Dodgers series begins heavy NL West slate for D-backs

Aug 7, 2023, 1:02 PM | Updated: 1:06 pm

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #12 of the Arizona Diamondbacks gestures after hitting a RBI double against the...

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #12 of the Arizona Diamondbacks gestures after hitting a RBI double against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of the game at Chase Field on April 08, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

To say the Arizona Diamondbacks are reeling would be quite an understatement.

After the D-backs were 41-25 and the talk of the National League in mid-June, they are 16-31 since. Once July popped up on the calendar, it has been an 8-22 record.

It a testament both to 1) how great Arizona was for those first 66 games and 2) how the rest of the NL has trailed off that the D-backs are only 1.5 games back of the last wild card spot entering play on Monday. As an example, the Chicago Cubs went 13-3 in the last two-plus weeks and are now all of a sudden owning that last spot. The San Diego Padres only sit three games back, still loafing in mediocrity.

If the D-backs are going to snap out of this serious funk and get back in the race, they’ll have to do so through the rest of August against mostly divisional foes. Fifteen of Arizona’s 21 remaining games for the month are versus NL West teams, beginning with a quick two-game slate at Chase Field against the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.

A few things to keep an eye on:

Runs (plural)

The D-backs have 21 runs in their last 10 games. Their single-game high across that span is four and they’ve failed to get above two in six of those contests.

Arizona’s initial problem was getting runners on. There was a four-game blip in the last 10 when the team recorded nine total at-bats with runners in scoring position. But in the last four fixtures, that’s bumped up to 28. While it was a serious improvement and back where that number should be, it doesn’t matter much when the D-backs are 3-for-28 for those at-bats.

Despite the Dodgers pulling away for the NL West at a record of 64-46, they will be putting two guys on the mound who have struggled this year and could give D-backs hitters an opportunity to find some semblance of momentum.

Tuesday starter Julio Urias’ ERA has more than doubled this season from 2.16 last year to 4.69, while Bobby Miller gets the nod on Wednesday with a 4.26 ERA.

Arizona may have to do this without Ketel Marte. The D-backs declared his status as day-to-day after he left Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins with left quad tightness. Marte has arguably been Arizona’s best player this season after a scintillating last two months but he was 0-for-16 in his last five games.

Steady seas

No one would love a D-backs lead in the ninth inning for one of these two games more than new closer Paul Sewald, who got the loss in his debut on Sunday after giving up three runs in the ninth.

It was a brutal first impression for a guy who certainly has to be aware of the relief he was bringing to what had been a nagging area for the ball club. Sewald has been more or less very, very good for the last three seasons, so despite the haunting energy surrounding an Arizona lead late in the game, expect him to bounce back if Arizona can find him that opportunity.

The question beyond the offense is if that lead can even get to him. A high-leverage situation was in play for Friday’s defeat, a 2-2 game in the seventh before reliever Scott McGough allowed what proved to be the game-winning home run in the seventh.

All-Star form

The Dodgers had three All-Star starters, and two of them have been playing like it since the break.

First baseman Freddie Freeman’s OPS in 98 plate appearances is an atomic 1.262, with Mookie Betts at a pretty dang good .969 behind him. The other starter, former D-back J.D. Martinez, is still producing a more-than-solid .851 OPS during that span.

That’ll be a tall task for D-backs rookie Brandon Pfaadt, who will be the starter on Tuesday. He’s coming off a tremendous outing on Thursday in a 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants when the right-hander sacrificed just two hits and one walk for an earned run. Pfaadt is still searching for his first career MLB win and now has his season ERA down to 7.11 in 44.1 innings across nine starts.

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Dodgers series begins heavy NL West slate for D-backs