PHOENIX — You think time is running out on the Diamondbacks?
You are not manager Kirk Gibson, nor a student of recent history, for that matter.
Gibson lived one of the strongest recoveries in the last three decades, when the Tigers won the 1987 AL East title despite trailing the Blue Jays by 3 1/2 games entering the final week of the the season.
Even though the Diamondbacks lost a very winnable game to Tim Lincecum and the Giants in a frustrating 1-0 decision at Chase Field on Friday, they remained six games behind the Reds with 29 games to play in the race for the second NL wild-card spot.
The D-backs (68-65) can look to Gibson’s Tigers 26 years ago, or to the 2011 versions of the Cardinals and Rays for encouragement.
After trailing Toronto on Sept. 26, 1987, Detroit was four games from elimination in the division race. It did not matter. The Tigers won five of the last six games and ended the season with a three-game series sweep of the Blue Jays, winning all three games by one run.
On Aug. 31, 2011, St. Louis was 8 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL wild-card race, and Tampa Bay was 7 1/2 games behind New York for the AL wild card. We know what happened.
Both the Rays and Yankees outlasted the Red Sox to make the playoffs that year. The Cardinals, which passed the Braves on the final day of the regular season, beat the Rangers in the World Series.
The Diamondbacks have two five-game winning streaks and three four-gamers this season, and Gibson believes they have another push in them, although losing a game in which the opponent got three hits Friday did not help get the ball rolling.
“We’ve played OK. We’ve hung in there. We’re running out of games, so we obviously have to put a streak together. I don’t feel like we’ve not capable of doing it,” Gibson said.
“As you get closer and you have fewer games, every game is more pressure, and the people that you are chasing are going to feel it as well. Just go back and review races from past years, a lot can happen. Some might say there are not that many games left, yet there are.”
With the return of Miguel Montero, Eric Chavez and Willie Bloomquist this week to go along with the additions of Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill earlier in August, the D-backs are as close to full strength as they have been all season. Relievers J.J. Putz and Matt Reynolds are on the disabled list. Cody Ross’s loss to a season-ending hip injury three weeks ago was a blow, and the D-backs have opted to run more in his absence.
“I feel like we’ve got some of our guys back and our rotation is going to be more consistent,” Gibson said. “If we can get that, and if we can get our bullpen in better shape … most of those guys got two days off, which was much needed. So everything kind of falls in line how you can be more consistent.”
The D-backs had trouble offensively against Lincecum, who kept them off-balance with his changeup and gave up only six hits in six innings before giving way to the Giants’ bullpen.
The Diamondbacks had seven hits but only one good scoring chance, loading the bases with one out in the sixth inning on singles by Paul Goldschmidt and Martin Prado and a walk to Aaron Hill.
Lincecum struck out Montero on three straight changeups and then benefited from the best defensive play of the game, when third baseman Pablo Sandoval dove to reach A. J. Pollock’s hard grounder down the line and threw him out at first.
“We didn’t have good at-bats when we needed to have good at-bats,” Gibson said.
“You want to win those games, you have to have better at-bats.”
The D-backs wasted Randall Delgado’s second-best outing of the season. Delgado (4-5) gave up his only run seven pitches into the game after a leadoff double by Angel Pagan, and overall, he allowed only three hits in seven innings while retiring 10 of the last 11 he faced. He was as close to dominant as he was in his 10-0, three-hit shutout over the Padres on July 26.
“Some things you can’t control,” Delgado said. “We did what we could. We battled.”
Of starts like Delgado’s, Gibson said, “You have to win them.”