PHOENIX – In September, teams on the bubble tend to be the most cautious. Of course, no team “looks ahead” at the schedule or to an opposing pitcher.
Rather, the laser-sharp focus remains on the immediate task at hand, players and club officials state. In all cases, that would be the game presently played and nearly an inning-by-inning concentration.
At the same time, there is the overriding temptation to watch the scoreboard. That is especially certain in the National League wild-card run. Coming into play on September 7, six teams are within reach of three post-season slots. Among these clubs, the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks play each other seven times over the next 10 days and there could be a certain amount of separation.
“I have one thing on my mind and that is to win every game we possibly can, get to the finish line playing our best baseball, and get to the big dance,” said Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. “That’s all I’m thinking about and that’s all I’m dreaming about. Every player in that (clubhouse) is thinking the same way and it’s a collective thought.”
Among teams with competitive schedules, Arizona has perhaps the most challenging. Of the remaining 22 games, from Sept. 7 for the Diamondbacks, there are those seven against the Cubs, two with San Francisco and three with Houston That represents 12 and the other 10 engage the Mets for four, the Yankees of three and the White Sox for three.
Before those four in Wrigley Field on Sept. 7, Arizona dropped six of their last 10 games, including being swept by the Dodgers in Los Angeles and dropping two of three at home, to AL East division-leading Baltimore.
Still, the environment within the Diamondbacks clubhouse is excitement and anticipation. This is a franchise which last participated in post-season play in 2017, and that was Lovullo’s first season in the desert.
“Everybody knows what’s going on every day and they show the scoreboard as far as the rankings and where everybody is located every single day,” said Arizona pitcher Merrill Kelly. “Everyone in here is definitely aware of this. I think it’s fun and that’s why we are here. That’s why we play this game is to be in the hunt at this time of the year and play meaningful games. It adds a little bit if energy and I’m just happy to see us playing Diamondbacks baseball again.”
If Arizona faces a challenging final weeks of the season, other clubs have an equally demanding schedule.
The Giants have seven games remaining with the NL West-leading Dodgers and two with Arizona. The Reds have perhaps the easiest with only three games remaining with a playoff-bound team. That is three with Minnesota at Great American Ballpark. The Marlins have a series each with the Braves and Phillies and seven against NL Central-leading Milwaukee. The Cubs, also in a battle for first place in the NL Central Division with the Brewers, finish the season with three at Milwaukee.