Diamondbacks pitchers have thrown a total of 278 pitches in thus series so far. They have trailed after 274 of them. The Philles took the lead with the leadoff batter in the first game, and their second hitter last night, and the D-backs were never able to catch up thereafter. It has been the complete reverse of the games in Los Angeles, where Arizona jumped ahead in the first two games. I think I preferred those. But this sport is a cruel mistress, and cares nothing for your desires and feelings. After a dream 5-0 start to the Diamondbacks' first playoff campaign in six years, this series so far has been a bucket of cold water.
Last night was the ugliest play-off loss in franchise history. In terms of margin, it ties with the first game of the NLDS in 2002, where the Cardinals came to Bank One Ballpark and drubbed the D-backs 12-2. That was at home, and also came as a shock because Randy Johnson was on the mound. By Game Score (32), it was the worst post-season appearance of his career to that point, though he'd have a worse one as a Yankee in 2005. But at least that one was tied at two after three innings. The shutout last night was the first ever for Arizona, and it was the first double-digit playoff shutout since the Royals beat the Giants 10-0 in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series.
Bad all around
There's no shortage of responsibility for the losses. In almost every aspect of the game, the Phillies have executed, and the D-backs have not. Our starting pitchers have offered up far too many poorly located fastballs, and it feels like the home hitters have not missed any of them. Conversely, our hitters seem to have been excessively passive. Even though they have have seen thirteen fewer pitches, the D-backs hitters have taken more strikes looking, 50-38. Then again, the Phillies' pitchers have been attacking the strike zone more. 66.0% of their pitches have been strikes, compared to 57.2% for the D-backs. That's well below our regular season rate of 63.4%. Scared out of the zone by the homers? Possibly.
The oldest men on the roster, Evan Longoria and Tommy Pham, have become increasingly useless as things have gone on. They are now hitting .212 in the playoffs (11-for-52), with two XBH and a K:BB ratio of 18:2. In the Championship Series? 1-for-12 with a walk and five K’s. Longoria perhaps got extra life with his pivotal play in the wild-card series, starting a crucial double-play. But that’s likely negated by his failure to corral a pop-up yesterday, when a veteran should have taken charge. Meanwhile, Pham’s turf toe may be affecting him more than he lets on. [We got Mrs. S to Google “turf toe” at State 48. It’s not the fungal infection I thought. It’s basically a toe sprain, which feels like it’s bound to have an impact]
Getting away from basic fundamentals
The later innings in particular last night were not good. Aside from the dropped pop-up, we had Lourdes Gurriel apparently forgetting how many outs there were in the inning. The team which stole almost 30 more bases in the regular season, than any other year, then added seven more in the wild-card and division series, has been completely static on the base-paths here. Admittedly, this is partly due to a lack of chances: with an on-base percentage to date of just .167, there haven’t been many opportunities. But at the start of both games in Philadelphia, Corbin Carroll reached safely in the top of the first... and was still standing there when the frame ended. It felt pivotal.
Finding ways to lose
Both games ended in defeat, but the way it was reached seemed almost like a mirror image of each other. The D-backs fell behind early in Game #1, then clawed their way back into things, getting the tying run up in each of the last three innings. Meanwhile, Game #2 saw Kelly do a much better job of keeping things close, and he came one out away from delivering a quality start. But the C-bullpen, in the shape of Joe Mantiply followed by Ryne Nelson, came in, faced thirteen batters and allowed ten of them to reach, on seven hits and three walks. Six of them scored, plus one inherited from Kelly. Who ordered the throwback relief? Admittedly, four hits - the total each game - ain’t going to win many contests.
Down, but not out
Despite being outscored 15-3 over the first two games, it’s only 2-0 in the standings. We may be behind the eight-ball (there, I finally got round to explaining the intro picture!), but we’re not dead yet. As Steak85 pointed out. 16% of the time teams have been able to come back from a 2-0 deficit. That’s a much better chance of making the World Series in 2023 than the Dodgers. :) Again, if you’d told me on Opening Day, the D-backs would have a 1-in-6 shot at appearing in the Fall Classic, I’d have been all over that. We have now escaped the post-apocalyptic hellscape which is Citizens Bank Park, and get at least two games at Chase Field. Brandon Pfaadt: there’s only upside now. Make yourself a legend.
Hopes and expectations
There are three tiers of these, in ascending order of optimism from “plausible” to “don’t bet on it.”
- Don’t get swept
- Force the series back to Philadelphia
- Complete the come-back
The main priority is simply to win Arizona’s first Championship Series game in 22 years. We’ve got two whacks at that, behind Pfaadt and... /gestures vaguely at the bullpen. If we can manage it, then we can try to take another game in Phoenix. It would be nice to avoid seeing our post-season end with the opponents celebrating on our own field, as happened three out of our last four playoff appearances. I’m sure the Phillies would prefer to win the pennant on home turf. But if we do go back to Philadelphia, then why not shock the world? Really, though, I just want competitive baseball, rather than whatever last night was. Give me that and I’ll go happily into the off-season.