How sweep it is; Arizona rises in NL wild-card race

PHOENIX – The writer George Bernard Shaw once said, “youth is wasted on the young.” Somehow, he did not have the Arizona Diamondbacks in mind.

After completing a weekend sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a defining 6-2 victory before 26,307 and an ESPN national television audience, the Diamondbacks’ engine of young players and seemingly unlimited energy served notice they are not going quietly in the NL wild-card race.

After taking six of seven with the Cubs during parts of back-to-back weekends, the Diamondbacks catapulted into the second wild-card spot behind the Phillies. The sweep of the Cubs and taking three of four at Wrigley served, as manager Torey Lovullo indicated at this point of the season, his Arizona club is a good baseball team.

“We are taking care of our business and every player is doing their job,” Lovullo said after Sunday night’s victory. “When you do your job, the team will be fine. We play the game the right way and we expect to have good results. If you tuned in to this game instead of Sunday night football, I think you watched a really good product and I’m proud of that.”

While the Arizona lineup is sprinkled with veterans, the core of production is generated by players with limited major-league experience.

The off-season trade with Toronto for catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. must be considered a game-changer. By mid-season, the Diamondbacks gave up on veteran catcher Carson Kelly, and Moreno stepped forward in a big way. Coming into play Sunday, the 23-year-old was batting .289 and that leads all major league catchers (with a minimum 80 games) in batting average.

Gurriel was off to a torrid start and was selected to the National League All-Star game in Seattle. Through the important weeks of late August and September, he went 13-for 33 in his last nine home games (before Sunday) and is tied (with Steven Kwan of Cleveland) for second among all left fielders with 10 defensive runs saved.

Throughout the season, aggressiveness has been a hallmark and outfielder Corbin Carroll, a serious candidate for NL rookie-of-the year, is the pacesetter. Carroll is tied for the major league lead with nine triples, third in stolen bases with 47 and seventh in runs scored. Over his last 41 games, Carroll reached base 62 times, and hitting.421 when swinging at the first pitch.

The trio of Corbin, Moreno and Gurriel along with first baseman Christion Walker was hitting a combined. 338 with 12 doubles, six triples, 12 homers,39 RBIs, and 23 walks. The numbers were put up before Sunday’s win.

Yet, it is the defense that captured Lovullo’s attention.

“The thing which pleases me the most is how we pick up the baseball,” Lovullo added. “I’m thinking about (shortstop Jordan) Lawler charging a slow grounder, and a couple of plays by (shortstop Geraldo) Perdomo. We are taking care of our business.”

Numbers supported the need to shut down opponents. The Diamondbacks are tied with the Rangers for the best fielding percentage in the majors and 52 errors committed tops the majors (ahead of the Rangers’ 55 and Cardinals’ 58).

A sense of purpose also permeates throughout the clubhouse. With two weeks to go in the season, and the prospect of post-season play coming into view. A survey around the clubhouse indicates a collective determination is evident.

“It’s never easy, but we have a good team here,” said Ketel Marte, whose two-run homer in the sixth broke open Sunday’s game. “The pitching has been very good and we’re playing good defense. We do everything together, play hard, have fun out there, and do the little things right. When we do the little things right, we play great.”

The race continues … After a day off Monday, the NL wild-card race resumes in Chase Field. That’s when the San Francisco Giants visited the desert for an important two-game set. Lovullo said Zac Gallen will open the series on Tuesday night and Merrill Kelly will go on Wednesday afternoon. For the Giants, right-hander Alex Cobb is expected to start on Tuesday followed by righty Logan Webb on Wednesday.

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