Diamondbacks strike early, take commanding 2-0 lead over Dodgers in NLDS

Oct 10, 2023, 12:39 AM | Updated: 3:27 pm

LOS ANGELES — The Arizona Diamondbacks won 16 fewer games than the Los Angeles Dodgers during the regular season, yet they went on the road and snatched a 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series against their division foes.

The D-backs earned a 4-2 victory on Monday in Game 2, scoring three runs in the first inning off Dodgers rookie Bobby Miller and receiving another winning start from Zac Gallen.

The Diamondbacks have opened the postseason 4-0 and are one win from securing a sweep to reach their first NL Championship Series since 2007.

They head back to Chase Field for the first time since Oct. 1, where a sellout crowd will await on Wednesday.

In best-of-five series in MLB playoff history, teams that started 2-0 have won 89% of the time.

“These guys are very hungry, and they feel like they have a lot to prove,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame. “Obviously we feel good about it, but we will take nothing for granted. We will continue to stay humble.”

Diamondbacks rally early vs. Dodgers

The D-backs became the first postseason club to score three or more runs in back-to-back first innings since the 2005 Chicago White Sox, who won the World Series.

It started with a walk on Monday, as lead-off man Corbin Carroll fell behind 0-1 before laying off a trio of inside heaters. Ketel Marte followed with a bunt single down the third-base line, perfectly placed.

“I haven’t seen him bunt too much. It’s so cool to know he’s got that in the bag,” Carroll said.

Tommy Pham knocked a broken-bat single into left field to load the bases with no outs in the top of the first, and Christian Walker delivered a deep fly ball to bring the first run home on a sacrifice.

With runners on first and third, Pham took off for second and stole it without a throw, which he called an overlooked moment of the win. Gabriel Moreno grounded out to shortstop, scoring a run while avoiding an inning-ending double play. That allowed Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to bat, and he singled in the third run.

The first inning was not slug-filled like Game 1 against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw when three extra-base hits plated five runs. The D-backs grinded through some at-bats and executed situational hitting.

Gurriel provided some pop later with a solo shot on a slider below the zone in the sixth inning to bump the lead to 4-1.

Zac Gallen earns another postseason win

Gallen retired 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced with only an infield hit and a walk mixed in. After allowing two earned runs in the first inning of Game 2 during the wild card series at the Milwaukee Brewers, Gallen quickly got into a rhythm with three punchouts in the first two innings.

“Delivery felt solid. Felt like everything was coming out of my hand pretty solid for the most part,” Gallen said.

Los Angeles got on the scoreboard with two down in the fourth on a solo shot from designated hitter J.D. Martinez the other way.

Gallen had to execute some pressure pitches in the fifth with two runners aboard for Dodgers superstars Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Betts bounced into a fielder’s choice and Freeman worked a full count.

Gallen, with the crowd on its feet, dropped a knuckle curveball into the zone, his third straight curveball, and it froze Freeman for strike three. The fans quieted as Gallen yelled coming off the mound.

“I was trying to think of what he would throw me in that situation, and I definitely wasn’t thinking about a curveball and I don’t think Freddie was either,” center fielder Alek Thomas said.

Betts and Freeman, two players in the mix for MVP votes, went 1-for-13 in the first two games with an infield single.

The Dodgers created another opportunity in the sixth with a pair of weak singles off Gallen, which ended his night.

Lovullo pulled his ace at only 84 pitches — the fewest Gallen has thrown in a start since May — to flip the Dodgers’ order with three left-handed bats coming up.

“Obviously I don’t like coming out, especially in the middle of an inning, especially in the sixth when I felt I was throwing fine,” Gallen said. “But Torey laid it out for me before the inning and after the inning. I get it. It’s October. If that’s what he felt was going to put us in the best position to win, I’m fine with it.”

“I wanted to flip that part of the lineup,” Lovullo said. “We have some strategies that we’ve talked about as a group and some things that we strongly believe in. Zac, I felt he had maybe 10 to 15 more pitches, and if it was the middle of July, I would have 100 percent let him continue moving in that direction.”

Gallen’s line finished at 5.1 innings, two earned runs, five hits, two walks and four strikeouts.

Rookie southpaw Andrew Saalfrank came out of the bullpen, and the Dodgers retaliated with a pair of right-handed pinch hitters.

Diamondbacks’ bullpen pulls through

Saalfrank walked his first hitter and allowed an infield single to score a run, but Marte at second base made a diving stop to prevent another run from scoring.

The rookie fell behind 3-1 to Dodgers outfielder James Outman, but he stayed composed to battle back and strike Outman out swinging at a sinker. Arizona right-hander Ryan Thompson entered the game to relieve Saalfrank and escaped the jam.

“Get back in the count, I think it’s the easiest way to say it,” Saalfrank said. “Make him beat me out on a strike and try not to beat myself.”

Thompson, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald faced the minimum nine hitters over the final three frames to end the ballgame, with Sewald earning his first 1-2-3 save with Arizona.

The bullpen has accounted for 15 innings with two earned runs this postseason, both scoring when Arizona led Game 1 against L.A. 11-0.

“We’ve had a really good thing going in the last month or so,” Thompson said. “We’re really confident in each other. … We have one of the deepest bullpens that I’ve ever seen.”

Heading back to Chase Field

The last time the Diamondbacks won a playoff series at home was, well, the 2001 World Series.

Several players shared their excitement level for going back to Chase Field to see what the atmosphere will be like.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the energy the fans are gonna bring,” Carroll said. “It’s been a pretty long time since playoff baseball has been in Arizona … It’s gonna be special.”

Evan Longoria status

D-backs third baseman Evan Longoria was hit in the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning. He was removed for a pinch runner, although that could have been strategic more than injury-related.

Lovullo said X-rays came back negative and he is day-to-day. His hand was wrapped up in the clubhouse after the game.

Dodgers perspective

“I think a lot of our guys have — some of our guys have been in this spot before as far as facing elimination,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said postgame. “We’ve just got to take better team at-bats and win the next game. … We’ve won three games in a row. We’re very familiar with this ballclub. They’re playing good baseball, and we’ve got to find a way to flip the script.”

Diamondbacks-Dodgers Game 3

Lovullo named rookie Brandon Pfaadt his Game 3 starter, while Los Angeles will go with veteran Lance Lynn.

If the series goes to Game 4, Merrill Kelly is in line to start for Arizona after throwing 6.1 scoreless innings in Game 1. Kershaw would go for the Dodgers.

First pitch from Chase Field is set for 6:07 p.m. MST


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