Diamondbacks ready to play spoiler against Padres


Credit: Joe Rondone / USA TODAY NETWORK

Suddenly, there’s a wildcard in the National League wildcard race.

And while the Arizona Diamondbacks are probably too far to earn a wildcard spot this season, they are definitely influencing the playoff picture.

The Diamondbacks started last week taking two of the Phillies’ three at home to push Philadelphia behind the Padres into the third and final wildcard spot in the National League.

Then Arizona took three of Milwaukee’s four to keep the Brewers from closing in on the Phillies and Padres for that final playoff spot.

Now the Diamondbacks are in San Diego for three games, starting Monday. Arizona enters the series 8½ games below the wildcard cut-off line. But if they swept the Padres, that number would drop.

“We have goals and things we want to accomplish before the end of this season,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said recently. “I love the fact that we play meaningful games at the end of the season. Who knows, they might be meaningful for us.

The Diamondbacks have won eight of their last 10 games. The Padres are coming off two straight losses at Dodger Stadium to complete a 6-3 road trip.

“Overall, it’s been a positive trip,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “But it could have been much better.”

On paper, the Padres’ schedule should boost San Diego’s playoff hopes. Eighteen of the Padres’ last 27 games have been at home. But a third of those home games are against the Dodgers (who are 10-3 against the Padres this season), and the Padres will have three each against the NL Central-leading Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox. who challenge the American League.

And then there’s this: the Padres are just 35-28 at home this season. And while they’re averaging 4.97 points per game on the road, they’re only scoring 3.83 points per game at home.

“It’s time to step up at home,” said Melvin, who doesn’t buy the excuse that Petco Park is somehow in his team’s head offensively. “Both teams play on the same pitch.

The Padres are 9-3 against the Diamondbacks so far, with one home-and-away set remaining.

Monday’s opener will feature right-hander Ryne Nelson making his major league debut for the D-backs, along with left-hander Blake Snell (6-7, 3.87 ERA) for the Padres.

Nelson, 24, was Arizona’s second-round pick in the 2019 draft. He was 10-5 with a 5.43 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Reno. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Nelson’s 128 strikeouts in 136 innings and winning record are more notable than the ERA.

Snell hasn’t faced a Diamondbacks hitter this season. He’s 3-0 career record against Arizona with a 0.61 ERA, giving up two runs on 13 hits and nine walks with 46 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings.

Snell is 6-2 in his last 10 starts, and the Padres are 6-4. He’s pitched six shutout innings in two or four of his last starts and has allowed a run or less in eight of his last 11 starts.

–Field level media

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