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D-backs' turnaround in '17 nets playoff berth

MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHOENIX -- The 2017 season was filled with many memorable moments for a D-backs team that returned to the postseason for the first time since '11.

It started on Opening Day, when Chris Owings delivered a walk-off single to deliver a win over the Giants and continued beyond J.D. Martinez's walk-off winner against the Marlins on Sept. 24 that clinched a National League Wild Card berth.

PHOENIX -- The 2017 season was filled with many memorable moments for a D-backs team that returned to the postseason for the first time since '11.

It started on Opening Day, when Chris Owings delivered a walk-off single to deliver a win over the Giants and continued beyond J.D. Martinez's walk-off winner against the Marlins on Sept. 24 that clinched a National League Wild Card berth.

In between, there was a four-homer game by Martinez, a three-homer game by Paul Goldschmidt, Fernando Rodney's 300th career save, a breakout season in relief by Archie Bradley, four All-Star Game representatives and an NL Manager of the Year Award for first-year skipper Torey Lovullo.

Video: MLB Tonight on Lovullo winning NL Manager of the Year

There were many intriguing storylines, but here is a look at five of the most notable ones from 2017:

5. Lucky 13: If there was a time in the second half of the season when the D-backs looked like they might come unraveled, it was during a stretch in August when they dropped 12 of 18, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins.

The D-backs, though, beat the Mets at Citi Field on Aug. 24 in what was the beginning of a club-record 13-game winning streak that all but locked up a postseason berth.

During that stretch, the D-backs swept the Dodgers twice along with the Giants and Rockies to win four consecutive series for the first time in franchise history.

Video: D-backs achieve team-record 13-game winning streak

It was a team effort as the offense averaged 6.2 runs/game while the pitchers had a 1.91 ERA, including a 12-0 record and a 1.56 ERA by the starters.

4. Good as Gold(schmidt): The slugging first baseman once again had a season worth of NL MVP Award consideration, and if not for some September struggles, he might have won the honor. Instead, he finished third.

Goldschmidt finished the year with a .297/.404/.563 slash line with 26 homers and 120 RBIs. He was named to the NL All-Star team for the fifth straight year while capturing his third Silver Slugger and Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. On Sept. 13, he collected the 1,000th hit of his career. There was gold involved in Goldschmidt's spring as well as he won a gold medal with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Video: Goldschmidt places third in NL MVP voting

3. Turning it around: When he took over as general manager following a disappointing 2016 season, Mike Hazen took a look at the roster he inherited and decided that with a few tweaks it could be a contender.

Boy, was he right.

Hazen added pitcher Taijuan Walker, closer Rodney, catchers Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta to go along with infielders Ketel Marte and Daniel Descalso, and the result was a complete turnaround for the D-backs.

Video: NL WC: Rodney retires Arenado to send D-backs to NLDS

Arizona flipped its record from 69-93 to 93-69. The 24-win improvement was the second best in the Majors behind the Twins, who won 26 more games than they did in 2016.

2. Ray emerges: After a so-so start to the season, lefty Robbie Ray made a couple of minor tweaks in May -- quickening his pace while also slowing his mechanics -- and became a co-ace with Zack Greinke.

Ray led the NL in strikeouts per nine innings with 12.11 and was second in opponents' batting average (.199). As a result, he was selected to his first All-Star Game. His shutout of the Pirates on May 30 was the first of his career and came during a 27 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Video: SF@ARI: Ray hurls five solid innings to earn 15th win

Ray suffered a concussion when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Luke Voit on July 29 and was on the disabled list until Aug. 23. In his final eight starts after being activated from the DL, Ray was 6-0 with a 2.28 ERA and won 13 of his final 15 decisions.

1. Steal of a deal: Hazen pulled off the best non-waiver Trade Deadline deal of the year when he sent three Minor Leaguers to the Tigers for Martinez on July 18.

All Martinez did for Arizona was hit .302 with 29 homers and 65 RBIs over 62 games, which included a slugging percentage of .741 and an OPS of 1.107. Only NL MVP Award winner Giancarlo Stanton hit more homers (30) than Martinez did over that time span.

Video: ARI@LAD: Martinez erupts for four HRs, six RBIs

In September, when the D-backs needed him most, he delivered. Martinez hit 16 homers, tying Ralph Kiner (1949) for the most homers in the season's final month by an NL player.

Martinez made history on Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium when he became the 18th player in Major League history to hit four home runs in a game and the first player of the modern era to hit a homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of the same game. It was also the first time in history that a player had more homers than the opposing team had hits with the Dodgers managing just three.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

 

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