Diamondbacks sweep Brewers with back-to-back comeback victories, get Dodgers in NLDS
Oct 4, 2023, 11:15 PM
MILWAUKEE — The Arizona Diamondbacks doused each other with more champagne after completing a two-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Wild Card Series on Wednesday.
The D-backs overcame a multi-run deficit for the second straight night to close out a 5-2 victory and advance to the National League Division Series. Arizona will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five set starting Saturday at Chavez Ravine.
“A connected team is a (bleeping) dangerous team. We are (bleeping) dangerous!” — Torey Lovullo pic.twitter.com/9Yd7LIkfVy
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) October 5, 2023
Arizona ace Zac Gallen allowed two runs in the first inning Wednesday but followed the “debacle” with five shutout frames.
Brewers starter Freddy Peralta grooved early before D-backs outfielder Alek Thomas broke through with a home run in the fifth inning. Ketel Marte produced the go-ahead RBI in a four-run sixth, and the bullpen took over from there.
The D-backs also had to overcome standout catcher Gabriel Moreno’s removal after he was caught in the head with a backswing in the second inning.
They entered the postseason on a four-game slide, falling to the final wild card spot to face the NL Central-winning Brewers as underdogs.
Manager Torey Lovullo expressed how battle-tested he felt the group is having fought in a playoff chase in September with many tight games.
“I don’t think that team by any means underestimated us, but it’s just that dog mentality that we’ve had all year,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “I think that it makes it more special and brings the group closer together.”
The D-backs now have their first postseason series win since 2007 and reached the NLDS for the first time since 2017.
Zac Gallen finds a groove vs. Brewers
Gallen started his first career postseason game with a 32-pitch opening inning frame, struggling to put hitters away with his fastball.
The Brewers jumped ahead 2-0 after boasting an early 3-0 lead in Game 1 on Tuesday.
But Gallen got through his next five innings by throwing 68 pitches with two hits allowed to keep the D-backs close.
“I honestly felt really good,” Gallen said. “We’re getting closer and closer and even in the first inning I felt good. The ball was coming out of my hand a little too hard. Just tried to settle in. I came to Torey and said, ‘give me 110 (pitches) and I’ll get you seven (innings).’ I lied in that sense. … When you’re on the road, you got to try and stop momentum. I just tried to give us a chance to keep us in the game.”
Zac Gallen’s 2Ks in the 6th…and is fired up. 🔥
Heck of a job by Gallen battling through this start without his best stuff. pic.twitter.com/U3zsJAibyJ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 5, 2023
His stellar stretch began with a defensive play in the third inning. Brewers outfielder Sal Frelick hit a liner up the middle with two runners on, and Gallen reached out his glove to knock the ball down. The glove fell off his hand, but Gallen picked up the ball and fired to second to start an inning-ending double play.
The righty did not give up another hit for the next three innings, ending his start with consecutive strikeouts and yelling as he walked off the mound.
Lovullo said ahead of first pitch, “no matter what type of stuff he has, he keeps us in games,” which played out hours later.
Diamondbacks come back again
The D-backs became the first team to accomplish consecutive multi-run comebacks to start a postseason on the road, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
It started after Peralta went four hitless innings when at-bat became more stubborn.
Thomas checked off two balls and whacked an elevated changeup to break the shutout and end an 0-for-5 start to his first postseason. He joined Corbin Carroll and Moreno as 23-year-olds who came up with game-changing home runs in their first playoff series.
Arizona’s first hit of the game is an Alek Thomas solo shot! pic.twitter.com/5qTL8ZraNv
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 5, 2023
Fellow 23-year-old Geraldo Perdomo, much like in Game 1, got the ball rolling with a walk in the sixth. He was down 0-2 and worked his way on to flip the order. Carroll doubled down the right-field line with a broken bat to set up Marte.
The veteran switch-hitter tied the game with a home run on Tuesday, going back-to-back with Carroll off Brewers ace Corbin Burnes. On a 3-2 count against Peralta, he shortened his swing and drove a fastball up the middle to bring both runners home.
Ketel Marte gives the Diamondbacks the lead! pic.twitter.com/RWShqpfiLF
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 5, 2023
“It says a lot about the sum of our parts,” Carroll said. “When you’re down like that, you can’t get back in with one swing of the bat. You got to have a whole team bought in.”
The Brewers failed to execute in order to stop the snowball. Reliever Abner Uribe walked backup catcher Jose Herrera, who entered for Moreno after hitting .208 this year, on four pitches to load the bases.
A wild pitch and RBI flare single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. pushed the score to 5-2.
“That’s the nature of these games. It’s it’s not necessarily about being a hero. It’s getting the next guy to the plate,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “Whether it’s a walk, a swinging bunt, bunting a guy over, it’s keeping the line moving. I think that’s what we’re after right now.”
Gabriel Moreno’s status
Moreno was hit in the head on a backswing by Brewers second baseman Brice Turang on a strikeout pitch by Gallen.
What ensued was a lengthy meeting between Moreno, Lovullo and the athletic trainer to determine whether the catcher could remain in the game. Moreno caught a pair of warmup pitches and stayed in the game for another two hitters.
He was done, though, as Herrera entered in the third.
Gabriel Moreno is out of the game after taking a backswing to the head last inning. Jose Herrera is in. pic.twitter.com/wHXsOtryrX
— Alex Weiner (@alexjweiner) October 5, 2023
“He was a little bit dizzy immediately upon getting hit,” Lovullo said. “I wasn’t gonna be satisfied until he caught some balls and felt like that dizziness had gone away, which he said that it did. But once he got into the dugout, our team doctors examined him and said he needs to come out of the lineup. Still getting diagnosed right now. We’re hopeful that he can avoid the concussion protocol.”
Moreno was in the clubhouse celebrating with his teammates after the win.
Diamondbacks’ bullpen does it again
Arizona relievers combined for 6.1 shutout innings in Tuesday’s 6-3 win. They only needed three frames to close out the series, but there were moments when the Brewers had the tying run digging in.
Ryan Thompson threw a scoreless seventh. Kevin Ginkel got the ball in the eighth after throwing two innings on Tuesday. He left with one out and the bases loaded, and Lovullo turned to rookie southpaw Andrew Saalfrank in his first taste of playoff baseball. Saalfrank stayed composed to exit the jam unscathed.
Closer Paul Sewald ended the night by striking out catcher William Contreras with two runners aboard, throwing down his glove and hat while he and Herrera jumped into each other’s arms.
“You don’t win in October unless you have a good bullpen,” general manager Mike Hazen said.
Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers play Game 1 on Saturday, a rematch from the 2017 NLDS when L.A. swept Arizona.
The schedule plays in the D-backs’ favor in terms of setting up the starting rotation. Sweeping the Brewers helped with that, too, as the D-backs spared Kelly to use him in Game 1 in Los Angeles.
The schedule goes as follows:
Game 1: Saturday
Game 2: Monday
Game 3: Wednesday, Oct. 11
Game 4: Thursday, Oct. 12
Game 5: Saturday, Oct. 14
Kelly and Gallen are in line to pitch twice each with the staggered days, as Game 3 will be the exception.
The Dodgers won their last five games against the D-backs in the regular season, including a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.
But, in the words of Gallen, “If you’re scared, stay home.”
“We’re familiar with them, we’ve played them a lot,” Walker added. “It’s gonna be a tough few games, but we’re excited. Anything can happen in the postseason, it’s about executing. Anybody can win on any given day. So we’re looking forward to it.”