Yikes. Bullpen games are always an adventure. Bullpen games in the NCLS are pretty much unheard of. Bullpen games for the Diamondbacks, given how much we’ve come to trust our bullpen over recent years, are a dinner menu that requires prescription-strength antacids. And yet, here we were, looking to even up the series against Philadelphia on a Friday night.
At least it was a bullpen game (sorta) for the Phillies as well. Last year’s All-Star Mantiply Joe started for us, Philadelphia was sending out some guy named Cristopher Sanchez, who had been a sometime starter for them during the regular season, but who hadn’t taken the mound for them since September 30 and hadn’t started a game for them since September 24. Okay. Game on.
It actually went really well for us for the first three innings, as Mantiply, Luis Frias, and Kyle Nelson combined to face the minimum over the first three innings. Mantiply gave up a one-out single to Trea Turner in the top of the first, but erased him shortly thereafter with a pickoff that wound up with Turner getting thrown out at second as he belatedly made a break for it.
Meanwhile, our boys sat down in order in the bottom of the first, but Christian Walker led off the second with a routine grounder to third. Alec Bohm, who has been a Diamondback-killer at the hot corner so far, fielded the ball easily, but airmailed him throw to first, allowing Walker to reach safely on the E5. Tommy Pham then struck out looking, and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. grounded back to the mound, allowing Walker to advance to second. A passed ball got Walker to third, Evan Longoria drew a walk, and then Emmanuel Rivera actually did what he used to do with some frequency—he kept his head down, hit a pitch back up the middle for a single into center, driving in Walker and advancing Longo to second.
Geraldo Perdomo popped out on the infield to end the inning, but we were on the board first, and with the first lead we’d had since Ketel Marte’s walkoff single last night. 1-0 D-BACKS
Same again, sorta, in the bottom of the third, as Ketel Marte hit an infield single to Trea Turner at short to lead things off. A Sanchez wild pitch advanced him to second, a productive Corbin Carroll groundout advanced Marte to third, chasing Sanchez in favor of Phillies righty Jeff Hoffman. Gabriel Moreno was unfazed, however sending a single the other way into right to bring home Ketel:
Every day, we wake up and thank the powers that be Gabi is an Arizona Diamondback. pic.twitter.com/jgkwdAwW0W— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) October 21, 2023
Walker and Pham promptly ended the inning, but another run was across. 2-0 D-BACKS
And then, well, yeah. The wheels began to wobble a bit on the bullpen bus. Kyle Nelson came out to start the fourth, and surrendered a Kyle Schwarber dinger to right center. He was promptly hooked for Miguel Castro, who shut that business right down. Castro then recorded the first two outs in the fourth, sandwiching two grounders around a JT Realmuto bloop single to shallow left. With Brandon Marsh and his hair and beard choices coming to the plate, Castro was pulled for Andrew Saalfrank, our lone remaining lefthander in the ‘pen. And yeah, that didn’t go well. Marsh hit a double to deep center, Realmuto scored, Saalfrank got the final out, but our lead was no more. 2-2 TIE
And so began the winter of our discontent. Philadelphia started rolling arms out of their bullpen that we could do nothing against, so that we didn’t see another baserunner until the bottom of the sixth, and couldn’t begin to do anything at all until the bottom of the seventh. It seemed like the offense had utterly dried up.
Meanwhile, Saalfrank came out to face the top of the Phillies’ lineup in the top of the fifth, which sorta made sense on paper—Saalfrank had proven so far to be a high-leverage lefty, and he was facing Schwarber, Turner, and Bryce Harper, two of whom are very scary lefties, so. So Saalfrank walked the bases loaded before finally, thankfully, Torey Lovullo pulled him and brought in Ryan Thompson, perhaps hearing the increasingly apocalyptic keening of the Gameday Thread. Thompson quickly induced a weak Alec Bohm grounder to third, but Emmanuel Rivera botched his throw to Moreno, which would have easily cut down Schwarber. Nope, instead the ball rolled away from Gaby, and Trea Turner alertly followed Schwarber home while we were kinda kicking the ball around. Thankfully, we finally got an out from the whole business as Moreno finally corralled the ball and threw to Marte at second, who tagged Bohm out as he was trying to stretch his infield single. One walk later, Thompson finally settled in properly and ended things, but we were now in a hole. 4-2 Philly
Thompson stuck around to pitch the seventh as well, and did his business pretty well, despite giving up a one-out triple to Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas, who roped one down the right field line. He then intentionally walked Schwarber, gave up another run thanks to a Trea Turner sacrifice fly to left, but finally struck our Harper looking. All in all, it was a good two innings of work from Thompson, but the hole had gotten a bit deeper. 5-2 Philly
Our offense, meanwhile, was still mostly taking a breather in the bottom of the seventh. Geraldo Perdomo singled to right with one out off a wild man named Gregory Soto who came out of the Philadelphia bullpen. Soto then walked Marte, induced a Corbin Carroll fielder’s choice that got Perdomo to third but forced Marte at second. Soto’s brief outing was done, replaced by the fancifully-named Orion Kerkering, who promptly walked Moreno to load the bases, and then surrendered a walk to Christian Walker, bringing in a run. Unlikely sorta-hero Pavin Smith came to the plate—he’d come in to pinch hit for Pham and play right field some time earlier—and grounded out to first, so there was no more joy to be had in that moment. 5-3 Philly
Kevin Ginkel took the ball for the top of the eighth, and despite a leadoff single to Bohm, put up a nice, Ginkelesque zero. Onto the bottom of the eighth, where finally, finally, the offense remembered that there was still a baseball game going on. Craig Kimbrel came out to pitch for the Phillies, and Lourdes Gurriel greeted him with a lovely double to left. Evan Longoria then put a charge into one, but it seemed like he broke his bat and the ball died in left field for the first out. Thankfully, then, Lovullo had decided that he’d had enough of Rivera for the night, and sent in Alek Thomas to pinch-hit for him. And oh, goodness, Alek did not disappoint:
Splashdown, and a tie ballgame. But not for long; one out later, Ketel Marte singled to shallow left, Corbin Carroll was hit by a pitch, and Gaby Moreno, big damn hero once again, gave us back the lead with a single to shallow center:
GABI FOR THE LEAD!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/8hn9FJEHa8— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) October 21, 2023
Christian Walker flied out to right to end the inning, but a much-needed crooked number had been put up. 6-5 D-BACKS
So Paul Sewald came out for the top of the ninth, our closer in a save situation, just like we’d drawn it up, yeah. And despite a two-out Schwarber double down the right field line, he struck out the other three batters he faced, and there’s your ballgame! Woot!
Win Probability Added (Updated), courtesy of FanGraphs
Biggest Damn Heroes: Gabriel Moreno (3 AB, 2 H, 2 RBI, 2 BB, +41.7% WPA), Alek Thomas (1 AB, 1 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, +36.3% WPA)
Big Damn Hero: Paul Sewald (1 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 1 SV, +16.8% WPA)
Anti-Hero: Andrew Saalfrank (1⁄3 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB, -31.8% WPA)
Tonight’s Gameday Thread was, like the game itself, quite the stomach-churning roller coaster. Remarkably well-attended, at least by regular season standards (which was, before tonight, my only experience with recapping), with 620 comments at time of writing. A number went Sedona Red, but by popular acclaim and also because it’s a great snapshot of an utterly charming family moment, CotG goes to SenSurround for this lovely block of midgame baseball joy:
Happy days, folks! Not only have we evened things up after a rough start, we’ve got our ace taking the mound at home tomorrow, where he tends to pitch very well indeed. First pitch is 5:07pm tomorrow, AZ time, as Zac Gallen and Zack Wheeler square off in a reprise of the Game 1 matchup. Let’s keep the brooms handy, and sweep them out of our house and back on a plane to the City of Brotherly Love and Exuberant Sports Fan Vandalism. Hope to see you in the Gameday!
As always, thanks for reading....this one was my first postseason recap, and the game was truly a pleasure. Go Diamondbacks!