From pretenders to contenders, Arizona Diamondbacks cherishing opportunity to end postseason drought

There’s reason to cheer at Chase Field with the Arizona Diamondbacks (81-72) holding the second wild-card spot in the National League postseason race. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Finally. Valley temperatures are dipping into double digits and the Arizona Diamondbacks are on the verge of playing postseason baseball.

For the first time since 2017, the Diamondbacks could reach the playoffs after posting losing seasons since 2019. Arizona sits in a heated NL wild-card race with nine regular-season games left.

Third baseman Evan Longoria had an inkling the Diamondbacks would reach this level of success when he signed with the team in the offseason. The four-time All-Star previously played for the division-rival San Francisco Giants and had a close look at the development of Arizona’s current roster, which features a mix of young talent and major league veterans.

“I’m happy to have (foreseen) it the way that it did,” Longoria said this week in the Chase Field clubhouse. “I believe that the pieces I saw last year that had been called up late could make for a pretty darn good team.”

One of the players Longoria referenced was rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll, who was called up in August of last season and played 32 games while slashing .260/.330/.500. Carroll’s instant success carried over to this season.

The 23-year old outfielder earned a starting nod in the All-Star Game for the National League and has the potential to win NL Rookie of the Year. He also became the first player in MLB history to hit 25 home runs and steal 50 bases as a rookie.

Carroll hasn’t been a part of a losing team in his short MLB career but understands what making the postseason means for his teammates who have been on the outside looking in during October.

“I kind of felt the frustration,” Carroll said. “It’s a little different for them. They’ve grinded through seasons for 180 days. I don’t think you forget that very quickly.”

Reliever Kevin Ginkel, who has been with the Diamondbacks his entire career, knows all about the grind. Over the last two seasons, Ginkel became manager Torey Lovello’s go-to bullpen arm in tight situations. Ginkel understands what it’s like to lose and is using this playoff race as a learning experience for the young players in the clubhouse.

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“I think for these young guys, I hope they understand and grasp that this is a rare opportunity,” Ginkel said. “There’s only so many times that maybe you go to the postseason.”

It has been an up-and-down season for the Diamondbacks. The club started with a 32-23 record, good for a .581 winning percentage. But the team cooled off in July in a big way, seemingly falling out of playoff contention by the Aug. 1 trade deadline, losing 17 of 20 between July 20-August 11. However, after getting back on track by winning a three-game set against the Padres, Arizona won its next four series. The team exploded in September, winning 13 of 19 as of Thursday.

Closer Paul Sewald, who joined the team at the trade deadline after being dealt from Seattle for infielder Josh Rojas and outfielder Dominic Canzone, has a unique view of his current team coming off ending a 20-year playoff drought for the Mariners. He compared this year’s Diamondbacks to the 2021 Mariners, who barely missed the postseason but rose above expectations.

“[Arizona] wasn’t supposed to win any games, but they are,” Sewald said. “The team is young. They’re not supposed to be good yet. There’s no ‘yet.’ We want to be good right now.”

Sewald added stability to a bullpen that was ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in ERA. While Sewald’s ERA is up this year compared to his season with the Mariners, from 2.93 to 3.78, the Diamondbacks have now converted 43 saves, good for ninth in MLB and fifth in the National League. Sewald converted 12 of those saves, blowing just two opportunities.

As of Thursday, the Diamondbacks are a game and a half up on the Cubs for the second wild-card spot, two and a half back of the Phillies for the first wild-card spot and two games up on the Marlins.

Arizona is playing good baseball down the stretch, coming off back-to-back sweeps of the Cubs and Giants who are fighting for a playoff spot. The Diamondbacks travel to New York and Chicago to play three-game sets against the Yankees and White Sox, then return to Arizona to play the Houston Astros to end the season.

“(The young guys) are coming up here playing with energy and I think it’s rubbing off on a lot of players like myself,” Ginkel said.

Jake Brown jayk brown (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jake Brown expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media studies. Brown has been an audio reporter for Cronkite Sports and has interned for the Sioux Falls Canaries broadcast team.