(Photo credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)
The Arizona Diamondbacks won three of four against the Cubs in Chicago last week, and they need more success this weekend against the same foe.
The series-ending setback to Chicago began a stretch of four losses in five games for the Diamondbacks. The rematch begins Friday night with the opener of a three-game set in Phoenix.
The Diamondbacks (76-72) are 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs (78-69) for the second wild-card spot in the National League. Arizona is one of three teams in a virtual tie for third -- along with the San Francisco Giants (75-71) and the Cincinnati Reds (76-72) -- with the Miami Marlins (75-72) just a half-game behind.
The Diamondbacks have little margin for error with only 14 games remaining.
Arizona lost the final three contests of a four-game set against the host New York Mets this week by a cumulative 25-6, ending with an 11-1 pounding on Thursday.
"We got to regroup the troops -- we're coming home," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said, referencing a five-game homestand that concludes with two games against the Giants. "There's very little wiggle room, and I want us to be ready to go (Friday), which I think we will."
The Diamondbacks won 19 of 29 games prior to the three straight losses against the Mets.
Arizona center fielder Alek Thomas is aware his club needs to end the skid in quick fashion.
"It's really just about winning at this point," Thomas said. "We just need to put at-bats together to put ourselves in a good position to win the ballgames. ... Hopefully when we get back home, we can get a fresh new start and begin to play the way we're supposed to."
Chicago also is in a rut with two straight losses and five defeats in the past seven. The Cubs have fallen 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers (82-64) in the NL Central.
After the troublesome series against Arizona, the Cubs dropped two of three road games to the lowly Colorado Rockies.
"Some things didn't show up that we're normally better at this series," Chicago manager David Ross said. "We didn't come out of here with the series we wanted, but there's a lot of games left, and we've got to still push hard forward."
The Cubs were a sizzling 33-14 over a 47-game stretch prior to the hardships against Arizona and Colorado.
Second baseman Nico Hoerner went 4-for-5 with a steal in the Cubs' 7-3 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday. Hoerner has 40 steals, the first Chicago player to reach that amount since Juan Pierre stole 58 in 2006.
"If you had told me I'd steal 40 bases in the big leagues a couple years ago, I'd be pretty fired up," Hoerner said. "I'm lucky to be a part of a team and a structure that's given me a lot of opportunity with that."
Left-hander Justin Steele (16-3, 2.49 ERA) will take the mound for the Cubs on Friday night.
Steele, one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young Award, is 7-0 with a 2.48 ERA over his past 10 starts.
He took a no-decision against the Diamondbacks on Saturday when he gave up one run and six hits in seven innings. The 28-year-old has a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings over three career no-decisions against Arizona.
Ketel Marte and Christian Walker are each 1-for-8 against Steele.
Arizona rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt (1-8, 6.25 ERA) will attempt to bounce back on Friday after he served up three homers in a no-decision against the Cubs on Sunday. He gave up four runs and seven hits over six innings.
Dansby Swanson went 3-for-3 with a homer and an RBI single against Pfaadt. Cody Bellinger and Christopher Morel also hit solo shots.
Pfaadt's lone major league win in 16 outings came on Aug. 25 against the Reds.
--Field Level Media