D-backs notebook: Wild Card shines on Goldschmidt, NL West powers
PHOENIX — Paul Goldschmidt likely realizes he enters the postseason in a slump.
His .175 average for September could potentially be traced back to something technical or otherwise, but the Arizona Diamondbacks first basemen isn’t telling.
As for if there’s a mental weight on him, well, he offered an explanation when asked if it was possible to dump the past month and play Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies with a clean slate.
“It’s pretty easy,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s not about me. We’re just trying to win. So I’ll go out there and do my best. But it’s not about me at all.
“You’re going to struggle throughout times of the year,” he added. “I didn’t play well the last week or so, but that’s why it’s a team game.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that J.D. Martinez, who was acquired in a midseason trade to protect Goldschmidt batting in the third slot, was sitting next to the MVP candidate on Tuesday. Martinez might have stolen the MVP momentum from Goldschmidt over the past month by tying an MLB record with 16 home runs in the month of September.
As humbly as Martinez accepted his white-hot batting to end the regular season, he was much more open to discuss Goldschmidt’s talent that he gets to see on a day-to-day basis.
Martinez gave Goldschmidt his MVP vote.
“Whether it’s kick a ball at first base, tell somebody in the dugout like, ‘hey, this is what he’s trying to pitch to you’ … This is how he’s kind of helping people with his game plan. I feel like he always does something that’s going to help us win,” Martinez said.
Goldschmidt’s mental coach even helped Martinez get in the habit of going through a breathing routine that calms him down and slows the game before he enters the batter’s box.
“He’s a guy that studies every little thing, and I’ve always kind of studied just pitchers and just how they’re pitching, how they’re coming at me and stuff like that,” Martinez added of Goldschmidt. “But I feel like, since I’ve been with him, he’s kind of just opened my eyes like there is more to the game in the sense of studying. Guys move to first, the way guys will pick-off moves to second. Just kind of every little thing about the game.”
NL WEST IN THE SPOTLIGHT
With 104 wins, the Los Angeles Dodgers finished with the best record in baseball by two full games despite a 1-16 stretch late in the year.
The D-backs and Rockies finished in the top-nine of MLB, and their presence in the Wild Card showdown brought up one question: Does the NL West get enough respect?
“I will say that I think the teams on the coasts, both sides, really dominate the media,” said Rockies lead-off man Charlie Blackmon. “If you’re not seeing (Colorado third baseman) Nolan Arenado play and make those amazing plays that he makes every night, you might not think he’s that good of a player just because you don’t hear about it very much.
“The same with Goldschmidt. He’s a very humble player who can literally do everything on the baseball field,” Blackmon added. “But you’re not going to see him out there talking about how good Goldschmidt is, promoting himself. That’s just not the type of guy he is. I think that might keep some fans from knowing more about him, or seeing him play.”
What does Goldschmidt want fans viewing the D-backs for the first time to take away from the experience?
“I don’t know. It would be unfair to say I don’t care,” he said. “We don’t really think about what’s going on outside. We’re just trying to find a way to prepare and beat the Rockies, and I’m sure they’re doing the same. So kind of up to everyone else to write the story.”
ROSTER (NEARLY) READY
Neither the Rockies nor the D-backs divulged their finalized Wild Card roster before sundown Tuesday, but Arizona general manager Mike Hazen did say it was a “unique roster construction puzzle” to piece together having never been in a Wild Card situation before.
“We’ve never really been involved in that. So we’ve done a lot of studying over what the other clubs have done over the course of the years, in terms of optimal number of players, pitchers, position players,” he said. “One of the things we’re trying to keep in mind is we’re not managing the game.
“Torey’s managing the game. And we want to be able to — I think the majority of our questions or our input to the roster has focused on the questioning of how do you envision using this guy versus that guy versus this, and managing that game. We want to add input, if possible, to help in making that decision.”
— D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said he needed shortstop Ketel Marte (leg) and outfielder David Peralta (back) would be pushed in a workout session to make sure they were improved after minor injuries at the end of the regular season.
— The health status of catcher Jeff Mathis was unclear as the Diamondbacks had yet to make a decision on whether he or Chris Iannetta would catch starting pitcher Zack Greinke.
— As for shortstop Chris Owings, he felt more optimistic before taking live at-bats than his manager. He is on the comeback from a finger injury.
“In C.O.’s case, he’s going to come out and take BP today, and I’ll probably have a discussion with him and the front office to see where he is at in this process. But he is a long shot, and I want to say that anything’s possible. I know today’s the last day. So we’ll see what happens,” Lovullo said.
Said Owings before batting Tuesday: “Everything went well. Felt good running, throwing, everything. It’s their decision and their call. I feel good. Just keep making little steps every day. Just see where it goes.”
QUOTABLE, PART I
Lovullo on playing in front of a soldout home crowd:
“A couple guys were wondering why the fans weren’t here early in the season and when they would start showing up. And I told them you keep playing the same type of baseball that you’re playing, they’re going to come out and support us. So we want to earn that. We know that they’re out there, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings as far as the crowd, the noise, and the energy.”
QUOTABLE, PART II
Goldschmidt on playing with Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Arenado in the summer’s World Baseball Classic for the United States squad:
“I would say they are guys that don’t give away at-bats. Defense, guys are ready for every pitch. Nolan’s one of the best, if not the best out there, and Lucroy’s a great catcher too. So watching him prepare for the other team’s hitters when we were on the same team for the WBC, you know why those guys are so good. It’s not an accident. It kind of just reinforces in your mind that you better keep preparing because those guys are preparing to beat you.”
Tune in to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday as our shows come to you live from Chase Field.
The 2017 National League Wild Card Game gets underway just after 5 p.m., and you can hear the action on 98.7 FM.