The San Diego Padres likely were expecting a little help from the New York Yankees this weekend as a means to bolster their position in the National League wild-card race.
But the mighty Yankees have lost two straight in Milwaukee, meaning it's been up to San Diego to protect its 1 1/2-game leadon the Brewers in the race for the third wild card.
And the Padres have delivered -- routing the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-3 on Friday and then snapping Zac Gallen's eight-decision winning streak with a 2-0 shutout on Saturday.
"The last couple of games we've done a lot of things right," Padres manager Bob Melvin said.
San Diego has a chance for a third win in the four-game series against Arizona on Sunday in Phoenix. Yu Darvish (14-7, 3.16 ERA) starts for the Padres against fellow right-hander Ryne Nelson (1-0, 0.00) of the Diamondbacks.
This is an important game for San Diego. After Sunday, the Padres play 12 of their final 15 games at home. And they have their most reliable starter going in Darvish.
There is, however, one obstacle to clear -- Nelson.
Nelson, 24, had a 10-5 record with a 5.43 ERA in 26 starts for Triple-A Reno of the Pacific Coast League when he was promoted by the Diamondbacks on Sept. 5. He made his debut in the majors against the Padres in San Diego.
The 6-foot-3, 184-pound Nelson responded by shutting out the Padres on four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
Well, Nelson's next start was against the potent Los Angeles Dodgers. And he shut out the Dodgers on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings.
So in his only two starts in the majors against the top two teams in the NL West, Nelson has allowed six hits and two walks with 13 strikeouts in 13 scoreless innings.
Nelson can hit 96-97 mph with his fastball. But in discussing Nelson, who was the Diamondbacks' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2021, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said it's not velocity alone.
"Look, I'm a velocity junkie," Lovullo said after Nelson's second start. "But it's not just the plain ol' velocity. He's using velo the right way. It's the way he's commanding the baseball that stands out to me more than anything else.
"We're proud of him for coming in here and slowing the game down. He's used all his resources. I'm aligned with him. I think this whole team, this whole organization is. He slowed the game down and executed. I talked to him before his first game about the small concerns about the lineup he had to face. He eliminated those concerns."
For the Padres, Darvish has gotten stronger as the season has advanced.
Darvish, 36, is 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA and a .197 opponents' batting average since the All-Star break. And he is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP and a .130 OBA since the start of September.
Darvish is also 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts against the Diamondbacks this season. Overall, he is 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA in 14 career starts versus Arizona.
--Field Level Media