Improved D-backs reminded where ambitions lie

September 14th, 2022

PHOENIX -- There has been a sense of optimism building around the D-backs over the last couple of months as they've played better baseball and have seen the callups of a number of prospects.

Then, after falling 4-0 on Tuesday night at Chase Field, the D-backs watched the Dodgers celebrate their ninth NL West title in the last 10 years on their home field.

It was a stark reminder that while this season has been a big improvement over last year's 110-loss debacle, they still have a long way to go if they want to catch the Dodgers.

"Not very good," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of the feeling of watching the Dodgers clinch in front of them. "It’s something that we see and we want to do that. We want to do that on our field, you know? Everyone saw what they did; they deserve it. But I want everybody to remember that. It’s going to be our turn. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and that time. We’re going to play some catch up here and we’re going to find a way to get it done. That’s what we’re going to do."

With 21 games left, the D-backs (66-75) are already 14 games better than they were last year.

Yet they are still 32 games behind the Dodgers in the standings and 11 1/2 games out of the final NL Wild Card spot.

"I don't know how many wins it’s going to take in the future, but we’ve got a lot of really good, quality things happening here every single day," Lovullo said. "We just got to put it out there every night in a very consistent way and understand what it takes to win each night -- without looking beyond that night.

"We got good baseball players, and they're growing up. It’s a process, but we’re going to keep pounding away at it and grinding away at it. We’ve got a climb to get there, and we're going to climb as hard and as fast as we possibly can. It’s going to take some work."

After competing for a Wild Card spot in 2019 until the last couple of weeks of the season, the D-backs struggled mightily in ‘20 and ‘21. But over that span, they were putting together a series of quality MLB Draft classes and developing the players already in their system.

The results are beginning to show up at the Major League level. Outfielder Daulton Varsho has been one of the team's best players this year, while rookie outfielders Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy have shown flashes of what they can do.

Add to that top prospect outfielder Corbin Carroll -- who joined the team a couple of weeks ago -- and some players with more experience, like first baseman Christian Walker, second baseman Ketel Marte and third baseman Josh Rojas, and you can start to see the beginnings of a solid everyday group.

Then there's right-hander Zac Gallen, who just had his consecutive scoreless innings streak stopped at 44 1/3 innings, and to anchor a rotation that has also seen strong performances from rookies Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry.

And maybe as this new generation of D-backs players start winning games more consistently, they won't have nights like Tuesday, when the number of Dodgers fans in the stands far exceeded those cheering for the home team.

"I want it to be our fans," Lovullo said. "I wish it was. But we’ve got to earn that. We got to make our fans come out here and enjoy our brand-new baseball. When we start doing it and winning baseball games, they'll come out here. We know they're here."

For now, though, they had to sit and watch the Dodgers’ low-key celebration. A number of D-backs players sat in the dugout and watched it unfold after the final out.

"You see that," said Gallen. "That’s where you want to get one day. That’s where you want to strive to be. It’s one of those things you don’t really want a team to clinch on your field. You want to be the team clinching on your field.”

Someday, perhaps, but first they have to close that gap.