Tonight is one of those nights where despite the fleeting moments of disappointment and frustration I feel I also have to take a step back and embrace the beauty of Major League Baseball for what it is. For me this postseason and National League Championship is a microcosm of the Arizona Diamondbacks 2023 season. When I see them talking about “checking the receipts” of people who have had ill word of them or counted them out, I’m reminded of my own harsh words when they struggled to even win a game midsummer. It’s moments like this that I’m reminded that nothing easy is worth doing.
After that terrible July slump they could have fallen completely off the map and not even made the postseason, but they stuck together through those dark times squeaking into a Wild Card spot. Just as they had a fast start to begin the season, quick sweeps of the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two rounds ignited a sense of hope in the fanbase that the best was yet to come. And yet they now find themselves down three games to two against a difficult Philadelphia Phillies team that is hoping to reach the World Series in consecutive seasons. If the Arizona Diamondbacks hope to return to the World Series for only the second time in their franchise history, they will have to earn it in front of a difficult Philadelphia fanbase.
So we find ourselves at Chase Field for game five with the series tied two apiece. Each team sending out their best starting pitcher hoping to take the lead in the series a day after the bullpens of each team was emptied. For Arizona it was Zac Gallen who has been respectable if not as dominant as he was in the early goings of the season again Zack Wheeler for Philadelphia. After two stunning come from behind victories is Phoenix to even the series, I was feeling optimistic about the D’backs chances tonight.
Unfortunately, Zac Gallen’s early struggles in postseason play continued as he was unable to keep the Phillies off the board for an early lead. Kyle Schwarber, who quite honestly isn’t really capable of anything else besides hitting a home run in this stage of his career, led off them game with a squib shot off the cup of his bat to third base for an infield single. Gallen was able to get to two outs with runners on first and second after a single from Bryce Harper, but could not escape the inning cleanly. Bryson Stott singled to right field to score Schwarber and advance Harper to third. With J.T. Realmuto up to bat, Philadelphia pulled off a successful double steal to take a two run lead. Instead of letting Stott advance to second while holding Harper at third, Gabriel Moreno tried to nab Stott but his throw was off line. Ketel Marte tried to throw Harper out at home, but his throw wasn’t accurate as well resulting in a scary collision between Harper and Moreno. Moreno ultimately was able to remain in the game, and Gallen ended the inning on a groundout without further incident.
Zack Wheeler meanwhile was mostly on cruise control for Philadelphia giving the Diamondbacks no breathing room to get back into this contest. Arizona would get a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first, but would fail to do so again until the bottom of the sixth with neither of them scoring. Corbin Carroll began the bottom of the first with a walk for Arizona, and was advanced to second on a groundout from Marte. Moreno erased any doubt that he was injured from his collision with Harper and singled to move Corbin to third. Corbin probably could have scored on the hit, but he had retreated back to second unsure if Trea Turner was going to make the diving stop at shortstop before reversing course after it went past his glove. That prove costly as the next two batters, Christian Walker and Pavin Smith, failed to bring the run home.
As initially expected, Gallen and Wheeler matched each other preventing either team from scoring for the next four innings. Arizona actually out hit Philadelphia in those next four innings with a single in each of them, but failed to bring any of them home to tie or take the lead.
Torey Lovullo opted to keep Gallen on the mound the third time through the order which ultimately proved to be costly. In the top of the sixth, Kyle Schwarber began the inning with a solo home run to deep right field. Two batters later Bryce Harper did the same giving Philadelphia a four run lead with time running out for Arizona to make a comeback. After a walk and a single to follow the Harper home run, Gallen escaped the inning with a double play for the end of his outing.
Arizona finally got on the board on a solo home run from Alek Thomas to begin the bottom of the seventh, his fourth home run this postseason. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for it was all they could muster against Zack Wheeler and the Phillies’ pitching staff. J.T. Realmuto took that run back plus one with a two run home run with two outs in the top of the eighth giving Philadelphia a sixt-to-one lead. Arizona had runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Philadelphia turned to Matt Strahm to strike out Corbin Carroll to end the game.
While not the most rec’d comment of the evening, it does sum up my feelings pretty well. Even all of us regulars here on the Snake Pit who would consider ourselves to be the most diehard of Diamondbacks fans did not predict success of this magnitude at the start of the season. I have nothing but pride for everything this team has accomplished this season, but goddamn if I don’t want this so bad because who knows when the next time it will come around again.