D-backs aim to pick up ground in wild-card race vs. Cubs

Field Level Media

September 16, 2023 at 11:54 am.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are feasting on the Chicago Cubs at a good point in the season.

Arizona will aim to defeat Chicago for the fifth time in six attempts over a 10-day span when the clubs meet Saturday night in Phoenix.

The Diamondbacks recorded a 6-4 victory in Friday’s opener of the three-game set. Last week, Arizona took three of four from the Cubs in Chicago.

The latest win left the Diamondbacks (77-72) just 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs (78-70) for the National League’s second wild-card spot. Arizona clinched the tiebreaker edge over Chicago with two meetings left in the seven-game season series.

The Diamondbacks are tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the third and final wild-card berth, although the Reds own the tiebreaker between the clubs. The Miami Marlins are a half-game behind and the San Francisco Giants are a full game back.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Alek Thomas each hit a three-run homer on Friday for Arizona, which built a six-run lead before Chicago rallied in the ninth.

Gurriel’s homer, his 24th of the campaign, came in the first inning off Chicago’s Justin Steele. It was a tone-setter blast in the eyes of Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.

“We talk about stepping up in the most critical parts of the game, in the inning, and having the right at-bat,” Lovullo told reporters. “Even though it was early, it made a statement for me.”

Thomas’ blast came in the sixth inning off Steele. It was his ninth of the season.

Gabriel Moreno had a career-high four hits for Arizona, which halted a three-game losing streak.

Chicago has lost six of its past eight games and stands 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

The Cubs scored all their runs in the ninth inning on three homers — a solo shot by Ian Happ, a two-run blast by Seiya Suzuki and a bases-empty homer by Christopher Morel.

Chicago manager David Ross found the positive light of the late power surge.

“Hopefully, we can carry that into (Saturday),” Ross told reporters. “We didn’t get a lot going early on.”

Happ’s homer was his 18th of the season, but just his first since Sept. 1.

“Obviously (Friday) wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” Happ said. “But a little bit of momentum swinging the bats (in the ninth), and now we just go day to day, and try to win a couple of ballgames here and get back home.”

Suzuki has five homers this month to raise his season total to 18. Morel has four this month and 23 overall.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.71 ERA) will start Saturday’s game for the Cubs.

Hendricks, 33, defeated the Diamondbacks on Sunday when he gave up two runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. Overall, he is 5-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 10 career starts against Arizona.

Jace Peterson (10-for-23) and Tommy Pham (9-for-25) each have two homers off Hendricks, while Evan Longoria is hitless in eight at-bats.

Arizona counters with right-hander Zach Davies (2-5, 6.81), who pitched for the Cubs in 2021.

Davies, 30, has allowed eight runs and 10 hits in seven innings over his past two starts, both no-decisions. He faced the New York Mets on Monday and gave up three runs and four hits in four innings.

Davies is 8-7 with a 3.66 ERA in 20 career starts against Chicago. Cody Bellinger is 7-for-23 with two homers off Davies, while Happ is 1-for-11.

Cubs All-Star right-hander Marcus Stroman pitched two scoreless innings of relief in Friday’s game. It was Stroman’s first appearance since July 31 due to hip and rib injuries.

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