The Diamondbacks rally to defeat the Phillies and win the improbable National League pennant; will face the Rangers in the World Series | ET REALITY


PHILADELPHIA – Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo stared into the abyss on Aug. 11, 74 days before his team captured the National League pennant in an improbable month-long ambush against their better-touted foes with a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The prospect seemed remote just two months ago, when the Diamondbacks lost their ninth straight game. The club had lost its dominance in the National League West Division. A chance to make the postseason seemed to be slipping away. “We have to make this change,” Lovullo said. “Somehow. Somehow.”

The Diamondbacks did not achieve a miraculous recovery. The club won the next day to end the losing streak. The next day they won again. They won more than they lost the rest of the month. They won enough in September to make the postseason, the sixth and final spot. They were an 84-win team with a run differential that suggested they should be worse. But they had a ticket to the dance. That was all Lovullo’s team needed. Not since the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, winners of 83 games, has a club with this little success in the regular season made it to the World Series.

Yes it’s true. The Diamondbacks are going to the World Series. You can repeat it if the phrase sounds strange in your language. You can read it again if it looks strange on the page. You can reflect, as many in baseball have, on how Arizona got here.

Ask the Diamondbacks if they care. Ask the 45,397 fans at Citizens Bank Park if they can believe it, not after Philadelphia won the first two games of this series and returned home after Game 5 needing just one more victory. Ask anyone in the sport if they predicted this; that person is probably lying.

In completing the comeback, earning their first World Series berth since 2001, Arizona showed all the grit and hustle that got them to this stage. Corbin Carroll, their sensational rookie outfielder, recorded three hits, scored twice and provided a crucial sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. Fellow rookie Gabriel Moreno delivered two RBI singles. The relief corps held firm behind a third rookie, starter Brandon Pfaadt, who avoided the barrels of Phillies sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper for four innings. Arizona reliever Kevin Ginkel did the same with Trea Turner and Harper to ease a seventh-inning jam.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson was right in his decision to keep third baseman Alec Bohm in the cleanup spot. Bohm homered and scored another run. But little else went right for Philadelphia. The lineup failed to capitalize on opportunities in the fourth and fifth before Arizona took the lead. They didn’t put up much of a fight against Joe Mantiply, Ryan Thompson, Andrew Saalfrank, Ginkel and Paul Sewald, a quintet of relievers who may spend the next few days studying the Texas Rangers. The first game of the World Series will take place Friday night at Globe Life Field.

Watching the World Series without Philadelphia will be impressive. When these teams left Philadelphia after Game 2 last week, this series seemed all but decided. The Phillies won the first two games, including a 10-0 rout in Game 2. Arizona retreated to the desert without a credited starting pitcher lined up for the next two games. But Pfaadt had an excellent performance in Game 3. A day later, as Lovullo navigated a bullpen game, his hitters took advantage of Thomson’s strange strategic decisions.

Thomson opted to pull his own starter, Cristopher Sánchez, midway through the third inning. Instead of using one of his other two starting pitchers, Taijuan Walker and Michael Lorenzen, for an inning or two, Thomson favored his usual relievers. The call backfired when veteran Craig Kimbrel blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning. Arizona rallied to even the series. Philadelphia won Game 5 but lost Game 6 on Monday, losing at Citizens Bank Park for the first time this postseason.

All of this set up something that seemed unthinkable last week: The Phillies on the brink of collapse and the Diamondbacks on the brink of a pennant. And it also allowed Lovullo to once again dig into his bag of receipts, an ongoing compilation of snubs from the press and public. The latest came from SiriusXM host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who promised to “retire on the spot” if Arizona won.

The bet made Lovullo smile. He said he considers Russo a friend. “But I would love to see him quit if we won today,” Lovullo said. “You know what I mean? There’s nothing better than a wise New Yorker saying something and then having to bite those words.”

For Lovullo, Russo’s comment fits a pattern this postseason: “There’s a prevailing theme here that we, A, don’t deserve to be here, B, that we’re going to get our asses kicked, and, C, there are bullies. throughout the National League that can mistreat us,” he said. “I’m really excited knowing that we’re going to play Game 7 and that we’re about to do something incredible. And we love proving the naysayers wrong.”

Thomson took a different approach. If Lovullo seemed to have his ears open to any national speech about his club, Thomson seemed determined to avoid any talk. He insisted that he wasn’t listening to local sports radio institution 94.1 WIP’s complaints about his refusal to alter his lineup, leaving Bohm in the clear. “To me, moving people around doesn’t make much sense,” Thomson said.

Arizona stressed the importance of scoring early to calm the crowd. The team completed that task in the first inning on Tuesday. Rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll hit an infield single. Rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno singled to right field. Carroll ran from first to third, where he scored on a grounder by Christian Walker, who dived through the pocket into a double play.

Bohm pushed the crowd back. He hit a lofted sinker from Pfaadt. The baseball landed in the left field seats. It was only Bohm’s second extra-base hit in the series. The moment was exquisite. Harper came out of the dugout to applaud Bohm. Schwarber leaned over the railing to exhort the crowd.

Schwarber had a chance to keep the fans going in the third, after outfielder Brandon Marsh led off with a single and advanced on a bunt by outfielder Johan Rojas. But Pfaadt pulled himself together and struck out Schwarber for the second time. Pfaadt saw a 2-2 sinker near the bottom of the zone, close enough for referee Adam Hamari to call on Schwarber. The inning ended when shortstop Trea Turner hit a ground sweeper to strand Marsh.

Bohm once again cheered the team on in the fourth. He issued a one-out walk, over a series of errant fastballs, to set the table for Stott. Pfaadt attempted a 2-2 sinker. Stott sent a cutting drive to left-center field, a double that scored Bohm to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. A single by catcher JT Realmuto put the runners on the corners. Pfaadt limited the damage. He struck out outfielder Nick Castellanos and Rojas.

The Diamondbacks didn’t stay down for long. A leadoff single by third baseman Emmanuel Rivera sparked movement in the Phillies bullpen. Jeff Hoffman, Thomson’s right-handed fireman, had been warming up, off and on, since the second inning. He was prepared to face Moreno, a right-handed hitter. But before Thomson made a move, Carroll hit a two-out, game-tying single up the middle for his third hit of the night.

Carroll proceeded to torment Hoffman. When Hoffman threw out his first pitch, Carroll dove to second base, stealing a bag as he did 54 times during the regular season. The extra 90 feet led to a run when Moreno hit a slider to right field to put Arizona up, 3-2.

Hoffman held on until the seventh, when Thomson handed the game to José Alvarado, perhaps his most reliable reliever. Alvarado was pitching for the fourth time in the series. The Diamondbacks looked comfortable. Gerardo Perdomo greeted him with a single. Ketel Marte hit a double. Carroll overcame Alvarado’s platoon advantage to launch a 99.8 mph fastball deep enough to right to score Perdomo and double the lead.

Lovullo’s bullpen subdued the Phillies in the final frames. Ginkel ran through a thorny patch in the seventh, getting Turner and Harper out. In the eighth he struck out the sides. In the ninth, Sewald swept the bottom of Philadelphia’s lineup. The final out landed in Carroll’s glove in right field, a harmless fly ball hit by pinch-hitter Jake Cave. The crowd headed for the exits as Carroll ran toward his teammates.

The Phillies were going home. The Diamondbacks were going to the World Series. It doesn’t matter if you can’t predict it. Arizona turned this series around already this season. Somehow. Somehow.

(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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