Lovullo intent on D-backs avoiding distractions

September 26th, 2017

PHOENIX -- For all the success Torey Lovullo had in Boston from 2013-16, he is intent on avoiding the type of collapse that the Red Sox suffered at the end of last season with the D-backs in 2017.

Arizona clinched the top National League Wild Card spot on Sunday and partied like it was 1999, the first time the franchise made the postseason. But the D-backs don't want to go on cruise control before the Wild Card Game on Oct. 4 at Chase Field.

To that end, Lovullo rested all of his regulars on Monday night against the Giants. But just for one night.

"This is going to be the one unique day out of the next five," Lovullo said. "My thought is to continue to play the type of baseball we've been playing all year, not to take days off or ho-hum our way through the next several games. No team is good enough to just turn that switch on and play such an important game next week.

"With the winning [Sunday], I thought those guys deserved the day off. But tomorrow, we're going to crank it way back up."

Mike Hazen left Boston and took the job as D-backs general manager last fall after the Red Sox lost five of their last six regular-season games and were swept by the Indians in the American League Division Series. Lovullo, the bench coach under Red Sox manager John Farrell, followed Hazen to the desert.

"I have a very good memory of what happened," Lovullo said. "The Red Sox walked into a very hot team in the Cleveland Indians. It was not a team that was overlooked. The Red Sox prepared in the best way they absolutely could. There was a clinching effect, and the Red Sox were not playing their best baseball down the stretch."

The unfortunate turnaround followed Boston winning 11 in a row. The Red Sox went from a one-game lead in the AL East on Sept. 14 to clinching at Yankee Stadium with four games to go.

There were mitigating circumstances, though, that don't apply to the current D-backs club.

David Ortiz was in the final days of his season-long retirement swing and was honored by the Yankees on Sept. 29 before his final game in the Bronx. The Red Sox went home to Fenway Park for the conclusion of the Ortiz tour and just happened to be playing the Blue Jays, who were vying for a slot in the AL Wild Card Game.

"We all learn from our experiences, and that's something I remember very, very well," Lovullo said. "The Red Sox had a chance to eliminate the Blue Jays, and the Blue Jays started playing very good baseball. And it didn't happen."

The Red Sox lost Big Papi's finale at Yankee Stadium and then defeated the Blue Jays at Fenway on Sept. 30. During that game, Ortiz hit his 541st and final home run and knocked in the last three runs of his 20-year career.

Ortiz was 1-for-6 in the Red Sox's last two regular-season games, both losses to Toronto. After the final Big Papi ceremony on the final day, the Blue Jays clinched the top Wild Card berth.

"The David Ortiz celebration was well-deserved," Lovullo recalled. "It was a tremendous honor for him and I was glad to be a part of it, but it was a big distraction. It was probably a bigger distraction on David, and I think he was exhausted from it."

To his point, the Red Sox seemed ready for the ALDS, which opened on Oct. 6 in Cleveland with the starting pitching lined up like this: Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner , and .

Ortiz went 1-for-9 with an RBI in the series and the Red Sox's season was over without winning a postseason game. It was a disappointing end to a 93-win season.

This year, the 90-win D-backs have been under the radar for most of the regular season. Outside of their fans and the NL West, the club just hasn't gotten much national exposure.

It's a different market and a different level of intensity for baseball, although excited fans took one hour to scoop up the remaining Wild Card Game tickets on Monday morning. Still, Lovullo said he and the front office have been very good this year at diminishing distractions and all the outside noise.

"That's why we're going to keep everything the same," Lovullo said. "We're going to fight hard to maintain exactly what we've done all year long, and we're going to play [the rest] of our baseball games the best way we know how."