Facing a daunting September, D-backs need to get hot in August

Aug 3, 2018, 7:57 AM

The Arizona Diamondbacks from left, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollock, Nick Ahmed celebrate the team's 7-1 win ...

The Arizona Diamondbacks from left, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollock, Nick Ahmed celebrate the team's 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs after a baseball game Monday, July 23, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Diamondbacks desperately needed their April domination to create a buffer for their collapse in May. August might be just as important to prepare for the onslaught that is coming in September.

Arizona started its first game of August in a strange position, tied for first in the National League West, tied with the Dodgers and Phillies for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and tied with both of those teams for the final Wild Card spot as the road team who would travel to Milwaukee if the playoffs were today.

The collective winning percentage of Arizona’s August opponents are well below .500.

That stretch started with Zack Greinke’s loss to the Giants on Thursday night and, for the sake of discussion, goes through Aug. 29.

After closing a four-game series against San Francisco on Sunday, Arizona faces Philadelphia at home, then Cincinnati, Texas and San Diego on the road before returning home to face the Angels.

It’s not exactly a gauntlet.

Although it’s not all cushy — challenges include three home games against the Phillies to start next week and three at home against Seattle in the middle of the month — the Diamondbacks need to set a goal for August: Take seven of nine on the middle road trip, at least split the six games with Philly and Seattle, and finish off the Giants by taking five of the seven games against them this month.

Going 17-7 — there are also two home games against the Angels — in August is not easy but I don’t think it’s shooting for the moon, either. I see it as a must. I understand why you might disagree but let me talk to you about September before you try to lower the August bar.

Just let this wash over you:

Starting with the final two games of August, the D-backs have four games on the road against the Dodgers. From there, it’s a six-game homestand with the Padres (two games) and Braves (four games). Then comes the most challenging stretch, a seven-game road trip through Colorado and Houston followed by nine games at home taking on the Cubs, Rockies and Dodgers. A three-game series with the Padres closes the season out.

The combined winning percentage of those six teams prior to Thursday’s action was .537. Considering the Padres’ record weighing that average down is even more frightening.

The D-backs play 24 games in September against three teams with 60 wins before August — Colorado and Atlanta are right there with 58 wins each. Minus those Padres games, the opponents’ winning percentage of Arizona’s September schedule jumps to .568! It looks worse as a record: 306-233.

Obviously, a competitor would say, “LET’S GO!” because taking on the Rockies and Dodgers in 14 games on the way out means Arizona is never completely out of it.

I love the moves Arizona made at the trade deadline. As I sit here going into the first weekend of August, I think the Diamondbacks are going to the playoffs. I think it’s wrong to take any team at the top of the National League standings and eliminate them from attending the World Series.

To me, a major key in making the World Series will be avoiding the Wild Card game and trying to make the best seed possible. Every team has a reason to believe so any advantage has to be taken, such as home field in as many rounds as possible.

A bad weekend could start off a bad month. A bad August could allow September to implode Arizona’s hope for going to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since the glory days that started the century.

If you want to dream, however, earning a winning record in September while going through the toughest finishing schedule of any contender would make the D-backs the National League’s hottest team. It seems the hottest team in September is always the one playing at the end of the October.

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