Paul Goldschmidt will bring a 16-game hitting streak into the Diamondbacks’ final series of the season at Chase Field, a three-gamer against a Nationals team that opened the season with expectations of using the weekend as a springboard to the playoffs.
Washington was the consensus favorite to win NL East, and many saw the Nationals making it all the way to the World Series in manager Davey Johnson’s final season after the addition of closer Rafael Soriano, center fielder Denard Span and starter Danny Haren.
But the Nationals struggled through the first half and could not catch up. Washington is 30-15 since Aug. 9, the best record in the majors, but that push was not enough to allow the Nats to catch the Braves in the NL East or the top-heavy trio of the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the NL Central.
As hot as Washington is, Goldschmidt is Nationals squared.
Goldschmidt has hit .406 during his hot streak while increasing his National League lead in home runs (36) and RBIs (124). No one will catch Goldschmidt for the NL RBI lead — he is 17 ahead of Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman — and only Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez (34) has a chance to wrest the home run title.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen seems to have become the national favorite to win the NL MVP, and while he has had a fine year, he will lead his team in neither homers nor RBIs (Alvarez will).
BBWAA awards voting is done before the playoffs begin.
Pitching matchups: Friday — RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02 ERA) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28). Saturday — RHP Danny Haren (9-14, 4.87) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-10, 4.64), Sunday — LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.36) vs. LHP Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63).
Who’s hot for the Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt has seven doubles, five homers, 17 RBIs and two stolen bases in his 16-game hitting streak. … McCarthy is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his last six starts. … Gerardo Parra has 11 hits in his last 30 at-bats, with six of his career-high 43 doubles. … A.J. Pollock has 12 hits in his last 28 at-bats, with four extra-base hits and three RBIs.
Who’s not hot for the Diamondbacks: All-Star Patrick Corbin will enter his last start having given up 27 earned runs in his last 31 innings over six starts. … Didi Gregorius has one hit in his last 10 at-bats, a game-winning triple in San Diego on Tuesday.
Who’s hot for the Nationals: Gio Gonzalez has given up two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts. … Haren has given up four runs in his last three starts, although all he has to show for it is one victory, one loss and one no-decision. … Soriano has not given up a run in his last 11 appearances, with nine saves and a victory in that stretch. … Scott Hairston has three hits in his last five-hit appearances, including a two-run homer on Sept. 10.
Who’s not hot for the Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman has one hit in his last 11 at-bats, although it was an infield single over the mound with two outs in the ninth inning to prevent Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha from a no-hitter on Tuesday. … Wilson Ramos has four hits in his last 25 at-bats.
Notes, quotes, odds and ends: After making a run at a wild-card berth with a seven-game winning streak in early September, the Nationals saw their slim playoff hopes end when they were swept in three games in St. Louis earlier in the week. They scored only four runs in the series. The D-backs are in a similar boat, having scored only seven runs while losing three of four games in San Diego this week. … Martin Prado hit his 14th homer Thursday and is one short of his career high set with the Braves in 2010. Prado already has a career-high 81 RBIs. … Washington shortstop Ian Desmond has his second consecutive 20-20 season — 20 homers, 21 stolen bases — but has only two hits in his last 16 at-bats. Alfonso Soriano is the only other Nationals player with a 20-20 season, and his was a 40-40 in 2006, a contract year. .. Strasburg became the third-fastest pitcher to 500 strikeouts when he recorded six against the Marlins last Sunday. He has pitched 427 1/3 innings in his three seasons. Only the Cubs’ Kerry Wood (404 2/3 innings) and the Mark Prior (421 2/3 innings) reached 500 in fewer innings. … The Nationals honored retiring manager Davey Johnson with an on-field ceremony last Sunday that included a video montage on the Jumbotron with messages from former players. Johnson, 70, managed for 17 seasons, the last three with Washington. … Former D-backs first baseman Adam LaRoche is 5 for 10 with a homer against the D-backs this season. … Aaron Hill is 7 for 22 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBIs against Haren.