D-backs put together clutch series sweep of Cubs to climb in wild card standings

Sep 17, 2023, 9:23 PM

Ketel Marte...

Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after hitting a two run home run during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field on September 17, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks — through a combination of clutch hitting, clean defense and another stellar effort out of the bullpen — completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 6-2 victory at Chase Field.

The D-backs (79-72) responded to Saturday’s 13-inning victory with an early rally, grabbing a lead in the bottom of the first they never relinquished on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

In doing so, Arizona jumped into the second National League Wild Card spot, 0.5 games ahead of Chicago (78-72) and the Miami Marlins (78-72).

“When you talk about being ready to play in a really important game after a late night, an emotional game, our guys I feel made a really big statement,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “You’re always curious about how your team is gonna come out, how they’re gonna respond. There’s a ton of stimulus, it’s a four o’clock game on ESPN and our guys were just race ready.”

Ketel Marte set the tone with a walk after which he sprinted to first base. He said he had to prepare to run ahead of Corbin Carroll, who delivered a single. The heart of the order drove in the three runs, as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. continued his hot homestand with an RBI double. He went 6-for-14 with seven RBI in the series.

Lovullo’s urgency was displayed in his handling of the pitching staff with a tight lead, as starter Ryne Nelson was pulled with one out in the fourth inning of a 3-2 ballgame.

Nelson was at 75 pitches but allowed four hits and walked three batters. Lovullo said Nelson was fighting himself to find a rhythm with all of his pitches.

It was the third straight game Lovullo yanked his starter after two rounds through the opposing order, give or take a couple at-bats.

“I am doing things with our starting pitcher that I haven’t done, ever,” Lovullo said. “I’m clipping guys at 65-75 pitches. I feel like there’s a script in my head that I’m comfortable with. I want their best effort, but I think it’s just a little bit different. I want to match it up to help us win a baseball game the best way I know how.”

After using seven relievers on Saturday, Arizona turned to Luis Frias, Miguel Castro, Ryan Thompson and Bryce Jarvis, who provided 5.2 scoreless innings to drive home the win. Jarvis was recalled from Triple-A Reno before the game with Scott McGough landing on the 15-day injured list (shoulder), and the rookie recorded a pair of 1-2-3 innings to end the game.

Excluding the ninth inning blowup on Friday, the D-backs’ bullpen threw 17 innings this series with no earned runs. The Diamondbacks have seven relievers who have thrown at least six innings in September with ERAs under 1.25: the four who pitched Sunday along with Kevin Ginkel, Andrew Saalfrank and Joe Mantiply.

With the bat, Marte created distance with a two-run shot in the sixth inning on a first-pitch changeup. He said he was looking two-seam fastball but adjusted to club his 23rd homer of the season.

Speed helped bring home the sixth run, as Thomas got a head start and raced around the bases on a Jace Peterson double.

“Sweeping the Cubs is not easy, but we got a good team here,” Marte said. “The pitching has been very good. We play good defense. … When you team do the little things, you’re gonna be great.”

Bouncing back

The Diamondbacks have had dramatic ups and downs all season, and this month has been a microcosm. Back-to-back series losses to the Dodgers and Orioles were followed by five wins in seven games over the Rockies and Cubs last week.

They suffered a let down at the Mets with three straight losses Tuesday through Thursday but turned around to earn a sweep against a club they were chasing in the standings.

“It’s part of being a professional, knowing your situation and what you need to do to get in, but also understanding how quick things can change,” Christian Walker said.

“With the series coming up, even these next two game against the Giants, we’re still out for blood. It’s not about doing enough. We’re trying to win out, we want to give ourselves a no-doubt chance and we understand how hard it is and how thing how quickly things change.”

The D-backs have peaked at first place in the NL West, dropped to more than a series back of a playoff spot and climbed to the second wild card position this season.. Arizona has 11 games remaining without room for any more valleys.

Aces up

The D-backs’ stretch of 17 games in as many days concluded Sunday, so Monday will provide a day off.

The San Francisco Giants enter Chase Field on Tuesday and Wednesday for short series. Lovullo confirmed Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly will pitch for Arizona, as the D-backs need both wins to claim the season series over their division rivals.

San Francisco’s probables are All-Stars Alex Cobb and Logan Webb, setting up a best vs. best series in the second to last week of the season.

The Diamondbacks get three more starts each out of Gallen and Kelly. Lovullo has said they may go to a four-man rotation for the final stretch with three off days left on the schedule.

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