The stalking Arizona Diamondbacks may be surprising the rest of the NL playoff contenders, but they are not surprising themselves.
The Diamondbacks have won 11 of 12 and inserted themselves squarely into the National League wild-card race after winning the first two games of a weekend series in Cincinnati. They will send right-hander Mike Leake into familiar territory Sunday while looking for the third sweep in their last four series.
Leake (11-10, 4.71 ERA) spent his first five-plus seasons with the Reds, winning 62 games for the club after it selected him in the first round in 2009. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (9-8, 4.10) is to start for Cincinnati.
"No one in here feels like we are playing outside of ourselves right now," first baseman Christian Walker told reporters recently.
"This is who we can be. This is who we are. It's just exciting to see us go out and execute a few days in a row."
Walker had an RBI groundout, and Ketel Marte continued his torrid hitting with an RBI single in a 2-0 victory Saturday. Rookie left-hander Alex Young struck out a franchise rookie record 12, and the Diamondbacks moved eight games over .500 for the first time this season.
Arizona gained another game on the Chicago Cubs and are 1 1/2 games back for the second wild-card spot as a favorable schedule beckons. The Diamondbacks play only seven of their final 20 games against teams with a winning record and have 12 of their last 15 at home.
Arizona was 5 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the second spot in the NL wild-card race after a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee on Aug. 24, and also trailed the Mets, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Diamondbacks have leap-frogged all three of those teams while gaining on the Cubs.
"It has been a bumpy ride," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said about his team's ups and downs. "I've talked about it being like a dune buggy on a sandy road in the Sahara Desert, even though I've never been in the Sahara Desert. You just are bouncing up and down, and you are trying to do the best thing to eliminate that noise and that rattle. That's what we are doing right now."
Arizona's starting pitchers are 8-0 with a 2.88 ERA in the last 12 games, and with closer Archie Bradley given a day off Saturday, right-hander Jimmie Sherfy struck out Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino with runners on first and second in the ninth inning to get the save.
"We had trouble picking up the ball," said Cincinnati manager David Bell, whose team had three singles and did not get a runner to second base until the ninth inning.
Leake, who last faced the Reds while with St. Louis in 2017, is 0-5 with a 4.75 ERA in eight career starts against them.
DeSclafani is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his last four starts while going a season-high seven innings in each of the last two. He is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four career starts against Arizona, with 25 strikeouts against only two walks in 27 innings.
--Field Level Media