PHOENIX — When the pain of the way it ended finally fades, the Arizona Diamondbacks will realize just how successful their season was.
They literally flipped their record, from 69-93 in 2016 to 93-69 this year, third-best in the National League. Outscored by 138 runs in 2016, Arizona outscored opponents by 153 this year.
The Diamondback earned the league’s No. 1 wild card spot and beat the Colorado Rockies 11-8 in a crazy game before a raucous capacity crowd.
Then everything unraveled against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who swept Arizona in three games in the NL Division Series.
“It was a pretty magical year for a lot of reasons,” first-year manager Torey Lovullo said. “… But we’re still aching a little bit, we’re still a little bit frustrated.”
Still, it was a triumphant debut for Lovullo and new general manager Mike Hazen, both hired from the Boston Red Sox.
“We had a hell of a run,” reliever Archie Bradley said. “This is a great group of men here.”
Zack Greinke, in the second season of a six-year, $206.5 million contract he signed with the previous regime, went 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA but faded down the stretch.
He was yanked in the fourth inning of the wild-card win over the Rockies, replaced by Robbie Ray, thereby ruining plans to start Ray in Game 1 against the Dodgers.
Ray had a breakout season and stands as one of the biggest hopes for the future. The 25-year-old left-hander went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 162 innings.
Paul Goldschmidt, twice a runner-up in the voting, had another MVP-caliber season, hitting .297 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs, but he was just 1-for-11 in the NLDS, the lone hit a two-run homer to open Game 2. With a runner on second, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out Goldschmidt to complete the playoff sweep Monday night.
“I really didn’t play that well the last month,” Goldschmidt said, “and honestly against the Dodgers, too.”
Then there was J.D. Martinez. Acquired from Detroit before the trade deadline, the slugger went on a power-hitting tear, batting .302 with 29 home runs and 64 RBIs in 62 games with Arizona. He hit a National League-record 16 home runs in September, four of them on one memorable night at Dodger Stadium.
The four-homer game came during a franchise-record 13-game winning streak that included a pair of three-game sweeps of the Dodgers.
Here are some things to consider after the Diamondbacks’ 93-win season:
LOVULLO’S TOUCH: From the moment spring training began, the manager cultivated a personal connection with his players. He often used the word “love” to describe the feelings they had for each other, not exactly a word often heard in professional sports.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is the culture we’re building here,” Lovullo said.
WHITHER MARTINEZ?: Martinez is a free agent and he would like to stay with the Diamondbacks.
“This is, obviously, some of the best times I had in my life since playing professional baseball,” he said.
The Diamondbacks, though, are a low-payroll team that probably can’t afford to keep him.
Hazen said the Diamondbacks would stay in touch with Martinez but “it’s too early to say what our offseason priorities will be.”
ARCHIE’S FUTURE: Bradley was the odd man out in the competition for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks rotation and opened the season in the bullpen.
He developed into one of the best relievers in the league (1.73 ERA, 79 strikeouts in 73 innings), blowing opponents away with his electric fastball and baffling them with his knuckle curve.
Outgoing and highly quotable, he emerged as the No. 1 fan favorite. His thick, bushy beard was his trademark. Fans bought fake beards to don whenever he entered the game. His triple in the wild-card game is one of the signature moments of the Diamondbacks’ season.
Just what role Bradley will have next season remains to be seen.
“We want him to have as big an imprint on this team as he can,” Hazen said.
SHORTSTOP QUANDARY: Barring a trade, there will be a crowd at shortstop next spring when Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed return from injuries.
Ketel Marte came up from Triple-A Reno to lay a solid claim to the position and he was outstanding at the plate in the postseason. He tripled twice in the wild-card win and hit .333 (4-for-12) with a home run in the NLDS.
FADING GREINKE: Greinke, who turns 34 this month, was not his dominant self at the end of the regular season or in his two postseason starts.
He made it through five innings Monday night but racked up 105 pitches and walked a season-high five. Lovullo brought Greinke back in the sixth and the right-hander promptly gave up a home run to Austin Barnes.
His big contract almost certainly means he isn’t going anywhere.