D-backs, Giants counting on their aces in critical 2-game series at Chase Field

Sep 19, 2023, 11:54 AM | Updated: 8:05 pm

Zac Gallen...

Starting pitcher Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks gestures at home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus #18 during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on May 13, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks have one final series against not only a divisional opponent but a National League Wild Card competitor. 

The San Francisco Giants come to Chase Field for two games starting Tuesday with the season series on the line.

The D-backs are 5-6 against the Giants, needing both victories to claim the tiebreaker and knock San Francisco’s postseason hopes nearly off the table.

Arizona (79-72) took control of the second wild card spot with a sweep over the Chicago Cubs last weekend. The Giants (76-74), meanwhile, did themselves no favors by losing three of four games against the last-place Colorado Rockies.

There are five teams within 2.5 games of each other gunning for two spots:

FanGraphs gives the D-backs a 55.3% chance to reach the postseason while the Giants are down at 13.6%. These odds can change very quickly given the nature of the wild card race this season, but they show the desperation of San Francisco needing wins in Arizona this week.

The D-backs and Giants both had Monday off to reset their pitching staff, so the two-game series is lined up to be a best-on-best matchup: All-Stars Zac Gallen (3.50 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (3.62) on Tuesday with Merrill Kelly (3.45) against NL Cy Young candidate Logan Webb (3.31) on Wednesday.

D-backs counting on Gallen, Kelly

Only seven NL pitchers with 150 innings have a 3.50 ERA or better and 50% quality start rate. Webb, Gallen and Kelly are in that group, but the D-backs will need more out of their duo following a tough series last week against the New York Mets (13 combined earned runs).

The D-backs pieced together their sweep of Chicago with clipped starts and tremendous production out of the bullpen. This is a series that allows manager Torey Lovullo to let his starters get deep if they pitch to the standards they have set.

Six of Arizona’s final 11 games will be started by either Gallen or Kelly, a conscious effort to maximize them in a pennant chase.

Webb has been the most dominant starter of this matchup in 2023 with six earned runs in 21 innings across three starts against Arizona. Two were wins, while the other was a 2-1 loss. Cobb has a pair of quality starts, including seven scoreless frames at Chase Field in May.

Gallen has allowed five earned runs in 13.2 innings over two starts against the Giants this year, resulting in a win and a loss.

Kelly has pitched very well against the Giants throughout his career with a 3.19 ERA in 16 starts entering 2023. He has one start versus San Francisco this year in which he allowed five earned runs and went on the injured list with a blood clot soon after.

Webb and Gallen are Nos. 1 and 2 in MLB in innings pitched with 201 and 192.2, respectively.

The NL Cy Young race remains open with different arguments for candidates. Blake Snell leads the league with a 2.43 ERA, but Webb has him beat by 34 innings. The D-backs roughed up Justin Steele for six earned runs on Friday.

Ups and downs

Both NL West clubs have gone through hot streaks and long lulls this season.

Going into the All-Star break, the D-backs, Giants and Dodgers were within 2.5 games of each other for the NL West lead, but Los Angeles sprinted ahead and clinched the division on Saturday.

At the end of their latest series against one other on Aug. 3, the Giants led the D-backs by four games. Since then, San Francisco has gone 15-25 and Arizona 22-19.

The D-backs and Giants have very different-looking ends of their schedules.

The Diamondbacks have no more NL teams remaining after Wednesday with series against a rejuvenated New York Yankees club, the lowly Chicago White Sox and finally the Houston Astros at Chase Field. The Astros remain in a race for the AL West, and it would seem to benefit the D-backs if they clinch sooner than later.

The Giants only have division games on the slate, seven of which are against the Dodgers and three vs. the suddenly hot San Diego Padres (W5).

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D-backs, Giants counting on their aces in critical 2-game series at Chase Field