZ would more than likely put them in a wild card spot and is the first step towards having the tie breaker against Chicago if it comes down to that.
Game 1 — 9/7, 4:40 PM: Ryne Nelson (6-7, 5.47 ERA/79 ERA+, 1.45 WHIP) vs. Javier Assad (3-2, 2.69 ERA/168 ERA+, 1.18 WHIP)
One of the non Ahmed/Lawler moves following the Rockies series was the return of Ryne Nelson. He spent four starts with the Aces, and the numbers weren’t spectacular, especially the strikeout to walk ratio that was basically 50/50. He wasn’t walking more people than he was in the big leagues, it was the strike outs that went away. He went from a K/9 of 5.9 in the majors to just 3.7 in Reno. The spike in home runs is understandable, but elevation should make it harder to strike out batters... Good news is, he’ll be starting on the road where he was significantly better during his first stint in the majors.
Assad is in his second season for the Diamondbacks, and he’s been bounced between the bullpen and the rotation a couple of times already. He started in eight of his nine games in 2022, then came in as a reliever this season through the month of July. Since August 5th, however, he’s been starting and doing well at it. His overal stats are above, but as a starter he has an ERA of 1.96 in six starts. He went eight scoreless in his previous start against the Reds.
Game 2 — 9/8, 11:20 AM: Zac Gallen (14-7, 3.48 ERA/124 ERA+, 1.11 WHIP) vs. Jameson Tallion (7-9, 5.73 ERA/79 ERA+, 1.35 WHIP)
One has to imagine that Cy Young is probably out of reach for Gallen at this point. His last two starts have been absolutely brutal, while others, including Chicago’s game 3 starter, have improved or stayed the course. Regardless of any end of season hardware he may or may not pick up, he is still the team’s best pitcher on any given night, and is just as likely to make me eat my words by starting a new scoreless innings streak in this start. To do that, though, he’ll have to overcome his very real and very well documented issues pitching on the road, something that hasn’t happened much this season.
Tallion hasn’t had a great season, but the last five games have been particularly hard for the right hander. In those starts, he hasn’t had a single game where he gave up less than four total runs (one game it was four total, but only two earned), once eight runs, and twice five runs. His last start was also against the Reds, but unlike Assad, they got to him for five runs in 5 2⁄3 innings.
Game 3 — 9/9, 11:20 AM: Merrill Kelly (11-6, 3.22 ERA/134ERA+, 1.17 WHIP) vs. Justin Steele (16-3, 2.55 ERA/177 ERA+, 1.13 WHIP)
After his last start, Kelly became Derek Hall and Ken Kendrick’s favorite player on the team when he at least indirectly blamed the ongoing stadium issues for the cramping problems he have been having during home games. Link to Twitter here. I’ll let the training staff figure that out, but I will say, having been in that stadium a couple times this season, I could buy it. He had a blip against the Dodgers where he gave up seven in five innings, but other than that, his worst start in August was three to the Padres back on August 19th.
Justin Steele has recently become a dark horse candidate, and maybe more, for Cy Young, and its easy to see why. His 16 wins lead all of baseball and so does his 177 ERA+, while his 0.7 HR/9 is the lowest in the National League. He got then got everyone’s attention with an eight inning shutout with 12k’s in his last start.
Game 4 — 9/10, 11:20 AM: Brandon Pfaadt (1-8, 6.37 ERA/69 ERA+, 1.46 WHIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks (5-7, 3.73 ERA/121 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP)
Pfaadt’s had two starts where he failed to go more than four innings in a row now. Getting knocked around by the Dodgers wasn’t exactly surprising, especially after how they dismantled Gallen and Kelly before him. Giving up three runs in 3 2⁄3 innings to the Rockies was a bit more disappointing. The one silver lining is that, after giving up a home run against the Reds and two against the Dodgers, he was able to avoid the long ball from Colorado. Small victories.
It feels like Kyle Hendricks has been around for a lot longer than ten years. Half way through last season, he went on the IL with capsular tear in his shoulder and wasn’t able to come back until this past May. Since then, he’s been a pretty solid pitcher. Most days you can reasonably expect five or six innings, and he’ll keep you in the ballgame for those. Not going to give you a shutout more than likely, but he probably won’t throw a complete stinker either. Last start was the exception, however. He gave up five runs in 5 1⁄3 innings to the Reds.
This is the must win series of the year. The Diamondbacks have the thinnest of margins left to realistically make the playoffs, and if they let this series get away, those margins probably go with them. I don’t know how the series is going to go, and I don’t have the faintest idea of where to even start with a prediction. What I will say is that the need to win this series, more than they’ve needed to win a series in probably... five years? Let’s see what this team is made of. Go Dbacks.