this may be the blue wave that sends us dumped into the ocean.
So... about that...
I do get the pre-game pessimism. The team's track record against the Dodgers had been poor, both in the regular season and the one and only time we faced them in the playoffs. But - and I freely admit this may be hindsight talking - it felt different going into last night. This Dodgers team, despite winning 100 games again, did not feel like a juggernaut. Outside of that insane 24-4 spell in August, and our own 5-21 spell a little earlier, the teams weren't that far apart. But the scope and manner of last night's win, is something I doubt anyone saw coming, playoff Kershaw or not.
That was the biggest road margin of victory in Diamondbacks play-off history, supplanting the 11-4 victory in Atlanta which was Game 4 of the NLDS in 2001. Overall, it trails only the famed Game 6 of the World Series later that year, where Andy Pettitte turned out to be tipping his pitches. Mind you, that's perhaos not too surprising, given the short history of the franchise and their struggles on the road in the playoffs. The Diamondbacks are 3-0 away from home this post-season. They had won only five playoff games in franchise history away from Chase Field before this season, in nineteen attempts. Meanwhile, last night also set a Dodgers mark for their worst home defeat in their Los Angeles history. To find the only matching margin you need to go back to 1956, when the then Brooklyn Dodgers lost 9-0 to the New York Yankees.
Dejected Amish Farmer
Is this available in a format suitable for framing? pic.twitter.com/KQm9za22fu— AZ SnakePit (@AZSnakepit) October 8, 2023
According to Dave Stewart, "Dodgers insist Clayton Kershaw is physically fine, and that he’ll start NLDS Game 4." To which the Diamondbacks and their fans say, "Yes, pretty please." It turned out that, of all the possible narratives mentioned in the Gameday Thread, the one about Playoff Kershaw was the most powerful. He's now 13-13 with a 4.49 ERA, putting him in the same post-season category of performance as... Ubaldo Jimenez (4.50). But last night was clearly not just mental. Kershaw's velocity topped out at just 91.2 mph last night, and averaged 90.4. That's below even this year's average of 90.8 mph, and was causing concern well before last night. With the Dodgers rotation torn apart by a mix of injury and domestic abuse allegations, nobody started even 25 games for them this year.
The layoff effect
Small sample size to be sure, but yesterday saw the wild-card teams outscore those who got a bye in that round, by a 21-10 margin, and win three of four games, despite all of them being on the road. A lot of complaints from the losers, although it's not something we particularly saw last year, when the format was the same. But the potential for an "anbush" game like last night is undeniable. The good thing is, there's now an off-day for both teams to sit and think about what they did. For the D-backs, that means flushing any potential feelings of inadequacy. For the Dodgers, it's more like staring into the abyss of another feeble post-season performance. The pressure is even more on them now.
Going on the offense
22 runs in three games for the D-backs, with eight home-runs in 105 at-bats so far. That was not the story before the post-season. Arizona hit a total of seven homers, over their last thirteen regular season games, covering a total of 435 at-bats, and came into the playoffs having gone 156 at-bats without a long-ball. They were doomed by this lack of offense, according to many pundits. But the hitters have rediscovered their stroke, though let's not forget the part played by the pitching staff. They have a 2.33 ERA to date, even if Miguel Castro did end the bullpen's scoreless streak in garbage time last night. Interestingly, the biggest blow by WP was Christian Walker's RBI double in the first, when it was 1-0. That was worth +11%.
The resurrection of Alek Thomas
The first game in Milwaukee, Thomas looked as lost at the plate as a Little Leaguer, apparently wondering where were his orange slices. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, on 18 pitches. But last night he delivered an amazing at-bat. Alek fouled off ten consecutive pitches, nine of them with two strikes, before eventually hammering the FOURTEENTH pitch into the bleachers. Per Sarah Langs, it was the most pitches in a PA ending in a HR in the postseason since pitch counts started being tracked in 1988. It was also the most pitches in a PA ending in a HR in D-Backs franchise history, regular or post-season. All told, Thomas saw 33 pitches over his five PA. Nobody else on the team saw more than 26 pitches last night. Conversely, the Dodgers' WP leader was Miguel Rojas at plus one-half of one percent.
Enjoy the off day, folks. I know I will. D-backs' World Series odds down to 17-2 now...