In front of a raucous, sellout Chase Field crowd enjoying their first taste of postseason baseball since 2017, the D-Backs played a see-saw game to sweep the Dodgers and punch their ticket to the NLCS. It also included another concerning injury for Gabriel Moreno, a late rally from the Dodgers, and an unprecedented slugging performance from the D-Backs. One of those things is not like the other! For a team that had a below-average slugging percentage in the regular season (an unimpressive .408), they chose a sublime moment to break out the big bats en route to their first NLCS since 2007.
Through the first two and a half innings however, it was a true pitching duel. The only offense had come through consecutive two-out singles from Lourdes Gurriell Jr and Evan Longoria. Even then, Lance Lynn blew a rising fastball by Evan Longoria to harmlessly strand the two runners. And then, for a single magical inning, the Arizona Diamondbacks channeled their inner 2023 Atlanta or 2019 Minnesota Twins and demolished a record-breaking four roundtrippers. Geraldo Perdomo got the fun started by lining a middle-middle fastball into the first row of the right field stands from a knee:
It was no majestic shot, but it still energized the Chase Field attendance to a fever pitch, but the D-Backs weren’t even remotely finished. After Corbin Carroll softly grounded out, Ketel Marte provided some majesty with a moonshot of his own that accompanied some well-earned strutting:
Tommy Pham followed in Carroll’s footsteps unfortunately with a weak ground ball up the middle, but Christian Walker played his part in repeating the script by smearing the baseball into a different zip code. Gabriel Moreno then stepped to the plate for one of the stranger at-bats you’ll see. He took a 2-1 cutter down the right field line that initially appeared to sneak its way around the misnomered foul pole for the fourth run of the inning. However, after a relatively quick official review, the crew ruled it as a foul ball, which prompted a challenge from Torey Lovullo that confirmed the call. After several tense-filled moments, Moreno stepped back into the batter’s box with a 2-2 count and took the very next pitch 420 feet into left centerfield. You can watch the entire saga below. It was the final pitch from Lynn and ultimately the final offensive act from the D-Backs, but after the desert dust had settled, it was 4-0 D-Backs. Somehow though, the lead felt even larger after the Dodgers’ offense continued their series-long stall.
Brandon Pfaadt deserves plenty of credit for that continued stall as he admirably kept the Dodgers off-balance through his abbreviated outing of 4.1 innings. He only allowed two hits and rarely looked stressed despite the setting and stage he was being asked to perform on in just his second postseason appearance. The rookie was lifted in the fifth for Joe Mantiply after allowing a one-out double from Will Smith - one of the few offensive bright spots for the Dodgers. Mantiply was up for the task as he struckout Chris Taylor and induced a lineout from Kike Hernandez to end the inning and the minor threat. It wasn’t until the seventh that the Dodgers finally broke through as Ryan Thompson allowed four straight singles to cut the lead in half 4-2. Andrew Saalfrank entered the game in yet another crucial situation and delivered yet again as Austin Barnes obliged with a weak groundout on his first pitch of his outing.
Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald combined for two innings with just two baserunners and keep any semblance of comeback hope for LA firmly in the fantasy realm. One of the best offensive duos from the regular season - Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman - absolutely disappeared in this series. The loss also marked the sixth straight postseason defeat for one of the premier baseball franchises. There will be plenty of soul-searching for the Dodgers in the offseason as they face free-agent questions, but none will hang bigger than the one wherein their biggest stars fail to perform on the biggest stages. It’s exactly the kinds of questions and excitement that only playoff baseball can provide.
As difficult as it may be to believe, the D-Backs have played their way one step away from a World Series appearance. They have done it through the same playbook they’ve used throughout the year with timely hitting, clutch pitching, and flawless defense. Even better, they’ve shown that even on a night with relatively few baserunners, they can slug their way through. There are questions abounding about the roster makeup and how a team can sustain whatever magic seems to be following them, but for now, it’s enough to bask in the happiness of a team that is playing some of their best baseball of the season.