The Arizona Diamondbacks’ spot in the postseason - and specifically as the wild-card leader in the National League - has been secure for a while, but they can’t be overly pleased with the way the regular season is ending. The Diamondbacks will attempt to avoid yet another one-run loss and a sweep Sunday when they finish their three-game interleague series against the host Kansas City Royals.
Arizona learned Saturday it will host NL West-rival Colorado in the wild-card game on Wednesday for the right to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series hours before dropping a 4-3 decision to the Royals, who also held on for a 2-1 victory in the series opener. More than avoiding their first sweep since Aug. 18-20 at Minnesota, the Diamondbacks would like nothing more than to get Paul Goldschmidt going at the plate after the five-time All-Star batted .175 in September. After Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield delivered a tiebreaking solo shot on Friday, teammate Jorge Bonifacio sent his club to its fourth win in five contests with a go-ahead, three-run blast in the sixth inning of Saturday’s triumph. The Royals (80-81) will miss their second straight postseason after back-to-back trips to the World Series, but they can record their fifth consecutive non-losing season - their longest such streak since a six-year run from 1975-80 - if they complete the sweep.
TV: 3:15 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona, FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Diamondbacks LH Robbie Ray (15-4, 2.86 ERA) vs. Royals LH Jason Vargas (18-10, 3.94)
Ray extended his winning streak to six games with a victory over San Francisco on Tuesday, giving up two unearned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five over as many innings. Although the 2017 All-Star has struggled in his last two turns (seven runs - five earned - in 9 1/3 frames), he finished 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five September outings. Ray will face the Royals for the first time in his career as he attempts to improve upon his 3-6 record and 4.75 ERA in 12 interleague starts.
Vargas continued to build upon his career year as he won for the fourth time in as many starts Tuesday against Detroit, permitting one run on five hits and a walk across six innings. The Long Beach State product has posted a 2.02 ERA and allowed only one homer during his recent surge, obliterating his previous personal-best 14-win campaign with Seattle in 2012. Vargas hasn’t squared off against Arizona since that season and is 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 24 career interleague starts.
1. Merrifield needs one more homer to become only the fourth second baseman in American League history with 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 30 stolen bases in a season.
2. Arizona OF J.D. Martinez failed to homer Saturday, leaving him tied with Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner for the most by a NL player in September (16).
3. Vargas is trying to become the first pitcher to win at least 19 games for Kansas City since Bret Saberhagen won 23 during his second and final Cy Young campaign in 1989.
PREDICTION: Diamondbacks 3, Royals 2