How the Diamondbacks plan to stay sharp before NLCS vs. Phillies begins Monday

Oct 14, 2023, 6:55 AM

The Arizona Diamondbacks...

The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate in the pool after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in Game Three of the Division Series at Chase Field on October 11, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — For the first time this postseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks are experiencing extended time off between games before the National League Championship Series.

The D-backs completed their three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday and do not start the next series against the Philadelphia Phillies until Monday.

Manager Torey Lovullo received input from past colleagues, first base coach Dave McKay and bench coach Jeff Banister on how to handle the layoff, and getting his team in a competitive mode was a conclusion.

The Diamondbacks got back on the diamond and participated in an intrasquad game with umpires and walk-up songs at Chase Field on Friday. Crowd noise and even some heckling were pumped into the ballpark with a loud environment waiting in Philadelphia.

“We just felt like it was really important to get guys on the bump and get aggressive and throw the baseball and be ready,” Lovullo said. “And then offensively, we’re gonna play three really good, hard, aggressive innings. That’s what I’m asking our players to do. Simulate it the best you can, full energy, full throttle. I want it to get as close to 100% as possible. Then we’ll kind of cruise through the next three innings.”

Much of the starting nine played against a group of backups and taxi squad players.

The D-backs will work out again on Saturday before heading to Philadelphia, where they will practice on Sunday before Game 1.

Three of the four remaining clubs are wild card teams that did not have a five-day layover between the end of the regular season and the playoffs like some division winners. The Houston Astros are the exception having reached the ALCS for the seventh straight year.

Each manager in the NLDS was asked about the extended layoff between Game 162 and the NLDS.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the NLDS he felt his team was ready to go, but he admitted later on that five days off was not ideal. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker made a similar comment post elimination, but he pointed to the Astros as a team that was able to overcame it.

“It’s hard when you’re in this every day sport. I never liked two days off as a team,” Snitker said. “I think one day is plenty. It’s what it is, and we gotta figure it out.”

Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman after the sweep told reporters they had good practices before the D-backs series and rest wasn’t an excuse. Philadelphia’s Rob Thomson said he hopes to be in that predicament as NL East champions in 2024.

The NLCS has had two wild card teams in back-to-back seasons after MLB changed its postseason format from five clubs to six in each league, creating the extra days off for the top seeds. That’s a tiny sample size, though, and FanGraphs‘ Ben Clemens devised a list of four-day layoffs in the MLB postseason since 1981 that showed no historical disadvantage for rested teams.

D-backs closer Paul Sewald said layoffs leading to a disruption of rhythm won’t be an excuse from the Diamondbacks in their upcoming series.

“That’s everybody’s job, to make sure that they’re crisp when we step on the field on Monday,” Sewald said. “There’s plenty of chances for people to throw bullpens, whatever they need to do to make sure that they’re going to be ready. … The Phillies will have quite a few days off as well.”

The Diamondbacks have been the hottest team in the postseason by record with a 5-0 start. The Phillies are 5-1, having lost Game 2 to Atlanta.

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