PHILADELPHIA — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torrey Lovullo peered into the abyss on Aug. 11, 74 days before his team clinched the National League pennant with a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in an improbable, month-long ambush. in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Two months ago, when the Diamondbacks lost their ninth straight game, that prospect seemed remote. The club lost its grip on the NL West. A chance faded in the postseason. “We’ve got to get this thing back,” Lovello said. “Somehow. some way.”
The Diamondbacks did not pull off a miraculous comeback. The club won the next day to end the skid. The next day they won again. They won more than they lost throughout the month. They had enough success in September to enter the post-season, sixth and final. They’re an 84-win team with a run margin that suggests they’ll be worse. But they had tickets to the dance. That’s exactly what Lovullo’s team needed. Not since 2006 did the St. Louis Cardinals, an 83-game winner, reach the World Series with this little regular-season win.
Yes. its true. The Diamondbacks are going to the World Series. If the sentence sounds foreign on your tongue you can repeat it. If the page looks strange, read it again. You might be wondering, like many people across baseball, about how Arizona got here.
Ask if the Diamondbacks care. Ask the 45,397 fans at Citizens Bank Park if they can believe it, Philadelphia needs just one more win after winning the first two games of this series and returning home after Game 5. Ask anyone at the game if they predicted this – and that person will probably cringe.
In completing the comeback, winning their first World Series berth since 2001, Arizona showed all the buzz that got them to this point. Corbin Carroll, their hot rookie outfielder, recorded three hits, scored twice and delivered a crucial seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Fellow freshman Gabriel Moreno delivered two RBI singles. The relief corps was third behind rookie starter Brandon Piffatt, who avoided the barrels of Phillies sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper for four innings. Arizona reliever Kevin Zingel did the same with Trey Turner and Harper to relieve the seventh-inning jam.
Phillies manager Rob Thompson did well in deciding to stick with third baseman Alec Bohm in the cleanup spot. Bohm delivered a home run and scored another run. But nothing else went right for Philadelphia. The line fumbled on fourth and fifth downs before Arizona got going. They put up little fight against Joe Montibley, Ryan Thompson, Andrew Chalfrank, Ginkel and Paul Sewald, who could spend the next few days studying the Texas Rangers. Game 1 of the World Series is Friday evening at Globe Life Field.
Watching a World Series without Philadelphia would be stunning. When these teams left Philadelphia after Game 2 last week, the series was close to being decided. The Phillies swept the first two games, including a 10-0 run in Game 2. Arizona retreated to the desert without a viable starter to line up for the next two games. But Pfaadt turned in a sterling performance in Game 3. A day later, when Lovullo led the bullpen game, his hitters took advantage of Thompson’s different strategic decisions.
Thompson chose to pull his own starter, Christopher Sanchez, in the middle of the third inning. Instead of using Taijuan Walker and Michael Lorenzen for two innings each, Thompson favored his usual relievers. The decision was reversed when veteran Craig Kimbrell hit a two-run lead in the eighth inning. Arizona rallied to even the series. Philadelphia took Game 5 but dropped Game 6 on Monday, losing at Citizens Bank Park for the first time this postseason.
It all set up the unthinkable last week: the Phillies on the brink of collapse and the Diamondbacks on the brink of a pennant. And it allowed Lovullo to once again dig into his bag of receipts, a collection of tidbits from the press and the public. The latest came from SiriusXM host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who vowed to “retire on the spot” if Arizona wins.
The race made Lovullo smile. He said he considered Russo a friend. “But if we win today I’d like to see him go,” Lovello said. “You know what I mean? The New Yorker There’s nothing better than a smart guy saying something and mincing those words.
For Lovullo, Russo’s comments fit the pattern of this postseason: “There’s an overriding theme here that A, we don’t deserve to be here, B, we’re going to kick our butts, and, C, there are bullies. The entire National League can handle us,” he said. “Knowing that we’re playing in Game 7 really excites me and we’re on the verge of doing something incredible. We love proving the naysayers wrong.
Thompson took a different approach. While Lovullo seemed open to any national discourse about his club, Thompson seemed determined to avoid any conversation. He insisted he heard no complaints on local sports radio station 94.1 WIP about his refusal to change his lineup, leaving Bohm in the cleanup. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to move people at this point,” Thompson said.
Arizona emphasized the importance of scoring early to quiet the crowd. The team completed that task in the first innings on Tuesday. Rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll hit an infield single. Freshman catcher Gabriel Moreno flicked a single into right field. Carroll ran from first to third, where he scored on a groundout by Christian Walker, who jumped through the bag to break up a double play.
Bohm brought the crowd back. He whips a towering singer from Pfaadt. The baseball landed in the left field seats. It was Bohm’s second extra-base hit of the series. The timing was great. Harper left the dugout to applaud Bohm. Schwarber leaned over the railing to encourage the crowd.
After outfielder Brandon Marsh led off with a single and advanced on a ball by outfielder Johan Rojas, Schwarber had a chance to put the fans in third. But Pfaadt composed himself and fired Schwarber for the second time. Pfaadt found a 2-2 singer in the bottom of the zone, close enough for umpire Adam Hamari to ring up Schwarber. The inning ended when shortstop Trey Turner hit a sweeper in the dirt to Marsh.
Bohm rekindled the fourth team. He took a one-out walk over a series of foul fastballs to set the table for Stott. Pfaadt tried a 2-2 sinker. Stott sent a slicing drive to left-center field that Bohm’s double scored to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. A single by catcher JD Realmudo put runners on the corners. Pfaadt limited the damage. He struck out slumping outfielder Nick Castellanos and Rojas.
The Diamondbacks didn’t stay down for long. A leadoff single by third baseman Emmanuel Rivera sparked a stir in the Phillies bullpen. Thompson’s right-hand fireman, Jeff Hoffman, had been warming up since the second inning. He was ready to face Moreno, a right-handed batsman. But before Thompson could make a move, Carroll laced a game-tying, two-out single up the middle for his third hit of the evening.
Carroll harassed Hoffman. After Hoffman made his first pitch, Carroll went to second base, swiping a bag as he did 54 times during the regular season. An extra 90 feet led to a run, and Moreno hit a slider to right field, giving Arizona a 3-2 lead.
When Thompson handed off the game to Jose Alvarado, Hoffman was in the seventh, perhaps his most reliable reliever. Alvarado homered for the fourth time in the series. The Diamondbacks looked comfortable. Gerardo Perdomo greeted him with a single voice. Ketel Marte scored a double century. Carroll overcame Alvarado’s platoon advantage and hit the ball deep enough to score Perdomo at 99.8 mph.
Lovullo’s bullpen stifled the Phillies in the final frames. Zingle led to a thorny bunt in the seventh, popping out both Turner and Harper. In the eighth, he struck out the side. In the ninth, Sewald pitched the bottom of Philadelphia’s lineup. The final out landed in Carroll’s glove in right field, a harmless pinch hit by pinch hitter Jake Cave. The crowd headed for the exits as Carroll sped toward his teammates.
Phyllis was on her way home. The Diamondbacks were headed to the World Series. It’s okay if you can’t predict. Arizona turned the series and the season around. Somehow. some way.
(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)