For casual fans who only glance at the standings at the end of each season, Arizona making the playoffs for a fourth straight year may elicit only a yawn. But for anyone paying attention throughout the season, the result this time was far from a foregone conclusion.
Following the injury late in spring training to SP/LF Shohei Ohtani — which was first projected to last until mid-season before being downgraded to season-ending — the Diamondbacks struggled to find consistency. Sixteen different starting pitchers made at least 2 starts, and 31 pitchers overall made an appearance. Until late in the season, Arizona was last in the NL in Runs Against, SP ERA, and RP ERA. While the offense remained top-5 in most categories, they too struggled for consistency and lacked timely hits. And the less said about the defense and game management, the better.
On August 30, Arizona eked out a win in 12 innings against the Dodgers to avoid another series sweep. At the end of August, the Diamonbacks were 63-71 and on the verge of slipping out of the playoff chase. Then the calendar turned to September and the D-backs suddenly woke up. The pitching stabilized and the offense caught fire. A 10-game winning streak ensued, coupled with a 9-game winning streak down the stretch, put the D-backs into the third NL wildcard slot. In all, Arizona is 21-4 for September with one series remaining.
While the dream of a fourth-straight division title has long since passed, the Diamondbacks know that a bigger goal (however improbable) is still within reach. “All teams start at 0-0 in the post-season. All we had to do was get there. Now we’ll have a chance to make some noise,” said GM Kimberly Schlegel.