The Arizona Diamondbacks’ latest winning streak has them back in the thick of the NL West race.
Arizona will try to win its seventh straight Friday when it opens a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field.
The Diamondbacks wrapped up a four-game sweep of Florida with Thursday’s 7-4 victory. The six-game run is their fourth of the season of at least that many games and leaves them two wins shy of their longest win streak this year.
Arizona moved into second place in the West, 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Diamondbacks were in first place in the division after games of June 27, but dropped 14 of their next 19.
“I really believe this is a playoff team,” outfielder Eric Byrnes said. “Every day there’s more and more guys in here that are starting to believe that.”
Byrnes helped boost that belief with a walk-off three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday. Starting pitcher Micah Owings and pinch-hitter Conor Jackson added two-run shots in the game.
“I think those guys are taking the field believing we’re going to win every night,” Byrnes said, “and when you have that feeling, it’s a pretty good atmosphere. Not too long ago, a week ago, we weren’t playing good baseball.”
That’s the situation the Braves are in. Atlanta has dropped seven of its last 11 and is four games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
The Braves were swept by the Diamondbacks in a four-game series at Turner Field from June 1-4 last season in the most recent meeting between the teams. Atlanta has lost two of three games in each of its last two series in Arizona.
Atlanta split a four-game set in San Francisco just before this series, but managed only three runs in the final two games—both losses. Third baseman Chipper Jones, the NL leader with a .344 average, did not start Thursday’s 4-2 defeat after tweaking his groin Wednesday but did come on as a pinch hitter.
Jones said there was a chance he could return to the lineup Friday.
“It’s not serious,” he told the Braves’ official Web site. “I just don’t want it to get any worse.”
The Braves will hand the ball to rookie Jo-Jo Reyes (0-1, 6.14 ERA), who’s looking for his first career win in his fourth start. He gave up one run in 5 1-3 innings Sunday, but the Braves lost 7-2 to St. Louis in 10 innings.
Still, the outing was an encouraging one for Reyes, who had allowed nine runs in 9 1-3 innings in his first two starts against San Diego and Cincinnati. The strong start Sunday lowered his ERA from 8.68.
Arizona will counter with Yusmeiro Petit (2-2, 2.54), who will make his sixth start of the season and fifth in place of the injured Randy Johnson. Petit, who appeared in 15 games last season with Florida, has made each of his starts this season on the road and will be pitching for the first time ever in Arizona.
He earned a 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, throwing six innings before leaving with a bruised left hand from knocking down a line drive in the third.
“He’s a young Livan Hernandez. You can put it that way,” catcher Chris Snyder said. “He’s going to locate, mix his pitches. He’s going to throw any pitch at any time and keep guys off balance. More times than not you’re not going to get a good pitch to hit.”
Petit threw three scoreless innings of relief May 16 of last season in his only previous outing against the Braves. He didn’t get the decision in Florida’s 6-4 road loss.