SAN DIEGO -- By his own volition, it's been a frustrating couple of years for D-backs center fielder A.J. Pollock, coping with one injury after another. But right now, he's right where he wants to be.The right-handed hitter smacked three homers and drove in five runs the past two nights
SAN DIEGO -- By his own volition, it's been a frustrating couple of years for D-backs center fielder A.J. Pollock, coping with one injury after another. But right now, he's right where he wants to be.
The right-handed hitter smacked three homers and drove in five runs the past two nights against the Padres at Petco Park, including a three-run shot in the ninth inning on Wednesday that iced a 13-7 win.
Pollock's club has an off-day Thursday, but it is on the verge of making the postseason for the first time since 2011. The D-backs hold a seven-game lead over the Brewers for one of the two National League Wild Card spots, with nine games left in the regular season.
The D-backs' lead over the Rockies for the top NL Wild Card spot is six games. Arizona finishes the season with three-game sets against Miami, San Francisco and Kansas City, beginning Friday night against the Marlins at Chase Field, where it will play the next six games. The D-backs' final three are at Kauffman Stadium.
If the D-backs hold on, they'll host the NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 4, most likely with staff ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Win that one, and it's on to the NL Division Series.
Life is good right now for 29-year-old Pollock and the rest of his teammates.
"I feel like it was a grind for me," said Pollock, who was out May 15-July 3 with a right groin strain. "I feel really good about where I'm at now. We have a chance to make the playoffs here, and I feel like I can help contribute to wins. That's all I can ask for. I'm really appreciative of being on a winning team right now."
There's no point in looking back, but Pollock would love to experience a season again in which he can contribute to the team without getting hurt. In 2014, he was cruising along at the end of May when his right hand was broken courtesy of a Johnny Cueto pitch. After surgery to insert a pin into the displaced bone, Pollock didn't play until September.
Last year, Pollock missed most of Spring Training with a right elbow injury. Near the end of the Cactus League schedule, he shattered the elbow sliding into home plate -- and he already had a screw and a plate in the same elbow. After surgery, Pollock didn't return until the end of August. He played in 12 games, strained his left groin and missed the remainder of the season.
This year, Pollock was batting .299 when he hurt the opposite-side groin running out a ground ball in the 10th inning of a home loss to the Pirates on May 14. The initial prognosis was day to day, but the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months.
"It's part of the game when you get hurt, but it's frustrating," Pollock said. "You start to get into a groove, and injuries derail that."
A terrific defensive center fielder, Pollock hit well after his July return, but he slumped at the plate in August, batting .183 with four homers and 10 RBIs. It could have been the pattern of the long season or adjusting his game to avoid any further injuries.
Pollock's DNA is such that he goes full tilt on every play -- which, as it turns out, can sometimes be a bad thing. D-backs physicians and therapists have worked with him to make some adjustments.
"I've learned a lot about how to keep my body in shape," Pollock said. "The bone stuff, breaking things, is totally out of my control. But the soft-tissue thing, I've learned a lot about that. Hopefully moving forward, I'll have that under control. At least I feel like I will."
As August transitioned into September, there have been rays of sunshine. In Pollock's past nine games, batting wherever manager Torey Lovullo needs him in the lineup on that given day, he has hit .406 (13-for-32) with a .486 on-base percentage, a 1.455 OPS, four homers, 15 RBIs, six doubles and five walks.
Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb are slumping, so Pollock has come on at just the right time.
Lamb hit his first homer since Aug. 20 on Wednesday night, and he is batting .183 for the month and .197 for the second half of the season. Goldschmidt has hit .182 with two homers and eight RBIs since the start of September. The five-time All-Star first baseman hurt his right elbow, missed five consecutive games early in the month and has yet to come around. On the just-completed six-game trip, Goldschmidt was 5-for-23 with a homer and four RBIs.
The D-backs continue to win despite the struggles of two of their top sluggers. Timing is everything, and Pollock is just finding his groove.
"As far as the baseball aspect and performing, yeah, there's a rhythm to a season individually and as a team," Pollock explained. "Individually, when you get hurt, it's a grind to get back into the rhythm. But the good players do. There are no excuses. This game is huge mentally. The good ones can get back on track quickly, and the ones that scuffle in the end drag it on and on."
Now, the quest is to stay healthy. Pollock can't do anything about all the games he missed. He's keeping his eye on the immediate prize: to secure that top NL Wild Card berth and win one for the team on Oct. 4.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.