NLDS loss to Dodgers a bitter end to a sweet season for the D-backs
PHOENIX — The optics of the final out recorded at Chase Field in 2017 are, understandably, tough for fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the tying run on, Paul Goldschmidt strikes out. And, within an instant, the Los Angeles Dodgers get to celebrate on the D-backs’ field. It almost seems unnecessarily cruel.
That was the case on Monday night, though, as Los Angeles completed the sweep of Arizona with a 3-1 win in Game 3 of the NLDS. And just for an extra added twist, it was a pair of local products who did most of the damage to Torey Lovullo’s group in the final game of the season.
Cody Bellinger was raised in the Valley, representing Chandler at the Little League World Series in 2007, then playing high school baseball at Hamilton. He grew up watching Diamondback games, but he spent Monday night delivering what proved to be the hit that ultimately eliminated them — a solo home run off Zack Greinke in the fifth inning that put the Dodgers up 2-0.
“Yeah it was really cool coming back here to Chase Field,” Bellinger pointed out. “Played here in high school, went to a lot of games as a kid, so to celebrate here on the Dodgers is pretty special.”
Bellinger also made a couple impressive defensive plays in the field. And he wasn’t even the only LA hitter with ties to the Phoenix area who made an impact in this one.
Austin Barnes played for Arizona State from 2009 to 2011, and the one-time infielder was the man calling the game behind the plate as Yu Darvish and four Dodger relievers combined to allow just three total Arizona hits. He homered off Greinke as well, giving LA a 3-1 cushion with a solo shot to lead off the sixth.
As it turns out, Barnes was the last batter Greinke will face in 2017.
“Being from Arizona State, Arizona kind of feels like a second home really,” he explained. “Been over here for awhile — three years in college and my little brother actually is out here now. Yeah I’m pretty familliar with it. It’s great to do it here.”
For the D-backs, it’s a rough way for the season to end. And it’s not something they’re going to get over quickly. With the year they put together, the electricity last week’s wild-card victory over the Rockies generated and the relative success they had against the Dodgers over the course of 19 regular season meetings, expectations were high for this showdown.
They certainly didn’t look like a club primed to get swept when the series began on Friday. But that’s the reality now.
Still, it’s worth remembering the remarkable strides they made in 2017. From the outset of Cactus League play in March, the team had a different feel. They increased their win total from 69 to 93, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2011 along the way.
That’s not bad, considering the main conversation around the team back in February centered around what pieces they could get to trigger a rebuild if they traded Greinke away. Instead, they made a strong push to establish themselves as contenders in this league.
“It doesn’t happen by accident,” Lovullo noted. “You have to build that foundation, and that’s something that we’re doing every single day here.
“We kind of worked through the heavy-lifting phase. We advanced to the playoffs this year. We’re very proud of that. But my mindset is we haven’t quite accomplished what we need to as an organization.”
Even if it’s only the first step, it was a big one for an organization that appeared to be headed in the completely opposite direction just 12 months ago. And that means a great deal when looking at the big picture. For now, though, being knocked out by the rival Dodgers stings. And it’s going to sting for awhile.
“I know collectively as a group we’re going to look back on this year as one that was very productive,” Lovullo said in the moments after Game 3 ended. “When that happens, I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to start to think positive thoughts, but I can’t quite get there yet, and I’m not going to force it. I want to have it be a natural process.”