For D-backs, late-season slide may have started with a Mariners game

Sep 26, 2018, 7:22 AM | Updated: 10:48 pm
Seattle Mariners' Denard Span celebrates with Mitch Haniger (17) after hitting a solo home run agai...
Seattle Mariners' Denard Span celebrates with Mitch Haniger (17) after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 10th inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Diamondbacks were playing the second game of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Chase Field in late August.

Arizona was leading 3-1, and Brad Boxberger was pitching to Kyle Seager with runners on the corners and two outs in the ninth inning.

Seager doubled down the line to tie the game, one the D-backs went on to lose 4-3 in the 10th inning.

Arizona was in first place in the NL West on Sept. 1 and has since fallen out of the playoff picture. They were officially eliminated on Sunday, and entered Wednesday with a 6-17 record in the month of September. Manager Torey Lovullo brought up that game against the Mariners when he was asked when he believed the team’s collapse may have begun.

“That seemed to be the first gut-punch that we took late in the season that hurt me,” Lovullo told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “And I felt like as I was surveying and taking the temperature of things on a daily basis, that was one that the guys seem to really remember and it resonated. I think it had a lingering effect. We went into LA and we won the first game, and obviously we know what happened the next three.”

After playing Seattle, the D-backs lost three of four games in Los Angeles from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, relinquishing leads in the late innings of all three of those games.

“I think the Dodgers series probably sticks out, and inside of that there were probably about five or six things that were just gut blows,” Lovullo said. “A couple decisions I made, they didn’t go the way I wanted them to and it may have had an impact on the game. And it was done with a strategy, and when you go over and it and you look at it, you’re like, ‘OK well it didn’t work, and that hurts because I made a decision that impacted the game.'”

“But I go back to the Seattle game if you can remember, back before [the Dodgers series].”

After starting the season 24-11, boasting one of the most effective bullpens in baseball for much of the season and making several acquisitons near the trade deadline, the D-backs found themselves clinging onto playoff hope as September wore on. That was until they were eliminated from both the NL Wild Card and NL West races.

“It’s been fairly difficult,” Lovullo said. “I’m a competitor at my core and I had some incredible expectations as we were walking through this year. On Sept. 1, we were the best team in the [NL] West. We were having totally different conversations about finishing strong, going to the postseason and doing some damage.”

Lovullo, who won NL Manager of the Year in his first season on the job in 2017, has admitted that he thinks back on the decisions that he’s made this year and how they have affected the team’s season.

“I’ve been cycling through it and going over the things I did personally that were right and wrong,” he said. “I want to learn from some of those mistakes, so I’m doing a constant survey of the team, myself, the staff, in preparation for next year. But we’ve still got games to play this year. Those are the things that I do when I’m by myself during the night, but for time that I’m at the ballpark, we’ve got to take it to the Dodgers and do all that we can to make sure that they don’t go on and advance to the postseason. That’s our objective right now.”

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For D-backs, late-season slide may have started with a Mariners game