DIAMONDBACKS (73-67) AT REDS (66-75)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-A, MLB.TV
The Arizona Diamondbacks (-1.5) have won nine of their past 10 games to become the nearest pursuer for the final wild card from the National League.
The Diamondbacks head into the opener of their three-game series in Cincinnati against the Reds on Friday night 3 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs (-1.5) for the second NL wild-card spot.
Arizona was idle on Thursday, while the Philadelphia Phillies (+1.5) lost their second straight game to the Reds, allowing the Diamondbacks to move ahead of the Phillies in pursuit of the Cubs.
“We’re close,” Diamondbacks center fielder/second baseman Ketel Marte told reporters after hitting a grand slam in a 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres (-1.5) on Wednesday, which completed a three-game sweep. “We’re playing good baseball now. I keep saying, we’ve got good talent here. We’ve got a good team.”
The Diamondbacks’ recent run of success includes a two-game sweep in San Francisco over the Giants, who were one game ahead of Arizona heading into that series, but now sit six games back of the Diamondbacks.
Arizona also took three of four from the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers (-1.5) last weekend.
“The energy is live in here,” said Arizona outfielder Jarrod Dyson. “The guys come in expecting to win. We go out there and apply pressure.”
The Reds should be optimistic after winning their final two games against the Phillies to earn a split of the four-game series.
Cincinnati should also benefit from having Eugenio Suarez in the lineup.
Suarez, who leads the Reds with 41 home runs and 88 RBIs, went 3-for-5 with a solo home run on Thursday after not being in the starting lineup for the first three games of the series against the Phillies.
Suarez was out with a left hand contusion that occurred when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals (-1.5).
“Probably didn’t really hurt him to have a couple days off,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s hard to get him out of the lineup. I know he’s really grateful that the injury wasn’t worse.”
Cincinnati plans to send right-hander Tyler Mahle to the mound for the series opener.
Mahle (2-10, 4.72 ERA) is looking for his first win since May 31, having gone 0-5 with a 5.32 ERA in his past nine starts.
He has pitched well enough to end that losing streak, however.
Most recently, he returned from a six-week absence because of a left hamstring strain and allowed two runs, one earned, run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings on Sunday in St. Louis. He left with a 3-1 lead, but the bullpen gave up single runs in each of the last three innings and the Cardinals won 4-3.
Mahle said after that game that pitching coach Derek Johnson “was like, ‘Go out and do what you do,’ That’s exactly what me and (catcher Tucker Barnhart) went out and tried to do. Pitch like I always pitch.”
Mahle has never faced Arizona in his major league career.
Arizona is expected to send left-hander Robbie Ray to the mound for his 29th start of the season, which would be the second-most in his six-year career.
Ray (12-7, 3.97 ERA) went 3-0 in August with a 4.30 ERA as the Diamondbacks averaged 7.8 runs in his five starts.
He most recently allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings on Saturday against the Dodgers, earning the win in the 6-5 victory.
–Field Level Media