Jeff Passanespn6 minutes read
Philadelphia – He doubted and rejected when the baseball season began, The Arizona Diamondbacks spent the month of October embodying the words of their manager, Torey Lovullo.
“Anything can happen,” he likes to tell them.
What happened Tuesday night has led to perhaps the most improbable World Series in baseball history: The Diamondbacks, behind series MVP Ketel Marte, stunned the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies with a 4-2 victory in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. For the second night in a row, they toured Citizens Bank Park, a hell of a place for visiting teams winless through their first six games here in the postseason, beating the Phillies twice.
By knocking off the Phillies, the 84-win Diamondbacks, who finished 16 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West division, would face the Texas Rangers for their first World Series since 2001. That year, only their fourth since joining the 1998. As an expansion franchise, the Diamondbacks ended the New York Yankees’ dynasty with Luis Gonzalez’s dramatic single off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 7.
Arizona entered the season with 125-1 odds to qualify for the World Series and Texas at 50-1. Both teams barely sneaked into the postseason as wild cards. Both need to win Game 7 to reach Game 1, which will be played at Texas’ Globe Life Field on Friday at 8 p.m. Caesars Sportsbook has the Rangers installed as -180 favorites over the Diamondbacks in the World Series.
The Diamondbacks’ Game 7 win proved more troubling than the Rangers’ 11-4 win over the Houston Astros. Arizona rode a tour de force game from rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll, who went 3-for-4, drove in two runs, scored two more runs and stole two bases after spending most of the series struggling. After a strong four-inning start from rookie Brandon Pvadt, the Diamondbacks, who had been ineffective and sloppy for so long, put together five shutout innings from Joe Mantipelli, Ryan Thompson, Andrew Salfrank, Kevin Ginkel, and closer Paul Seewald, who retired a pinch hitter. Cave to send a crowd of 45,397 people home lamenting what might have been.
“Corbin Carroll is better in person than watching highlights on TV,” said Seewald, who had the final three results after being acquired at the trade deadline for a moment like this.
It doesn’t look like the Diamondbacks will get the chance. During the regular season, they allowed 15 more runs than they scored, the second-worst mark ever for a World Series entrant, behind the 1987 Minnesota Twins, whose run differential was minus 20. Their 84 wins are tied with the 1973 New York Mets and are the second-fewest for a entrant In the World Series, before the 83-win St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Losers of their final four games of the regular season, they backed up the Diamondbacks. In second place for the NL wild cards after the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds stumbled worse down the stretch.
In the Wild Card Round, Arizona swept the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers. In the Division Series, the Diamondbacks ambushed the Dodgers and swept them as well. They still entered the NLCS as distinct underdogs to the Phillies, though Arizona ultimately proved to be more than worthy competition.
Through the first two games, the series looked one-sided. The Phillies took the opener 5-3 and edged Arizona in Game 2, 10-0. As the series headed to Phoenix, the Diamondbacks faced an uncomfortable truth: Lose Game 3 and the series was almost certainly over. Arizona edged Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel to a 2-1 win in Game 3 and chased that up with a 6-5 victory that Kimbrel blasted in a stunning run in the eighth inning.
With the series split, the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks with ace Zach Gallen losing for the second time and found themselves in a perfect situation: They headed home, unbeaten all postseason, with two chances to win a game. Philadelphia faltered on its first attempt, and the Diamondbacks were finally starting to look like themselves.
Arizona, which prides itself on wreaking havoc on the basepaths, stole just one base in the first five games of the series. They ripped off four sacks during a 5-1 win in Game 6 and came back in Game 7 ready to do the same.
The offense started early, a point the Diamondbacks made a priority to quiet the rowdy Citizens Bank Park crowd. Carroll, who entered the game with just three hits in 26 at-bats during the Series, slapped a bunt and moved to third base on a single from Gabriel Moreno, who, like Carroll, is 23 in his first game. Full season. Christian Walker’s pick scored for Carroll, and Pvadt followed with a scoreless first.
The Diamondbacks players knew that through the first six games, the Phillies had won the three in which they scored in the first inning and lost the three in which they did not score. Even with that zero to start with, Philadelphia didn’t panic. Alec Bohm, the cleanup hitter whose rough series prompted fans to call out manager Rob Thompson for dropping him from the lineup, took Pfadt into the left field stands in the second inning to tie the score at 1. Two innings later, Bohm walked and scored on Bryson Stott’s double. It looked like the rest of October was here: the Phillies are rolling, the bank is reeling.
Everything changed on the fifth. Emmanuel Rivera led off with a single against Ranger Suarez and advanced to second on Geraldo Perdomo’s sacrifice bunt. Suarez struck out Marte, bringing up Carroll, who, after being hit in 10 hits against left-handed pitchers in the Series, got his third single of the day off Suarez, scoring Rivera. Thompson removed Suarez, brought in Jeff Hoffman, and watched Carroll steal second — one of four Diamondbacks stole bases for the second night in a row — and score on Rivera, giving Arizona a 3-2 advantage.
The Diamondbacks added another run in the seventh when Perdomo singled, went to third on Marte’s double and scored on Carroll’s sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 4-2. Philadelphia had its chances. Salfrank, the rookie, walked Christian Pasch and Kyle Schwarber with one out in the seventh, prompting Lovullo to call up Ginkel. He slugged home runs off Trea Turner and Bryce Harper — who were a combined 0-for-8 — before striking out Bohm, Stott and JT Realmuto in an impressive eighth inning.
After Seewald closed out the ninth, the Diamondbacks unleashed an improbable celebration. Snakes are actually alive.
“We’ve been playing really meaningful games for a long time,” Lovullo said before the game, and starting Friday, they will play their most important game yet.
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