The postseason hopes of the Arizona Diamondbacks are quickly fading away.
Not only are the Diamondbacks five games behind the National League's second wild-card slot with nine games to go, there are three teams between Arizona and the promised land.
The Diamondbacks' playoff hopes are on life support. They need a miracle.
Enter the San Diego Padres.
Six of Arizona's final nine games of the season are against the Padres, starting with Friday night's opener of a three-game series at Petco Park in San Diego. The regular season ends the following weekend with the Padres playing three games in Arizona.
In between those two series, the Diamondbacks host NL Central leader St. Louis for three games.
So, the Diamondbacks had better sweep the Padres.
The Padres certainly are susceptible. They have been staggering since the All-Star break, going 24-39 to fall from .500. And San Diego just lost three of four games to the playoff-contending Brewers in Milwaukee while scoring five runs on 19 hits after losing three straight slugfests at Coors Field in Colorado.
For those not ready to do the math, that's a 1-6 road trip.
"The goal is to finish strong," Padres manager Andy Green said recently, adding that the Padres will be using a number of lineup combinations over the final nine games. "We want to give everyone an opportunity."
Meanwhile, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo hopes he will have the talented and versatile Ketel Marte available, although those odds seemed to be getting longer on Wednesday when an MRI showed Marte was suffering from lower back inflammation. The Diamondbacks scheduled a CT scan for Thursday's off day heading into the series in San Diego amid thoughts that the All-Star (.329, 36 doubles, 32 homers, 92 RBIs) could be shut down for the remainder of the season.
"I think it's just an accumulation of the pounding and the year he's had," said Lovullo of Marte's woes. "He said his hips and legs have been sore."
Kelly, who is a 30-year-old rookie because he spent three seasons pitching in Korea, will be making his fifth start against the Padres. He is 2-1 with a 5.03 ERA in his first four outings, giving up 11 runs on 21 hits and nine walks with 17 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
However, in his last outing against the Padres on Sept. 3 in Arizona, Kelly allowed no runs on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in seven innings. Kelly has struggled at Petco Park, where he is 1-1 with an 8.22 ERA in two starts -- giving up seven runs on 10 hits and six walks with three strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Lauer has had some mixed results against Arizona during his two major league seasons. Lauer is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP against Arizona in five career starts. But the Diamondbacks have hit .307 against Lauer, who has given up 10 runs (nine earned) on 35 hits but only four walks with 22 strikeouts in 28 1/3 career innings against Arizona.
This season, Lauer is 1-2 against Arizona with a 4.24 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. In 17 innings, he has given up 21 hits but only one walk with 14 strikeouts.
--Field Level Media