Marte making MVP case with torrid Sept. pace
D-backs remain confident in playoff push over final three weeks
CINCINNATI -- For just the second time in their last 13 games, the D-backs came away from a game without a win.
Pinch-hitter Michael Lorenzen’s one-out double down the left-field line in the ninth off of T.J. McFarland scored Jose Peraza from second base as the Reds walked off the D-backs, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
The loss snapped the D-backs’ five-game winning streak, and it was just their second loss in the last 13 games.
It didn’t hurt them in the standings, though, as they remained just 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who lost to the Brewers on Sunday, in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot.
Here are three takeaways from the D-backs’ series with the Reds:
1. Ketel Marte has played his way into the MVP discussion
The race for the NL Most Valuable Player Award has been focused, and rightly so, on the Brewers’ Christian Yelich and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger.
Marte, though, deserves at least a mention with them, though, as he has helped carry a D-backs team into contention over the last week.
Marte’s two-run homer in the fifth Sunday gave the D-backs a 3-2 lead. It was his career-high 32nd homer, as he has collected a hit in seven straight games and has driven in 14 runs over those seven contests, the most in the Majors over that span.
“Ketel did a tremendous job jumping on a pitch and giving us the lead,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “And he’s done it all year long, so it didn’t surprise me whatsoever.”
2. The D-backs are going to be careful with their relievers
Since making his big league debut last month, Kevin Ginkel has become Lovullo’s go-to right-handed setup man.
So, with a 3-2 lead in the eighth, fans no doubt expected Lovullo to use Ginkel. Instead, he went with Jimmie Sherfy, who had pitched out of a big jam to earn the save Saturday night. Sherfy wound up allowing a homer to Eugenio Suarez to tie the game.
Lovullo had decided before the game during a meeting with pitching coach Mike Butcher and bullpen coach Mike Fetters that given Ginkel’s recent workload, he was going to have the day off no matter what.
Ginkel had only pitched twice in the previous five days, but he threw 20 pitches Tuesday and 34 pitches Friday. Add in the fact that he’s pitching into mid-September for the first time in his career, and the D-backs want to make sure that they’re cautious.
Besides, they’re looking at more than just the next few weeks.
“I want people to understand -- the fans to understand -- when a player like that, a youthful player, comes up and plays September baseball, it’s the first extra month of baseball they’ve ever experienced,” Lovullo said. “[And] we’re not looking to play [just] September baseball. We’re looking to play October baseball too, so I’ve got to see the bigger picture more clearly.”
The long view is something Lovullo took Saturday when he used Sherfy to close out the game rather than closer Archie Bradley, who has been worked hard of late. It was another decision made in the pregame calm rather than the fire of the ninth.
“Because when you get caught up in the moment, sometimes the human emotion can help you make bad decisions,” Lovullo said.
3. The schedule sets up favorably for the D-backs
The D-backs open a tough four-game series against the Mets at Citi Field on Monday night, but then their schedule softens.
Arizona returns home to take on the Reds and Marlins for three games each before heading on the road to play a three-game set with the Padres over the next two weeks.
Finally, the D-backs close out the season with a six-game homestand against the Cardinals and Padres.
So, while they would have liked to have won Sunday’s game to complete the sweep, they were still a confident bunch as they left for the Big Apple.
“We’re playing well,” shortstop Nick Ahmed said. “We didn’t play bad today, we just didn’t execute enough offensively. Our pitchers did a great job. We’ll be fine. We’re playing well. We’re not worried about one loss. We’re rolling. We were confident up until that last pitch that we were going to win the game. I think everybody felt that it just didn’t happen today.”