Barely alive in playoff chase, D-backs face Padres

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The Arizona Diamondbacks still have the remotest of chances. The San Diego Padres have a new manager looking for his first win.

That’s the storyline heading into Sunday afternoon as the visiting Diamondbacks try to sweep a Padres team that appears to have thrown in the towel on the season.

The Padres’ downward spiral continued with Saturday’s firing of manager Andy Green and replacing him for the final eight games of the season with hisbench coach, former major league catcher Rod Barajas.

“We’re a better club than we’ve shown the second half of the season,” said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. “We’re going to be crystal clear what we expect from players moving forward. What we watched nightly recently, guys are capable of playing better.

“The way we’ve finished will leave a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. Big picture-wise, we think we’re in a good place. It’s an attractive job. It is a system that is very talented. We don’t want to be in this position again.”

That position includes a 24-41 record since going into the All-Star break at 45-45. Plus, they have played some of their worst baseball of late, losing eight of their past nine games. All the Padres have to show for their last six games is seven runs on 27 hits.

“It’s just about getting back to who we are and what we’re about,” said Barajas. “I think what we’ve seen over the last two or three weeks isn’t this club, isn’t the Padres. It’s about getting back to playing baseball, having fun, laughing in the clubhouse and dugout. We haven’t been doing a whole lot of that.”

The next opportunity comes Sunday when right-hander Garrett Richards (0-1, 7.36 ERA) makes his second start for the Padres since returning to the major leagues just 14 months after Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Left-hander Robbie Ray (12-8, 4.20 ERA) will start for the Diamondbacks, who remain five games behind the second National League wild-card slot despite posting three straight wins and going 5-2 over the last seven games.

The problems? The season is down to seven games. And the Diamondbacks would have to pass three teams to get to a wild card.

“As long as that small e (the “eliminated” designation) doesn’t show up next to our name, the chance is there,” said Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. “We just have to keep winning.

The Diamondbacks have been winning ever since they lost seven straight just when they had pulled to within 1 1/2 games of that coveted second wild card.

The 31-year-old Richards made his Padres debut and his season debut on Sept. 16 at Milwaukee. He allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.

Sunday will be his third career start against Arizona. He is 2-0 against the Diamondbacks with a 0.00 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a .160 opponents’ batting average — giving up one unearned run on eight hits and seven walks with nine strikeouts in 15 innings.

Ray will be making his second start against the Padres this season. He gave up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on April 3 and took the loss at Petco Park.

This will be Ray’s 15th career start against the Padres and his eighth at Petco Park. He is 5-5 lifetime against the Padres with a 3.97 ERA, a 1.234 WHIP and a .197 opponents’ batting average. He has 103 strikeouts in 77 innings against the Padres.

Ray is 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA in seven starts at Petco Park.

–Field Level Media

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