With the reputation of hitting home runs and putting up crooked numbers, the Philadelphia Phillies entered the National League Championship Series with a formidable status. Before the series commenced, Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer Paul Sewald was asked how he would, and the pitching staff, attempt to contain such a dynamic force.
“Execution,” was his reply.
Overall in a broader perspective, the Diamondbacks clearly executed in important aspects and that consequence carried them to an improbable spot in the 2023 World Series.
By defeating the Phillies 4-2 in game seven of the NLCS before 45,901 Tuesday night in Citizens Bank Park, the Diamondbacks advanced to the Fall Classic for the second time in franchise history. If history is to repeat, the Diamondbacks captured all four home games in the 2001 Series and defeated the New York Yankees on Luis Gonzalez‘s walk-off single.
“There’s a great deal of emotion,” said manager Torey Lovullo after game seven. “You really don’t know what’s happening outside of the thought of getting three outs. That’s all I am focusing on, and we got to two outs, I felt (Sewald) was in control. During their last at-bat, I let my mind wander for about 15 seconds between pitches and thought we’re really close to doing something really special.”
This time, the critical elements of timely hitting, superb pitching, and a change of direction propelled the Diamondbacks into the final round of this postseason.
If outfielder Corbin Carroll had to produce additional credentials to justify his NL Rookie Of The Year status, that was solidified Tuesday night. Clearly, the catalyst for the win, the native of Seattle went 3-for-4, two runs scored, 2 RBIs and most important two stolen bases. For most of the series, the Diamondbacks’ running game was bottled and showed little signs of life.
That changed in game seven.
Here, Lovullo gave the theft sign to Carroll who responded with two steals and his traditional brand of aggressiveness on the bases. Until that point in the series, the Diamondbacks had one steal in the opening five games of this series, and Carroll did what Carroll does best. That is to pressure the defense and put himself in a position to score.
Baseball pundits claim that winning is generated through strong pitching and solid defense. While the Diamondbacks led the majors in fielding percentage this past season, it was the pitching that carried the critical victory in game seven.
Starter Brandin Pfaadt was strong again in game seven. Though he allowed two runs, including a second-inning solo shot to Alec Bohm, he settled down and fanned seven in his four innings of work. For the post-season, Pfaadt’s ERA is 2.70 and compared to the 5.72 in 19 games during the regular season.
As was the case in game seven, and down the stretch and August and September, the back end of the bullpen executed. Both set-up reliever Kevin Ginkel and closer Sewald shut down the Phillies and each posted a 0.00) ERA throughout the 2023 post-season.
Across the reaches of Citizens Bank Park, there was the miserable emotion of a sudden and dramatic departure.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Philly manager Rob Thomson. “It really is. I told the club if you asked me two days, two weeks ago, two months ago if we would be going home (Tuesday night), I would have said no. That’s how much belief I had in his club. So, it’s very disappointing but our clubhouse, those guys, have nothing to be ashamed of because they played their assess off all year for us.”
The 2023 World Series … the best-of seven series begins Friday night in Arlington, Texas against the Texas Rangers. Game two is Saturday in Arlington. After an off day, the series picks up at Chase Field for games on Monday, Tuesday and if necessary Wednesday. All games begin at 8:03 p.m. Eastern time and televised nationally on FOX.
“We’ll stay in Philly (after game seven) and then head to Texas,” Lovullo said. “Instead of heading back home, we’ll make a left at Oklahoma and head straight to Dallas.”