The D-backs have not been fewer than five games out of a playoff spot since Aug. 10. But they have a chance to close the gap against the Padres on Wednesday at Chase Field.
Trailing Cincinnati for the National League's second Wild Card slot by five games, the D-backs might not find a better time to gain ground than over the next two weeks. While Cincinnati plays seven of its next 10 against clubs that appear to be playoff-bound, the D-backs will play 10 straight against sub-.500 teams.
That includes Wednesday's contest against the Padres, who are 2-6 this month away from Petco Park, including losses in each of the first two games of this series.
Robbie Erlin gets the ball for San Diego, making his first start since July 7. The 22-year-old left-hander is rated the Padres' No. 15 prospect by MLB.com, and he showed some flashes of his potential during a stint in the big leagues earlier this year.
He also struggled, as most rookies do. In his most recent start, Erlin surrendered nine earned runs in four innings at Washington.
"In Robbie's first four starts, two have been good, two have been a little rough," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's time for Robbie to make a statement as a Major League pitcher."
Erlin's statement will have to come away from the friendly confines of Petco Park. Erlin made two quality starts at the Padres' home ballpark before allowing a combined 12 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings over his two starts on the following road trip.
Erlin was 8-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 20 starts for Triple-A Tucson this season. There is a good chance he will not be the only young starter the Padres take a look at over the season's final month.
Opposite Erlin will be D-backs left-hander Wade Miley, who has been a bright spot on a struggling pitching staff. Miley (9-8, 3.60 ERA) has won three straight decisions, and the D-backs have won five of his last six starts.
Following a rough start to the season, Miley has been arguably the most reliable pitcher on the Arizona staff since the beginning of June. In the last three months, the sophomore southpaw has posted a 2.66 ERA, and the D-backs have gone 10-5 in games he started.
Offensively for the D-backs, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt added to his RBI total Tuesday night. He has now driven in 104 runs, good enough for tops in the National League.
Padres: Volquez officially released
Erlin takes the place in the rotation previously held by right-hander Edinson Volquez, who was released Tuesday after he had been designated for assignment Saturday.
Volquez posted a 6.01 ERA in 27 starts, and he allowed opposing hitters to notch a .291 average against him.
"It's frustrating I couldn't help him more," pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "And, I'm sure, on his side, it's frustrating he knows he's a lot better than he shows."
D-backs: Veteran Kubel designated
Arizona finally pulled the plug on slumping outfielder Jason Kubel, who was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
Kubel's .220 batting average and .612 OPS are both career lows, and he started just twice for Arizona since Aug. 3.
"It's a hard thing to do," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He has had a great career up to this point. It didn't work out the way we wanted to. He struggled this year, and his playing time was drying up."
• Jesus Guzman is hitting .333 with a homer and two doubles in 15 at-bats against Miley. Yonder Alonso, meanwhile, is hitting .364 with a homer in 11 ABs.
• D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill is batting .389 while hitting safely in 17 of his last 18 games.
• Will Venable's 19 home runs are the most by a Padres outfielder since Mike Cameron launched 21 long balls in 2007.