DAN BICKLEY

Home-field advantage swinging NLCS in D-backs’ favor vs. Phillies

Oct 20, 2023, 9:54 PM | Updated: Oct 21, 2023, 12:55 am

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks are getting a world-class education in the postseason of 2023. They’re teaching the Philadelphia Phillies a few things along the way.

Lesson No. 1: There is a big difference between regular season baseball in downtown Phoenix and the delirium of playoff baseball at Chase Field.

A stunning 6-5 victory over the Phillies on Friday in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series is just the latest example.

“When we do things like this, the baseball world sees the Arizona Diamondbacks are a damn good team,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I’m tired of that narrative that we’re lucky to be here.”

The statistics won’t tell the story of how the Diamondbacks leveled the NLCS at two games apiece. Their offense has mostly sputtered. Some of their stars are struggling mightily, most notably Corbin Carroll and Christian Walker.

The difference has been their home-field advantage. A boisterous, relentless sold-out crowd that is shattering reputations and eardrums. In a game that featured 36 players and slogged through 16 pitchers, the constant was the 47,806 fans who would not quit screaming until the Diamondbacks had landed in the winner’s circle.

Once again, Lovullo took a moment after the game to personally thank Arizona fans.

“It is so loud,” Lovullo said. “It is helping us get through those emotional highs and lows. And you’re carrying us through those low times.”

The game was not an easy watch. The D-backs were tiptoeing through a delicate tapestry for the first six innings, piecing together a bullpen game to cover for their deficient starting rotation.

They lost their grip when a pair of left-handed pitchers struggled to retire the left-handed hitters in Philadelphia’s powerful lineup. Kyle Schwarber went deep off Kyle Nelson in the fourth inning, passing Reggie Jackson for most postseason home runs by a left-handed hitter; and one inning later, Brandon Marsh laced a RBI double off lefty Andrew Saalfrank.

Bullpen games are fine in the dog days of summer. They’re perilous in October because much is required, and much can go wrong. A platoon of relief pitchers doesn’t always look as good on the mound as the matchups appear on paper. And as the Phillies got their footing on Friday, it felt like they were putting the NLCS in a stranglehold.

But the D-backs kept grinding. And when Alek Thomas smashed a pinch-hit home run into the pool to tie the game in the eighth inning, it was bedlam time in the Valley. There was no stopping the home team or the home crowd.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here,” Thomas said. “And none of that mattered … (it’s been) a crazy season, a crazy playoffs, and I’m just so thankful to be here with all of the guys.”

What a turnaround. In the first two games of the NLCS, the difference in pedigree and class seemed overwhelming. It felt like the Phillies were simply too much baseball team for the D-backs to handle. That narrative has been flipped on its ear.

The biggest turnaround is inside Chase Field, a stadium that can be sparse and silent during the regular season, often referred to as a morgue or an airplane hangar. Not anymore. The team is now 3-0 at Chase Field in the postseason, where every game has been a cathartic experience, and utter decibel madness. And it’s giving the D-backs an edge they lacked for most of the regular season, proving another tenet of baseball:

Before you put rings on your fingers, you have to hear ringing in your ears.

Dan Bickley

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