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NLCS Series Preview #2 : Diamondbacks vs Phillies

Andrew Saalfrank’s 1-pitch against the Phillies.
Andrew Saalfrank’s 1-pitch against the Phillies.
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Welcome home Diamondbacks!

Citizens Bank Park was cold and their home field advantage was larger than generally imagined. But now we play in warm Chase Field.

During game two, in a mini-interview, Torey Lovullo said Nola is “as good as anyone” (faint praise) and the Diamondbacks hitters need to “keep fighting” and “keep their heads in the game.” In anticipation of three games at Chase, Diamondbacks fans and players need to do exactly that – keep fighting and keep you heads in the game.

One moniker is the “Answer Backs” because the Diamondbacks keep fighting and achieve come-from-behind wins. Two postseason wins against the Brewers were one example. Will the three home games in the NLCS series be another opportunity for the Diamondbacks?

Noteworthy Achievements.

Beyond reaching the NLCS, the Diamondbacks have some noteworthy achievements (data from, Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant).

  • Bullpen Excellence in Postseason. The Dodgers ended a streak of 57 consecutive postseason outs by the bullpen without any runs scoring. The Phillies (game 2) ended a streak of 16 consecutive outs (20 batters faced) without any runs scoring. To be even-handed, some fans contend the Diamondbacks have an “A bullpen” and a “B bullpen” and a “C Bullpen”. Even if that’s true, these streaks support the contention that the bullpen, although not perfect, is amazing!
  • Home Run Streak in Postseason. The Phillies (game 2) ended the Diamondbacks’ streak of 17 postseason games with at least one homer. That streak stretched from the 2007 playoffs (Mark Reynolds homer at Coors) to Perdomo’s home run in game one against the Phillies.
  • Second Youngest Diamondback With a Plate Appearance in the Postseason. Jordan Lawler’s plate appearance (PA) against the Phillies (game 2) made him the second youngest (age 21 years and 92 days) Diamondback with a PA in the postseason. The youngest was Justin Upton (age 20 years and 40 days).
  • New Achievement Discovered During Gameday Thread (Phillies game 2). Hat tip to Jim McLennan and Kilnborn for noting that Diamondbacks’ pitcher (Andrew Saalfrank) has two consecutive postseason pitching appearances with only 1-pitch in each appearance. Baseball Reference shows he is the only Diamondbacks pitcher with two consecutive 1-pitch appearances in the postseason. Looking at all teams, he is the fifth pitcher to have two consecutive 1-pitch appearances in the postseason.
AZ Snake Pit.
Table from Baseball Reference.
  • Old Achievement Remembered. Hat tip to Jim McLennan for noting that Diamondback Greg Swindell has the only 0-pitch appearance in the postseason. Looking at all teams, Baseball Reference shows he is the only pitcher with a zero-pitch appearance in the postseason.

Run Expectancy In Game One.

Run expectancy indicates that in the first game of this series, the Diamondbacks came close to another come-from-behind win. Here’s why:

  • 7th Inning: Diamondbacks’ had runners on first and third with no outs. Run expectancy tells us that the average runs from that point would be about 2 runs (more precisely 1.753). Instead, the Diamondbacks scored one run. As a team, they lost an opportunity for one run.
  • 9th Inning: Diamondback runner on first with one out. What should have been ball four was called a strike. Hat tip to Jim McLennan for posting (in a comments section) the umpire scorecard from Umpscorecards. The scorecard showed that call had the game’s second highest impact on the run expectancy. If that call was corrected, the batter (Gurriel Jr) would have walked. Alek Thomas would have been at the plate with runners on first and second with one out. Run expectancy tells us that the average runs from that point would be about 1 run (more precisely 0.902). Instead, the Diamondbacks did not score. As a team, they lost an opportunity for a run.

If the Diamondbacks had taken advantage of those two opportunities and scored two more runs, the game would have been tied after nine innings. Because small ball is a Diamondbacks strength, I have reason to believe that the Diamondbacks would have won in extra innings.

Pitching Matchups.

With Ryne Nelson and Slade Cecconi pitching in game two, Torey Lovullo’s plans for games four and five are very unclear. Although Brandon Pfaadt will start game three, beyond that game which pitchers will pitch which specific games is unclear. Will Gallen and/or Kelly pitch on short rest? Will we see two bullpen games? Perhaps that unpredictability will be an advantage.

AZ Snake Pit.

Thursday, 2:07 Arizona Time, Ranger Suarez vs Brandon Pfaadt.

Ranger Suarez’s last start was awesome. He pitched 8.2 innings against the Braves. He allowed 1 earned run with 1 walk and 4 hits.

Brandon Pfaadt’s last start was awesome. He pitched 4.1 innings against the Dodgesr. He allowed zero earned runs with zero walks and 2 hits.

How well Pfaadt will pitch is unclear, but he will likely impact the Diamondbacks chances to win this game.

Friday, 5:07 Arizona Time, TBA (perhaps Taijuan Walker) vs TBA

The last time Taijuan Walker pitched in the postseason (2017), he was a Diamondback. He allowed 4 earned runs in 1 inning pitched.

The last time Taijuan Walked pitched in the regular season, it was against the Mets. He pitched 7 innings and allowed 4 earned runs.

Although it’s unclear who will pitch for the Diamondbacks, this game is advantage Diamondbacks.

Saturday, 5:07 Arizona Time, TBA (perhaps Zack Wheeler) vs TBA

Zack Wheeler pitched in game one of this series. He pitched 6 innings and allowed 2 runs.

Whatever game Zack Gallen pitches, it’s good to know he has a much better ERA at home than away (2.27 vs 4.42 during regular season). Whatever game he pitches will be advantage Diamondbacks.