Night games during the week typically begin with first pitch occurring at 6:40 PM Arizona time. Through the years this starting time has been continually tweaked to find a time that works for the team and the fans. During the early years the games would start at 7:05 PM. This meant that the game would normally end around 10:30 PM and we would get home close to 11.
While that time works for adults, it makes for a late night for families with school age children. The 6:40 PM start time means that we can usually make it home by ten so the kids aren’t up too late and hence are not as tired the next day for school.
Tonight’s game has been changed from the normal 6:40 PM to 7:10 PM. The reason for this change is that the game will be the featured late game and be nationally televised on ESPN. Considering the Arizona Diamondbacks are 66-86 and 25.5 games out of first place it would seem odd that they would be featured on a nationally televised game.
It has nothing to do with the Diamondbacks but instead has to do with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are still very much in the playoff picture. While they are in third place in the National League West and 10 games behind the Dodgers, they are in second place in the wild card trailing only the Colorado Rockies.
In a strange scheduling quirk, the Diamondbacks find themselves as a force to be dealt with the final two weeks of the season. The schedule has them facing the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants twice (one series at home and one away), and ending the season against the Chicago Cubs. At the present time all of these teams are battling for the National League wild card.
So while the Diamondbacks have been out of the playoff picture since early May, they will help determine who will move on to October baseball and who will head home. With such a young team it will be interesting how the players deal with being in this kind of situation. Will they tense up and roll over or will they embrace the challenge and be motivated to play better ball because of their role in the season.
So far with the series against the Rockies and thus far in the Giants series it would appear the Diamondbacks players are playing tight and letting the pressure and the opponent dictate the outcome. This does not bode well for the Diamondbacks.
If general manager Josh Byrnes is able to find the pieces necessary for the Diamondbacks to be competitive next year, you don’t want to have to worry about whether the existing players can play under pressure. Manager AJ Hinch and his coaching staff have their work cut out for them as they attempt to teach these players how to deal with the pressure that comes with meaningful September baseball. Hopefully the players will gain an understanding and use this experience to propel them next year to being relevant not as a spoiler but as a team making a run to the post season. I won’t mind late games next year if it means the Diamondbacks are about to clinch a playoff spot.