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Poetic: Paul Goldschmidt returns as D-backs face playoff elimination

Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a single in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Busch Stadium on August 22, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks traded Paul Goldschmidt last offseason, and less than a year later, his old team is on the brink of missing the playoffs. That reality, though, is coming true in the most roundabout of ways.

The D-backs made it interesting and frustrating, intriguing and infuriating. They went back and forth between hot and cold. They won 11 of 12 from Aug. 25 to Sept. 7, and then lost six in a row.

And that gradual slide into playoff elimination — one that might’ve taken longer than some thought it would — made the timing just right for Goldschmidt to come to town when the team’s playoff elimination number was down to one. Go figure.

The St. Louis Cardinals start a three-game series at Chase Field on Monday. Paul Goldschmidt figures to play first base for the red birds, coming back to familiar territory and perhaps watching as the Diamondbacks miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. His new team, meanwhile, has already clinched a playoff spot.

He’s having what some might call a down year for Goldschmidt: .258/.346/.468 with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs. Fully respectable numbers, but on pace for the lowest OPS of his career. He was not an All-Star this season, the first time that’s happened since his first full year in the big leagues in 2012.

His replacement in Arizona, Christian Walker, has slightly lesser numbers: .257/.344/.463 with 26 home runs and 66 RBIs. It’s been a breakout year for him, the first season of his career in which he’s gotten regular at-bats at the big league level.

It’s difficult to say whether retaining Goldschmidt along with free agents A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin would’ve made a difference for the D-backs this season in their quest to make the playoffs. But Arizona is taking the good with the bad, and while Goldschmidt cruises to the playoffs with his new club, the D-backs look to a future that will almost certainly include catcher Carson Kelly and pitcher Luke Weaver, two pieces that came back in the Goldy trade last year.

(Speaking of Pollock and Corbin: Pollock’s new team, the LA Dodgers, won their 100th game on Sunday. Corbin’s new team, the Nationals, are in first place in the NL Wild Card.)

It was probably asking too much to expect the Diamondbacks to make the playoffs this year before the season started, knowing what the D-backs had lost in terms of personnel. But seeing their beloved former face of the franchise come back for the first time as the D-backs make their exit from contention?

That’s poetic injustice.

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