Of all the places I’ve recapped baseball games, this one has to be among the most unique. Well before the playoffs, Mrs. SnakePit arranged a trip to visit the SnakePitette at her home in Greenville, South Carolina - the home town of Shoeless Joe Jackson. You might think I’d have learned my lesson, having missed attending the 2017 wild-card game at Chase Field in person, because of a similarly pre-arranged trip to Las Vegas. But you pick your battles where you can. I did manage to talk Mrs. S out of going during World Series week, so this was a compromise.
Which is how we found ourselves sitting in the back garden of a house in Greenville, SC, with an open fire going, and the television brought outside courtesy of SEVERAL extension cords. It was certainly a memorable occasion, between that and the SnakePitette’s carne asada tacos, before the first pitch had even been thrown. It then got better, the Diamondbacks putting up another crooked number quickly, with a three-run first. If you were expecting another blowout though, you would be disappointed. This one was a much tougher grind than Friday; it felt like the Dodgers had the tying run at the plate or on base every inning. But the D-backs prevailed and return to Arizona with a 2-0 lead, on the verge of reaching the NLCS.
I mentioned in the Gameday Thread about the importance of getting off to a good start, and the D-backs offense did just that, not giving the Dodgers any room to breathe. Corbin Carroll started off with a walk, and Ketel Marte then dropped down a picture-perfect bunt single. Tommy Pham dropped a single into shallow left field, and Arizona had the bases loaded before an out had been recorded. Christian Walker blasted one to just shy of the wall in center, but James Outman was able to haul in the pitch, though both the runners on second and third advanced. Pham then was able to steal second without a throw, and that mattered as Gabriel Moreno hit what might have been an inning ending double-play without the steal, instead becoming an RBI ground-out. Lourdes Gurriel then singled Pham home from second, and Arizona had a 3-0 lead, before Zac Gallen took the mound.
The other key component though, was Gallen keeping the Dodgers off the board in their half of the inning. It probably should have been a 1-2-3 inning, but Gallen was slow off the mound to cover first on a ball hit down the line with one out. It seemed as if he didn’t expect Christian Walker to make the play, but Walker did what he does. Unfortunately, the runner was able to beat Gallen to first. A flyball to Carroll was followed by a walk, bringing former D-back J.D. Martinez to the plate as the tying run. Three pitches later, Martinez waa carrying his bat back to the dugout, Gallen having posted the necessary zero, to keep the Diamondbacks 3-0 ahead at the end of the first.
The Dodgers’ starter Bobby Miller did not make it out of the second inning, Dave Roberts demonstrating a zero-tolerance policy after Miller put two men on base with one out, as Evan Longoria singled and Carroll drew his second walk of the game. There was no denying his stuff, touching 101 mph with his fastball, but he had little control of anything else, though did get Marte to pop-out foul. Roberts decided to bring in his A-bullpen. Brusdar Graterol took over after 1.2 innings, and succeeded in stranding the runners. But Gallen responded by retiring the Dodgers in order for the bottom of the second. He looked extremely solid doing so, and repeated the measure in the third inning.
Graterol also proved capable of shutting down Arizona’s momentum, retiring six batters in a row before walking Gerardo Perdomo with two outs in the top of the fourth. Interestingly, Roberts did not opt to go to a left-hander to face Carroll. But it didn’t matter as Perdomo was caught stealing to get us to the middle of the fourth. Carroll was kept busy, recording the first two outs, but came up just short at Martinez got the Dodgers on the board with a home-run just into the bleachers over Corbin’s glove. That made it 3-1 to Arizona after four, but the D-backs offense had gone chilly after the departure of Miller. It was not an enormous surprise, with Roberts continuing to use his best relievers in order to keep what was almost a must-win game, within reach.
Arizona could muster nothing in the fifth, and Los Angeles threatened ominously in their half, getting a walk and a single with one out, to turn their order over. However, Gallen bore down magnificently, getting Mookie Betts to ground out weakly, then making Freddie Freeman stare at strike three on a full-count pitch to end the fifth, and keep the score 3-1 in Arizona’s favor. The lack of offense for the D-backs finally ended with two outs in the sixth, when Gurriell went down and golfed a low pitch into the bleachers, restoring Arizona’s three-run margin, But the Dodgers were beginning to get to Gallen, delivering back-to-back singles with one down.
That ended his evening, with a final line of 5.1 innings of work, allowing five hits and two walks, with four strikeouts. Much like his outing in Milwaukee, it was not quite top-tier Gallen. However, it was good enough for the purpose Gallen. The D-backs bullpen then took over, needing to get 11 outs. Rookie Andrew Saalfrank was thrown into what was arguably the biggest situation of his short major-league career, but threw five pitches low to walk the bases loaded. He kept going down, but a comebacker got past the pitcher and became an infield RBI single, Marte smothering the ball to save a second run from scoring. That proved huge, as Saalfrank then came back from 3-1 with a huge swinging K of Outman for the second out, and Ryan Thompson took over after an unimpressive outing, with a chance to limit the damage to a single run, albeit the second charged to Gallen.
Thompson kept his cool, with an easy ground-out to Christian Walker, and at the end of the sixth inning, it was 4-2 to the Diamondbacks. Arizona were not able to reply on the scoreboard, though did threaten. Carroll and Marte singled with two outs, then a double steal put them both into scoring position, before Pham struck out to strand the runners and end the top of the seventh. 9 outs needed. Thompson stayed in, but an unfortunate ricochet off his glove on a comebacker put Betts aboard on an error to start the bottom of the seventh. However, he was able to get Freddie Freeman to ground into a double-play, negating the gaffe, and struck out Will Smith to end the seventh, with Arizona holding on to their two-run lead.
Christian Walker walked and stole second in the eighth - if you had him and Pham as the team’s stolen-base leader in the playoffs to this point, give yourself two points. He was left there as Alek Thomas was unable to reproduce his patience from Saturday. 6 outs needed. Kevin Ginkel took over, and came back from 3-0 to strikeout Max Muncy, who chased a pitch out of the zone. The hope was that Ginkel and Paul Sewald would be able to retire the Dodgers in order, both to keep the tying run from coming to the plate, and to stop the order from turning over. It seemed this hope would be unfulfilled after Ginkel walked Martinez, until Chris Taylor hacked into a double-play on the first pitch, surviving a challenge from Dave Roberts, and the eighth inning ended gratifyingly quickly, with the D-backs still 4-2 in front.
Evan Longoria was hit on the hand by a pitch, and replaced as a runner by Jordan Lawlar. Perdomo sacrificed him to second, and Carroll was intentionally walked. That proved the correct decision. Marte popped out to third, and although Pham legged out an infield hit to load the bases, Walker did what Walker does with runners in scoring position, and struck out, leaving the ducks on the pond. 3 outs needed. I was undeniably thinking - okay, praying - now would be a good time for Paul Sewald to deliver the unicorn of a clean save, leaving Mookie on-deck. He got the first out on a sharp liner to Gurriell. He got the second on a swinging strikeout… And miraculously, a fly-ball to Thomas produced perhaps the most drama-free appearance as a closer in Sewald’s time here.
- Carne asada tacos: Ryan Thompson, +20.0%
- Fire pits: Gurriell, +14.6%; Gallen, +11.9%
- A phone at 12% battery: Alek Thomas, -5.3%
Due largely to the above, I was largely absent from the Gameday Thread, and am only just catching up with it now. A gratifying tally of almost six hundred comments, the best of which belonged to Jack Sommers.
I must admit, I wasn't too surprised at the move. Our A bullpen was well-rested and Gallen had some high-stress innings. Curious what Torey has to say. But it's past 1 am here in South Carolina, making this my latest recap in quite a while! We'll see you back in Arizona on Wednesday, for a potential NLDS clincher with Brandon Pfaadt on the mound.
I'll take "Phrases I didn't expect to be saying on Opening Day" for $800, please, Alex...