Preview: D-backs host Astros with chance to clinch postseason berth

Sep 29, 2023, 5:00 PM

Jake McCarthy...

Jake McCarthy #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks scores ahead of Martin Maldonado #15 of the Houston Astros on a single hit by Christian Walker #53 during the tenth inning at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The playoffs came early for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Houston Astros, who can both clinch spots in the postseason during their three-game series to wrap up the regular season starting Friday at Chase Field.

The Diamondbacks (84-75) need one more win to punch a ticket to the National League Wild Card Series – or losses by both the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.

D-backs first baseman Christian Walker said it would certainly feel better to win their way in.

“I think that’s just a principle thing, I think it feels better,” Walker said. “To be honest, a berth is a berth at this point … Of course we want to win, that’s the goal every day. But at this point, it’s about getting it at all costs.”

The Astros (87-72) remain mathematically alive in the hunt for the AL West, two games behind the Texas Rangers but without the tiebreaker. Houston is also one game ahead of the Seattle Mariners for the final AL Wild Card spot after taking two of three games in Seattle this week.

They are looking to reach the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.

Arizona could have clinched a spot with a win Thursday afternoon at the Chicago White Sox, especially since the Cubs fell to the Atlanta Braves Thursday evening.

The D-backs lost and enter the final series with everything to play for, and ace Zac Gallen will pitch to push his club over the finish line on Friday.

This is the first meeting between the Diamondbacks and Astros since September 2022 when the D-backs were closing in on a 74-win campaign and Houston went on to win the World Series. What a difference a year makes.

D-backs-Astros pitching situation

Gallen gets his final start of the regular season and lines up on normal rest for Game 2 in the NL Wild Card Series should Arizona get in.

The right-hander surpassed 200 innings on the season for the first time in his career on Sunday in a six-frame, scoreless outing at the New York Yankees.

The Diamondbacks could clinch a playoff spot during Friday’s game, as the Reds face the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers approximately 90 minutes before first pitch at Chase Field.

If that happens, manager Torey Lovullo said he and pitching coach Brent Strom will read and react in regards to pulling Gallen early.

The Astros scratched Friday’s listed starter J.P. France (3.83 ERA) due to a family matter, the club announced. Jose Urquidy, a 28-year-old right-hander with a 5.84 ERA in 15 games (nine starts) this season, will start.

Houston has Justin Verlander slated for Saturday, and the outcome of Friday’s action will determine Arizona’s plan.

Merrill Kelly is lined up to pitch, but if the D-backs clinch a spot, he will be pushed back to Game 1 of the wild card series against either the Milwaukee Brewers or Philadelphia Phillies.

Lovullo described his starting rotation at the moment as Gallen, Kelly, TBA. It is possible Brandon Pfaadt gets some run on short rest this series, but the D-backs will need to lean on their bullpen to fill heavy innings if Kelly gets pushed back.

“If we do punch a ticket to the big dance, then we got to find a way to figure some things out and keep moving the ball forward for the bigger picture,” Lovullo said.

“We got to go out and win a baseball game today. That’s our mindset. And once we get there, we’ll figure it out. If we don’t, we go with the normal decision. On Sunday, we’re not sure right now. Things could change quickly.”

The Diamondbacks have a 10-man bullpen counting Ryne Nelson, who pitched in long relief on Tuesday.

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