With five weeks to go in the regular season, the Arizona Diamondbacks are getting closer to winning their fifth division title.
The NL West-leading Diamondbacks look to build their largest division lead in two months when they wrap up their three-game series against the struggling Florida Marlins, who try to put an end to their fall in the standings.
After losing six of its first nine games this month, Arizona’s lead atop the West was down to a half-game over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 9. The Diamondbacks (68-61) have not allowed the Dodgers to get any closer, though, by winning nine of their last 12 to build a three-game cushion. Arizona, which also won the West last season, has not had a four-game lead since June 24.
The Diamondbacks lost Friday’s series opener to the Marlins 5-4, but bounced back for a 7-1 victory on Saturday night. Before the game, Arizona saw the Dodgers lose at Philadelphia Saturday afternoon.
“We saw that they lost,” Diamondbacks first baseman Chad Tracy said. “It makes you want this thing even more.”
While Arizona is trying to open a comfortable lead in the division, the Marlins (66-64) are hoping to stay in contention.
Florida was in second place in the NL East, 1 1/2 games out of first on Aug. 7, but has dropped 10 of 15 since to drop a season-worst six games behind the division-leading New York Mets.
The Marlins, who had only three hits and no walks on Saturday, plated their only run on a homer by Hanley Ramirez, his 28th of the season.
Young, who has 18 homers on the season, has three in his last eight games after hitting only three in his previous 65. Montero, meanwhile, is batting .481 (13-for-27) with four homers, four doubles, eight RBIs and nine runs in his last eight games.
Arizona’s Doug Davis (5-7, 4.68 ERA) takes the hill Sunday hoping to lead the Diamondbacks to a fourth straight series victory,
Davis allowed two runs and seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 7-6 win over San Diego on Tuesday for his first victory since July 29. The Diamondbacks have won only two of Davis’ last nine starts—both against the Padres—and the left-hander has a 7.46 ERA in those seven losses.
Davis now tries to win consecutive starts for the first time since April 8 and May 23. Those outings were separated with a stint on the disabled list after undergoing thyroid surgery.
This will be Davis’ first outing of the year against the Marlins after recording a 5.25 ERA in winning both starts against them last season.
Florida counters with Ricky Nolasco (12-7, 3.67), who looks to build off the best start of his career.
Nolasco pitched a two-hitter in Tuesday’s 6-0 win over San Francisco to end Florida’s major league-record of 301 consecutive games without a complete game. The right-hander retired 21 straight after a first-inning single, walked one and struck out 11.
“It was a lot of fun knowing all my pitches were going for strikes,” Nolasco said. “It’s the best feeling when you’re rolling along like that.”
Nolasco is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his last five starts after having a 6.75 ERA in losing first two outings after the All-Star break.
He has also had plenty of success against the Diamondbacks in his career, posting a 2.01 ERA in winning all three of his starts against them. In two starts versus Arizona this season, Nolasco has yielded two runs while striking out 16 in 15 innings.