On Sept. 16, 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks were at Petco Park on the verge of clinching the NL West.
On the same date two years later, the Diamondbacks — who once led the NL West by 9.5 games — will host the team on the verge of clinching the division, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who carry a 10.5 game division lead into the four-game series.
As would be expected, manager Kirk Gibson is wholly uninterested in seeing the Dodgers celebrating a division title at Chase Field.
“It’s not something that I want to see,” he said before Monday’s series-opener. “I don’t think anybody would want to see that.”
Without a series win against the Dodgers, Gibson’s club will have to see that.
Though they’ve gone 8-7 against the Dodgers so far this season, the Diamondbacks have won just one of their last six games against the division foe, who will send its best pitchers to the mound in the four-game series.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (13-6, 3.07 ERA) will take the ball Monday for the Dodgers, while Zack Greinke (14-3, 2.74 ERA), Clayton Kershaw (14-9, 1.94 ERA) and Ricky Nolasco (8-2, 2.63 ERA) are listed as the probables for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The Diamondbacks will look to Trevor Cahill (6-10, 4.22 ERA) to prolong the seeming inevitability of a Dodgers’ division title Monday, while Patrick Corbin (14-6, 2.92 ERA), Brandon McCarthy (4-9, 4.58 ERA) and Wade Miley (10-10, 3.70 ERA) are expected to attempt to do the same in games two, three and four of the series.
Gibson’s consistently intense, winning attitude hasn’t waned.
“I think that we try to win every night we go out there,” he said, reiterating something of a platitude — not just among baseball folk generally, but specifically to his demeanor.
“Regardless who you’re playing, you feel a lot better when you win.”
The former Dodgers star did, however, recognize the possibility of having to face such a sight at home and the probability of seeing it over the next week or so.
“If they earn it, they earn it, though,” he said.
“You have to tip your cap to them. They’ve had an exceptional second half.”
That last part is an understatement. Exceptional doesn’t quite do the Dodgers’ second half justice. Historic is more appropriate.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Dodgers recorded the best 48-game stretch since 1942 earlier this season, going 41-7 from June 22 to August 16. Prior to the start of the run, the Dodgers stood 9.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West at 30-42. They entered Monday 13 games above .500.
“Exceptional” was just about the only compliment Gibson was willing to give his opponents, keeping his praises well-measured, infusing disbelief and forewarning in his comments about Los Angeles.
“Their journey, should they clinch, has just begun,” Gibson said. “(There are) a lot tougher things to come for those guys.
“It’ll be very challenging for them.”