D-backs sweep their way past Cubs in Wild Card race

September 18th, 2023

PHOENIX -- When the D-backs left New York late last Thursday night, they were a team reeling.

After winning the opener against the Mets, they dropped the next three. They were suddenly on the outside looking in when it came to the No. 3 NL Wild Card spot, with their chances of making the postseason down to 30.7 percent, per Fangraphs.

The Cubs were coming to town, and they had the top end of their rotation set to take on the back end of Arizona’s. It felt like the D-backs were in trouble.

Three days later, the D-backs completed a three-game sweep with a 6-2 win at Chase Field on Sunday night. If the season ended today, not only would Arizona make the playoffs; it has leapfrogged the Cubs, and has a hold on the No. 2 Wild Card spot.

  • Games remaining (11): vs. SF (2), at NYY (3), at CWS (3), vs. HOU (3)
  • Standings update: The D-backs (79-72) moved into the No. 2 Wild Card spot. They hold a half-game lead over the Cubs (78-72) and Marlins (78-72). Arizona is one game ahead of the Reds (78-73) and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Giants (76-74). The D-backs have lost the tiebreaker to the Reds and Marlins, and they have gone 5-6 against San Francisco, with an upcoming two-game set that will determine the tiebreaker. They hold the tiebreaker over the Cubs.

With 11 games left to play and five teams still fighting for the second and third Wild Card spots, the only thing that seems like a good bet at this point is that there are going to be more emotional swings for the D-backs before the year is out.

How they handle them could prove to be a big factor in how things turn out.

Just last Sunday, the D-backs left Wrigley Field riding high after taking three of four from the Cubs. Then they hit a low in New York. Now they’re feeling good, but they have the Giants coming to town on Tuesday for a two-game set.

“It's part of being a professional, knowing your situation and what you need to do to get in [to the postseason],” first baseman Christian Walker said. “But also understanding how quick things can change with these series coming up. Even these next two games against the Giants, we're still out for blood. It's not about doing enough; we're trying to win out. We want to give ourselves a no-doubt chance, and we understand how hard it is and how quickly things change.”

Things changed quickly in the D-backs’ favor because of the way they took it to the Cubs, winning six of seven games against them in 11 days.

“We weren’t very good,” said Cubs manager David Ross. “They were better than we were [in] all aspects of the game. They played better defense, pitched better, timed their hitting and ran the bases better. Just got beat all the way around. Bad road trip --  trying to wash everything off with the off-day tomorrow and get back at it on Tuesday.”

A national TV audience got to see the D-backs on Sunday as they appeared on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball for the first time since 2018. Large crowds filled Chase Field, creating an intense atmosphere.

If it was a test, the D-backs passed it easily.

“I think everybody was walking up there controlling their emotions, taking care of their at-bats,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I think our guys were going pitch-to-pitch on the mound. We’re taking care of our business. Everybody is doing their job, and when you do your job, the team is going to be fine.”