[Ben] Thank you Jim for the quick cover recap! This ended up being a pretty happy night, but it was touch-and-go there for a bit.
As someone who enjoys the narrative side of sports almost as much as I love the statistics side, this game was an absolute dream. As a fan, it raised my blood pressure by a likely unhealthy level. It was one of those rare times in sports where the zig zag pattern repeated itself almost exactly. For the second night in a row, the D-Backs found themselves in an early deficit as the offense looked moribund, the starting pitching (in this cycle, Zac Gallen) was ineffective, and the Brewers offense was able to take advantage of scoring opportunities. And miraculously, the zag side of the pattern repeated itself too: the Brewers’ bats went silent and couldn’t find the big hit, the pitching grinded through crisis after crisis, and the D-Backs’ offense struck late to seal the win. It provided a satisfying revenge for the 2011 NLDS when an allegedly juiced Ryan Braun edged out the D-Backs by a game before losing to the ultimate World Series winner Cardinals in the NLCS.
It was yet another disheartening beginning given the late drama that sealed a Game 1 win for the D-Backs - one in which Torey Lovullo nearly emptied the bullpen. Of course, that decision was predicated on a deep, effective start from the undisputed ace of the staff in Gallen. At the beginning of this game, that looked like a complete myth as Gallen needed 32 pitches to get the first three outs. Just to add insult to injury - literally in this case - Gabriel Moreno took a hit to the back of the head on a backswing from Brice Turang that would ultimately take him out of the game to be replaced with Jose Herrera. As of writing, there are no further updates on his condition besides the ominous, “head injury” from the team. To say the least, the vibes for the game were completely off and it looked dark.
But once again, the D-Backs took their collective game to another level. Gallen would rebound to only need 68 pitches to get through the next five innings to complete a quality start. The D-Backs suddenly started taking excellent ABs even as they got outhit for the second night in a row. And finally, the much-maligned Arizona bullpen brought their absolute A-game as they navigated around four hits to post three scoreless innings and absolutely shut the door.
The Brewers got their only two runs in the first as Gallen loaded the bases on singles from Christian Yelich and Mark Canha plus a Carlos Santana walk ahead of a sacrifice flyout from Sal Frelick. They would scratch their second run across with a looping single up the middle off Willy Adames’ bat to give them a 2-0 lead. That’s not to say there weren’t dire scoring threats as the Brewers had two runners on in the third, loaded the bases in the eighth, and brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. But in each situation, the defense rose to the task. In the third, Gallen adroitly snagged a 102-MPH comebacker that he converted into a 1-6-3 double play while Andrew Saalfrank fielded his position excellently to gather the forceout of Yelich at home in the eighth, and in the ninth, Paul Sewald struckout William Contreras to end the game and send the D-Backs into an NLDS matchup with the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers.
For the D-Backs offense, it was a little bit of everything that managed to give them the sweep over the Brewers. Through the first 4.2 innings, the D-Backs couldn’t even find a hit. Freddy Peralta was truly carving through the lineup and he ended his outing with the same number of Swing-&-Misses as Gallen himself with 9. They finally got on the board courtesy of a solo homer from Alek Thomas that cut the deficit in half 2-1, but the D-Backs hitters wouldn’t truly figure out Peralta until the sixth when Geraldo Perdomo worked a leadoff walk ahead of a Corbin Carroll double put two runners into scoring position for Ketel Marte. Marte certainly didn’t disappoint as he laced a fastball into centerfield that scored two to give the visitors their first lead of the game 3-2. He would advance to third on a Tommy Pham single, but was tagged out on a challenged play that was ultimately confirmed when Josh Donaldson managed to graze his achilles during a run down off Christian Walker. Undeterred, the D-Backs loaded the bases with a Herrera walk before Abner Uribe yanked a pitch that scored Pham in one of the most painful plays at the plate in recent memory. That play was immediately followed by an RBI single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr that gave the D-Backs their fifth and final run for the 5-2 ultimate score.
There will be plenty of articles and vlogs trying to make sense of this game or try to unearth takeaways that might be able to predict the next round of the playoffs. But in many ways, each round is unique and the D-Backs match-up very differently to the Dodgers than they did to the Brewers. Even still, it won’t hurt if the D-Backs were able to repeat this winning formula of shutout relief pitching, timely offense, and excellent defense around the diamond. It’s worth mentioning that while the D-Backs still solidly lost the season series against the Dodgers 5-8, Arizona found its most sustained success against them when following that exact formula. We can only hope this is the kind of dynamic style of play they’ll be able to bring for however long they can extend this magical season into the fall.
[Jim] Ben will be along with a full recap later, but we definitely want to get this up here!
It was not an auspicious start for Zac Gallen, as he allowed two runs in the first, to give the Brewers an early lead. Arizona struggled to get much off Freddy Peralta, and also lost catcher Gabriel Moreno, who was hit in the helmet by a backswing. The D-backs were no-hit into the fifth, and still 2-0 down, when unexpected Alek Thomas happened, going deep to pull Arizona within a run. The wheels then fell off Peralta in the sixth, and the D-backs scored four times, with a two-run single by Ketel Marte the key hit. Gallen ended up going six innings, which would have astonished anyone who saw the first inning. He scattered five hits and three walks with four K’s, but no more damage, in a real gutsy performance.
Now with a 5-2 lead, it was over to the D-backs bullpen. Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel and Andrew Saalfrank took it to the ninth - albeit with some bumps. Enter Paul Sewald and although the tying run came to the plate, he got the K and the save. Arizona will face Los Angeles in the NL Division series, starting on Saturday.