National League Championship Series tied 3-3.
Fortress Citizen's Bank Park fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks this afternoon, as they did what nobody had done this postseason and beat the Philadelphia Phillies there. Back-to-back home-runs from Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel in the second helped take the crowd out early, and Ketel Marte drove in two more with a pair of hits, tying the postseason record for a hitting streak. Meanwhile, Merrill Kelly gave the team the start they needed, holding the Philadelphia offense to one run over five innings, striking out eight batters. The bullpen took over from there and kept the Phillies at bay.
It didn’t begin with promise. The first saw Corbin Carroll take a painted strike three looking, and Ketel Marte swing over the top of a Aaron Nola curveball. Gabriel Moreno then had a quality at-bat, eventually putting a full-count pitch back up the middle for a single. Christian Walker? No so much. His terrible NLCS continued as he swung and missed at three straight fastballs, the last above the zone, for an inning-ending K. Merrill Kelly’s start wasn’t quite what we wanted to see either. He walked Kyle Schwarber on four straight balls - the first such game opener of his career - and one ⁸out later, also walked Bryce Harper. But it seemed more like Kelly’s game-plan, as he retired the next two batters to post a zero.
The D-backs then got to a Phillies starter early, something they had been largely unable to do. Tommy Pham quietened the crowd with a lead-off home-run, and Lourdes Gurriel then went deep, reducing the locals to the volume of “library patron requesting a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.” Alek Thomas walked, and scored on an Evan Longoria double, making it 3-0 to Arizona (all four PAs below). Geraldo Perdomo advanced the runner with a flyball to right, but neither Carroll nor Marte could bring Longoria home. Still, three was the biggest deficit Philadelphia had seen this post-season. Indeed, they had conceded a TOTAL of fewer than three runs in eight of eleven playoff games. So this was uncharted territory.
It would have been nice if Kelly had been able to put up a shutdown inning. This was not to be. A lead-off double came in to score on a single one out later, and Carroll’s throw home sailed over everyone, allowing the hitter to move up to second. Fortunately, Kelly was able to work around the misplay, stranding runners on the corners after another semi-intentional walk to Schwarber. A big strikeout of Trea Turner kept it 3-1 to Arizona through two innings. Both pitchers were having to work hard, Nola having thrown 47 pitches and Kelly 48. Nola needed only 11 in the top of the third; although Walker walked (yeah, that IS fun to write!), Pham hit into a double-play. It feels like he’s still not running properly.
The starters settled down thereafter. Both sides were retired in order in the fourth, each pitcher recording one strikeout in the process. But Nola did not make it to the middle of the fifth. With one out, he left a pitch out over the plate and Carroll singled to center. Marte then drove him in, with an RBI triple (below) that rattled around the right-field corner. It extended Ketel’s postseason hitting streak to 15 games, tied with Marquis Grissom for the record. That made the score 4-1, though as in the second inning, the Diamondbacks were not able to add on, by scoring the runner on third with < 2 outs. They had scored four runs, despite not having a hit with a runner in scoring position (0‐for-5).
[I was informed in the GDT this would “come back to bite us”. Narrator voice: it did not.]
Kelly’s pitch-count was getting up there, but the fifth inning might have been his best of the season. Having a three-run lead, allowed him to attack the hitters, and attack he did. It wasn’t even just a 1-2-3 inning, he struck out both Schwarber and Harper. However, leaving the mound, he was greeted by Torey Lovullo in the dugout, and told his night was over. Kelly was, very obviously, not happy. But the manager’s word is law. The book was closed on Kelly, with five innings of one-run ball, on three hits and three walks (two of them in the first inning) with eight strikeouts. He was at ninety pitches, but you have to wonder about the decision, and there was more concern it might come back to bite us.
[Narrator voice: it did not. Instead, find below Kelly’s eight strikeouts, on the day when the team needed Merrill the Mainstay more than ever]
Arizona added on in the seventh. Perdomo singled, and stole second as Carroll struck out. The Phillies made the ill-advised decision to pitch to Marte with an open base. He made them pay for their temerity, with an RBI single, our first hit of the day with RISP. Marte then stole second but was left there, as we reached the stretch, with Arizona 5-1 up. Ryan Thompson had taken over from Kelly for the sixth, posting a zero. A lead-off single in the seventh - Thomas did a very good job to hold it to that - was followed by an out. Lovullo turned to Andrew Saalfrank to handle the hitters at the top of the Philadelphia order.
He only needed to handle one. Then, on a pitch in the dirt, the runner tried to advance, and Moreno made an awesome play to gun him down at second, ending the seventh. The eighth and ninth went more or less as Torey Lovullo would want. Ryan Thompson allowed a two-out single in the eighth, and then Paul Sewald worked a clean ninth - it’s okay, it wasn’t a save situation. By this stage plenty of the “most passionate fans in baseball” were already streaming out of Citizen’s Bank Park, having clearly given up. From an Arizona perspective, however, it was near perfect, and sets up Game 7 tomorrow, with Brandon Pfaadt seeking to repeat his Game 3 success.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Shaun of the Dead: Merrill Kelly, +19.2%
One Cut of the Dead: Ketel Marte, +11.0%
Toilet of the Dead (I'm not kidding, look it up!): Corbin Carroll, -5.5%
A generally very happy Gameday Thread, for obvious reasons! A lot of Sedona Red comments to choose from, some with more recs. But I’m going to go for one only loosely connected to the game - or, at least events on the field, and give it to Justin.
We care, Justin. We care! You can now turn over to the Astros-Rangers game to see potential opponents in the World Series. It’s only the fourth time that both Championship series will have gone the full seven games, after 2020, 2004 and 2003. It also means that, at the very least, the D-backs will have gone deeper into the playoffs than 27 other teams. Would you have taken that on Opening Day? But I don’t think the team will want to settle for that, and though I’m dubious on the topic of “momentum,” at the very least the D-backs have proven that they can beat the Phillies in Philadelphia. One more win and they will be in the World Series. I don’t think motivation should be any kind of issue!
I’ll just leave this Tweet from the team here.
Stealing on pitchers and striking out batters— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) October 24, 2023
Flashing the leather and crushing long dingers
Chaos created to force a Game 7
These are a few of our favorite things. pic.twitter.com/xAjgRcKVdq
Though if they are going Rogers and Hammerstein tomorrow, I’d rather they went full Laibach!