Diamondbacks suffer worst postseason loss in Game 2 vs. Phillies: ‘Everybody has to be better’
Oct 17, 2023, 11:50 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2023, 12:08 am
PHILADELPHIA — It is time to regroup in Arizona for the Diamondbacks after they suffered the most lopsided postseason loss in franchise history.
The D-backs and Phillies played a tight five innings in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday from Citizens Bank Park before Philadelphia piled on eight runs in the sixth and seventh frames. Arizona lost 10-0, its first ever postseason shutout, and gave the Phillies a 2-0 series lead.
The game “spiraled,” as designated hitter Tommy Pham put it.
After the Diamondbacks fell behind 6-0 in the sixth inning, the offense accounted for one hit and six strikeouts down the stretch.
On defense, a pop-up dropped between third baseman Evan Longoria, catcher Gabriel Moreno and pitcher Ryne Nelson. Left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. caught a sacrifice fly ball for the second out of the seventh and turned around like the inning was over.
“Look, we could be playing on the moon, everybody is talking about coming into this environment and I don’t care. We have to play better baseball,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
Been that kinda night for the Diamondbacks pic.twitter.com/Jf08XyRYSG
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 18, 2023
“Everybody has to be better. You can start with the manager and then trickle all the way down through the entire team. … We’ve got to catch that pop-up. That’s baseball 101, and that is absolutely more than unacceptable to me.”
Lovullo said his club did not play “Diamondback baseball” on Tuesday, which he described as executing the fundamentals and being stubborn in the batter’s box. Pham added resilient, which the Diamondbacks showed by not going away in Game 1 despite facing a 5-0 deficit in Monday’s 5-3 loss.
“Flush it, move on. There’s not any time to feel bad for yourself or be pissed off,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “We’re going back home for three games and to win all three.”
The Diamondbacks are in a hole, as teams up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have won the set 84.2% of the time historically.
Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola
Phillies starter Aaron Nola and Arizona’s Merrill Kelly kept the runs down over five innings after which Philadelphia led 2-0.
The Phillies attacked Kelly early with solo home runs by shortstop Trea Turner in the first inning and designated hitter Kyle Schwarber in the third. Despite some other hard hit balls, those were the only hits allowed by Kelly through five and the only two mistakes he felt he made.
“The home run to Trea was trying to go cutter away just kind of backed up on me and it was kind of in the same slot as the pitch right before that,” Kelly explained. “Fastball to Schwarber middle away and up, good place where he could hit it.”
Lovullo said the lack of offense put more pressure on Kelly to keep his team in the game, and he did until the dam broke in the sixth inning. Kelly struck out four straight hitters at one point.
Merrill Kelly, K’ing the Side. pic.twitter.com/Q2SeZIq6ZC
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 18, 2023
At the same time, Nola did not allow a hit until the fourth inning, striking out four of the first eight hitters he faced. He lasted six innings in which he received 17 called strikes with 11 whiffs.
The Diamondbacks struggled to square up Nola’s four-seamer, changeup and curveball with 12 balls in play on 36 swings. Lovullo felt Nola sequenced his pitches well to mess with timing.
“Even though their starting pitcher last night (Zack Wheeler) and tonight were both outstanding, to get to where we have to go, we have to find a way to beat these guys,” Lovullo said. “We had a plan against him, but he made pitches and we couldn’t counter.”
Aaron Nola, Filthy 80mph Knuckle Curve. 😷
7th K. pic.twitter.com/gNU4g80bIa
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 18, 2023
When asked what the plan was, Lovullo said the D-backs would probably see Nola again.
The Diamondbacks had two instances with a runner in scoring position: in the fourth inning with two outs and the sixth inning with one out. Ketel Marte had a single and a double to set up both opportunities, as he’s hit safely in each of his first 11 career postseason games.
Arizona went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, though.
Phillies crush Diamondbacks late
Schwarber led off the bottom of the sixth with his second solo shot of the game and third of the series. It was his 18th postseason home run, tying Reggie Jackson for the most all-time by a left-handed hitter.
The home run came on a Kelly changeup, a pitch no one during the regular season took yard, according to Statcast. Kelly felt the pitch was executed but he may have throw one too many changeups. It was the fourth of the at-bat.
Turner followed with a walk, but Lovullo stuck with Kelly who recorded the next two outs. With left-handed batter Bryson Stott coming up, Lovullo pulled Kelly at 89 pitches for southpaw Joe Mantiply.
Stott punched a single up the middle and the inning got away. Philadelphia scored four runs on four hits.
“Joe Mantiply has been throwing the ball really (well),” Lovullo said. “All the information I have and everything’s showing me statistically that Joe is going to get under a barrel, and we’re going to get back in the dugout down 3-0.”
Torey Lovullo on the decision to pull Merrill Kelly with two outs in the sixth: pic.twitter.com/AGY27SchDz
— Alex Weiner (@alexjweiner) October 18, 2023
The lefty walked Schwarber to lead off the seventh, and Lovullo turned to Nelson. Nelson allowed three hits — including the infield pop-up — and a walk, which resulted in a second pitching change for Slade Cecconi.
Over the sixth and seventh innings, the Phillies went 8-for-14 with three walks and a sac fly.
Diamondbacks and steals
D-backs outfielder Corbin Carroll led off the game reaching base on an error by Turner. Nola responded by slide-stepping home, and Carroll did not bolt for second.
“He was slide-stepping the majority of the time, we felt when he does that, his stuff ticks down a little bit,” Lovullo said. “We were looking to take advantage from an offensive standpoint.”
Arizona did not steal a base in either game at Citizens Bank Park, but, as Carroll explained after Game 2, being aggressive on the bases starts with getting aboard. The D-backs had six base runners in Tuesday’s loss.
Who is the Diamondbacks’ Game 3 starter?
Rookie Brandon Pfaadt will start on the mound for the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Thursday.
First pitch is at 2:07 p.m.