Brandon Pfaadt’s scoreless start propels Diamondbacks to NLCS

Oct 12, 2023, 11:26 AM

Chase Field was loud, stakes were high and the Arizona Diamondbacks were on the brink of advancing to the NLCS for the first time since 2007 on Wednesday night.

The Diamondbacks handed the ball to 24-year-old rookie Brandon Pfaadt with a shot at helping the team do something absolutely few had foreseen: Sweeping the NL West-champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

There was not a bigger or better start in the right-hander’s career.

Pfaadt threw 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, striking out a pair and keeping the Dodgers on their heels throughout.

“I felt good out there,” Pfaadt said. “I felt ready to roll, especially when we hit the four home runs. It was like, ‘Go out there, throw strikes, that’s all that matters.’”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo called to the bullpen in the fifth after Pfaadt gave up a one-out double to Dodgers catcher Will Smith. But given the team’s 4-0 lead off four solo homers in the third, Pfaadt willingly gave Lovullo the ball and walked off to a standing ovation.

“I kind’ve knew going in that it was going to be a shorter leash than (starters) Zac (Gallen) and Merrill (Kelly). I was just there to give them whatever the team needed,” Pfaadt said. “My goal was to be winning the game when I came out.

“You’ve got to trust your manager. And obviously, we trust our bullpen, they’ve been lights out. It wasn’t a problem at all.”

The rookie only threw 42 pitches and he could’ve gone a few more innings with the way he was pitching. But the call for reliever Joe Mantiply may have proved vital in the team’s victory.

“His outing? It was fantastic,” Lovullo said. “And I went over and I told him, I said, ‘I understand this was a mistreatment. I promise I won’t always do this to you. But we’re going to win this game because of your effort, and I want you to understand that.’”

Pfaadt has dealt with some adversity throughout his rookie campaign. He was left off the Opening Day roster in March and was twice sent down to Triple-A Reno. He ended his rookie campaign 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA.

However, after his third promotion on July 22, Pfaadt rounded into form. Pfaadt lowered his 9.82 ERA to 5.72 over his final 13 games.

It was enough to don him as the Game 1 starter in the NL Wild Card series and a reliable arm going forward.

“I told him I was proud of him. I think he’s the one that’s grown the most,” Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen said. “He had his ups and downs for sure. It may be the biggest start of his career so far. … He came through and delivered, you can’t ask for any more.”

The Diamondbacks now await the winner of the Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies NLDS series. Game 1 of the NLCS will be on Monday.

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