Finally, after nineteen seasons, and I don’t know how many hundred contests, I get to write a SnakePit recap of a World Series game. The last time Arizona was in the World Series, there was no SnakePit. Indeed, I’d not even been living in the state for a full year, and the notion of writing about the team hadn’t crossed my mind. Since then, there have been playoff games, sure - but the nearest was the embarrassing NLCS sweep in 2007. On Opening Day this year, if you’d told me my final recap of the year would be Brandon Pfaadt starting in the Fall Classic, I’d have had you committed. This is the very definition of “Just happy to be here.” The score tonight was basically irrelevant.
Let’s face it, Game 3 could hardly live up to the last World Series game in Phoenix, either on a baseball or personal level. A winner-take-all Game 7, which saw hope, despair, Randy Johnson coming out of the bullpen, and a ninth-inning comeback which still feels impossible, 22 years later. Oh, and immediately after Gonzo’s walk-off single, I proposed to the now Mrs. SnakePit. So, yeah: there’s no way the game could possibly match up. I was fully aware of that going in, and was 100% content with it. Que sera, sera, as my Mexican fortune cookie said. I explain all this, to give you an idea of my mindset at first pitch. Tonight ended in defeat, but there’ll be at least two more chances.
Rather than me going to breakdown the entire contest, I think tonight can probably be distilled down to a few key moments. Unfortunately, more than one of them involved home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, who seemed to be waging a one-man campaign in support of robo-umps now. I’m not going to say his strike-zone was biased towards one team or the other. Just painfully incompetent, at a level I would not expect to see at a high-school game, never mind the showcase for the game’s best. It’s always disappointing when the officials become the narrative, but it’s hard to discuss the game without some particularly egregious examples of his work. But first...
Bottom second: Christian Walker thrown out at home
The early innings were quick, Brandon Pfaadt needed only 18 pitches to record his first six outs, helped by a double-play, and Ketel Marte’s first inning walk was similarly erased. But Walker continued his string of hard-hit balls to lead off the second, hammering the first pitch (FAO: mcbensiegs!) 400 ft. It would have been gone in most parks, but here, was a double. Tommy Pham then hit one ever harder, singling to right. Third-base coach Tony Perezchica initially waved Walker home, but the line-drive went straight to the outfielder. The coach changed his mind, throwing up the stop sign late, but Walker apparently missed it, ran through third, and was out at home on a not particularly close play.
Lourdes Gurriel then popped out, and Alek Thomas was unlucky not to get a hit. His comebacker pinged off Max Scherzer, and the third-baseman made a lovely bare-handed play to just get Thomas at first. That ended the inning, and instead of Arizona perhaps taking an early lead, the game was still scoreless through two.
Top third: pro-tip - don’t pitch to Corey Seager
Just a suggestion. But first, this is where Marquez started to put his finger on the scale. Brandon Pfaadt should have had Nathaniel Lowe struck out, but Marquez called strike three a ball. The batter ended up doubling. Two outs later - which should have been three, if you’re counting along at home - the Rangers added an RBI single, then Seager ambushed a first-pitch (FAO: mcbensiegs) hanging change-up from Pfaadt and blasted it 421 feet for a 3-0 lead. That was all Pfaadt would allow, working 5.1 innings and being allowed to see hitters for a third time by Torey Lovullo. He allowed four hits and two walks with four strikeouts; all but one of the hits came in that third inning.
Innings 4-6: Arizona’s hitters have a Gray day
Max Scherzer had to leave the game after only three innings. It’s not clear if getting hit by Thomas’s comebacks was a factor: the official word is “back tightness”, which could mean anything. That forced the Rangers to their bullpen early, but Jon Gray - no, the other one - shut the D-backs down again, as he had in Game 1. He allowed one base-runner over three innings, a single with two outs in the sixth. However, that was off the bat of Ketel Marte, who extended his record post-season hitting streak to nineteen games. But the D-backs could do noting offensively. At least the B-bullpen did their job, Miguel Castro, Kyle Nelson, Luis Frias and Andrew Saalfrank tossing 3.2 scoreless inning of one-hit ball.
Bottom eighth: shutout averted, opportunity spurned
Aroldis Chapman came in to work the eighth, and it seemed the D-backs would take advantage. Pinch-hitter squared Emmanuel Rivera (Pavin Smith was announced, then pulled for Rivera) doubled, and Geraldo Perdomo singled (below), Rivera coming home to put the D-backs on the board. They now had the tying run at the plate with no outs, and the top of the order coming up. But in the space of two pitches, the chance evaporated. First, Corbin Carroll too a slider right in the middle of the plate for strike three. Then Marte blasted the first pitch he saw at 114.5 mph. Unfortunately, it was right to Seager, who started an inning-ending double-play - it was the hardest-hit GIDP in the Statcast era.
Bottom ninth: last chance saloon
I have to say, the crowd at Chase Field remained present and loud for the entire game, not scurrying for the exits because they were losing, like certain (coughPhilliescough) crowds I could mention this post-season. They were to be disappointed, though Marquez might have been a factor. He blew two calls badly in Gabriel Moreno’s lead-off at-bat, including calling ball four, well off the plate as a strike. Below, you can see how bad that was. A make-up call for the blown strike earlier? THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO WORK!!! Instead the tying run at the plate with nobody down, Moreno grounded out, and the game ended meekly, two batters later.
Get the robo umpires EXPEDITIOUSLY pic.twitter.com/QaE12d3U3I— PHNX Sports (@PHNX_Sports) October 31, 2023
Oh, well. It was certainly less emotionally damaging than the loss in Game 1, and once again, the team proved their ability to hang with the Rangers perfectly well. The running game kinda evaporated again, with no stolen-base attempts. The defense looked good: Thomas had a lovely snag deep in center-field to stop the Rangers from tacking on. As noted the bullpen was fine too. It was just the lack of offense: a combination of poor decisions and things... not going our way (shall we say!) that cost Arizona their unbeaten record at home in World Series games. Get ‘em tomorrow, with both sides going for a bullpen game, That’s going to be an interesting one. And on Halloween, to boot!
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
Full-size candy: Emmanuel Rivera, +6.6%
Fun-size candy: Geraldo Perdomo, +4.9%
Fresh veggies: Gabriel Moreno, -15.1%
Candy corn: Gurriel, -10.5%; Pfaadt, -10.1%
A lively Gameday Thread, with 576 comments at the time of writing. A good number of possible candidates, but I’ll go with ish95’s bit of optimism:
Still all to play for: remember, we were 2-1 down at exactly this point in the Championship Series as well, and that worked out well enough. Unlike there, we have also outscored our opponents by a 15-10 margin. First pitch at the same time tomorrow night, again in Chase Field, and I presume it’ll probably be Joe Mantiply in the role of opener for Arizona. Let’s do it!