Friday night saw the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Houston Astros 3-1, giving them their second straight road victory and leaving them five games out of the NL West lead with 43 games left to play. It seems like a pretty large hill to climb, and the reality of things is that the Diamondbacks are going to have to win a lot of games in order to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
The question then, is just how well Arizona is going to have to do down the stretch in order to pass both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. According to the service Coolstandings, often cited by ESPN for their playoff odds and other statistical information, the Diamondbacks currently have a 16% chance of making the playoffs, while the Dodgers and Giants’ chances are both hovering around 50%. Arizona’s odds of winning the wild card are significantly lower, hanging around 2% with their one game above .500 mark not really gaining them any traction on the backdoor into the playoffs.
The service has also said that in order for a team to have a realistic shot at making the postseason in the National League, they need to win 90 games. In the Diamondbacks’ case, they would have to go 30-13 in their remaining 43 games in order to reach that plateau. The fact of the matter is that they are going to have to win a significant chunk of their games, and they haven’t really gone on any type of run like that this season, so it would take a real leap of faith in order to think that they have a realistic chance at doing this crazy thing.
The question, then, is can they actually do it?
To their benefit, the Diamondbacks have several scheduling advantages to work with. For starters, they have 15 games out of their 31 remaining contests against the Dodgers and the Giants, including a stretch where they play 12 of 15 games against the teams they are chasing. This number also includes a seven game road trip through San Francisco and Los Angeles, so if they can actually win five of those seven, they are going to be able to make up some significant ground in a short amount of time.
In addition to being able to make progress of their own accord, the Diamondbacks also have some really easy games left on their schedule. Including this series against the Astros, the worst team in baseball by a sizable margin, they also have THREE series remaining against the San Diego Padres. They also have seven games left against the Colorado Rockies, the second worst team in baseball, and as if all of that isn’t enough to inject the team with hope, there are also three more games against the Chicago Cubs, whom the Diamondbacks swept in a series at Chase Field back in June.
All of those things are definitely positives for the Diamondbacks, but unfortunately for them, the Giants are also the beneficiaries of some serious scheduling advantages. They have three more series against the Dodgers, which ends up being a wash for the Diamondbacks in terms of keeping up with the teams they are chasing. In addition, the Giants also play Colorado twice, a road series against the lowly Cubs, and one against the same Astros that the Diamondbacks are hoping to clobber this weekend. About the only difficult series the Giants have besides the ones against Arizona and Los Angeles is a four gamer against the Atlanta Braves.
As for the Dodgers, their road is a lot more difficult. They have not only the series against the Giants and Diamondbacks, but also tough ones against the St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, and Cincinnati Reds over a grueling 10 game stretch. Yes, they have two series apiece left with the Rockies and Padres to soften the blow of those tough ones, but they are going to have to play extremely well not only to keep pace with the Giants, but also to stave off the Diamondbacks.
Judging by the schedule alone, the Diamondbacks do have a shot at catching both of those teams, but the other question is whether or not their roster can muster the effort necessary to play well enough to win 30 of their remaining 43 games. To be honest, they likely don’t have the resources to mount such a run. Their pitching staff has been weak for the most part, with Ian Kennedy giving up home runs like they are going out of style and no pitcher but Wade Miley really nailing down a reliable option every fifth day to get the team a win. Trevor Cahill has had a disappointing season, and Patrick Corbin hasn’t yet hit his stride in the big leagues. Factor all of that in with Daniel Hudson’s injury, and you are looking at a rotation that simply can’t hold a candle to the one that led the team to an NL West title last year.
As for the team’s offense, it could potentially carry the day. Aaron Hill has shown a tendency of getting hot at various times this season, and the Diamondbacks have also been hugely benefitting from Jason Kubel and his bat in the third spot in the lineup. Add that in with Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero and their ability to hit for power and average, and you do have a lineup that can make up for shoddy pitching. The question, then, is whether they can all get hot at the same time, and perhaps spark Justin Upton to raise his game back to the MVP-levels of a year ago.
Unfortunately for Arizona, these are all big if’s indeed, and it just doesn’t feel like the dominos are capable of falling into place in order for them to win a second straight divisional title.