D-backs soak in atmosphere, despite loss

Spoiler role keeps club motivated as disappointing season winds down

September 25th, 2021

PHOENIX -- The D-backs could tell right when they took the field on Friday night to face the Dodgers that there were more people than usual in the stands and a different type of energy inside Chase Field.

"You come into the stadium today, it's full of fans," manager Torey Lovullo said. "I wish they were ours. They're not, [but] we've got to earn our fans, we know that. But it was a charged atmosphere tonight."

The crowd, which was announced at 19,001, was decidedly pro-Dodgers and they were into the game -- which the D-backs lost 4-2 -- from the first pitch.

That's because this three-game series is of the utmost importance for the Dodgers, who trail the Giants by one game in the National League West standings. Winning the division is paramount, because the division champion gets to avoid playing in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

The D-backs figure to have a significant say in the race as they still have two more games at home against the Dodgers before taking to the road for a three-game set against the Giants.

"We have a chance to impact how the postseason kind of lays out," said D-backs veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun, who hit a solo homer in the second inning. "And so we want to go out and play some good baseball against these guys and see what we can do to play a little bit of spoiler. These guys are definitely fighting to miss that play-in game, the Wild Card, so it's going to be a fun next week, for sure."

As the D-backs have fallen out of contention -- their biggest battle now, with 105 losses, is trying to avoid the franchise record of 111 -- their roster has gotten younger and younger. Games in an atmosphere like Friday's and what they will almost certainly get next week in San Francisco, are a good learning experience.

"These games are huge, the next five for sure," Calhoun said. "So it's definitely good for guys to be in this position and get these at-bats and get these games, because these are playoff-like atmosphere games for sure."

Friday, young pitchers Humberto Castellanos, Luis Frías, Sean Poppen and Noé Ramirez got a chance to pitch in that type of situation, with some having better results than others, but all getting a chance to experience it.

"It's Castellanos, it's Frías, it's Poppen, getting into this environment and working extremely hard to have success," Lovullo said. "I'm not saying that's what we've gotten to, but we're just trying to have guys get grounded here and say they're big leaguers. We want them to excel and understand what it takes to execute at a very high level and get the job done and win baseball games."