Diamondbacks offense unable to piece much together again vs. Phillies

Oct 21, 2023, 10:21 PM

PHOENIX — It is not just one single problem that has put the Arizona Diamondbacks a single loss from elimination after a 6-1 defeat in Saturday’s Game 5 of the National League Championship Series but they simply aren’t scoring enough.

Taking Game 4 out of the equation, a 6-5 D-backs victory, Arizona now has six runs in the other four contests.

On Saturday, it really wasn’t as bad as the breadstick in the run column suggests.

Seven of the nine D-backs in the lineup produced a hit. Arizona had its fair share of hard-hit outs that left the infield as well.

But the inability to chain anything together, put pressure on the Phillies and get the crowd involved was the killer. The timely hits in both NLCS victories were the difference above all else, for the D-backs and was the key to a late surge in the Game 1 defeat too. None of that came together on Saturday.

The D-backs put a runner on in eight of the nine innings but the opening and last frame were the only ones multiple guys reached in.

Phillies starter Zack Wheeler deserves a ton of credit for that, tossing seven innings of one-run ball despite allowing six hits and a walk.

“Just don’t try to let them get to second. Don’t let it be easy for them,” Wheeler said of his mentality when someone got on base. “The first inning they were on, what, first and third, and that’s really when you have to bear down. You can’t let them get momentum at home. The crowd will get back into it. Try to shut that down the best you can and let your guys get the momentum.”

In the first, Corbin Carroll walked and Gabriel Moreno singled to make it two on with one out before Christian Walker struck out and Pavin Smith grounded out.

“We had a chance to score a run in the bottom of the first inning,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I think the game may have taken a different tone had we done that at 2-1, but we didn’t. And we have to improve in a couple of different areas in a couple of different ways to be able score that run.”

The ninth held less stakes at a 6-1 Phillies scoreline, with Evan Longoria walking and Geraldo Perdomo singling with two outs before Carroll struck out.

“I thought they were really good,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said of his pitchers limiting the damage. “[Wheeler] holds runners really well, which shuts down the running game a little bit. But our pitchers tonight, all of them for the most part — I think all of them — first pitch strikes, got ahead and then attacked. Two walks on the night. [Wheeler] walks Carroll to start the game off, but then nothing after that.”

Carroll entered the series 1-for-15 with a strikeout, walk and hit by pitch. In his first two at-bats, Carroll worked Wheeler to a full count, producing a walk and single. For his third plate appearance in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on and one out at a 2-0 score, Chase Field made some noise before the first pitch Carroll saw, sensing the potential for a moment. On the first pitch, the lefty ripped a fastball over the plate to right-center 98 mph off the bat 396 feet for an eventful out.

Carroll reached first base twice but did not attempt to steal again, something the Phillies were very cognizant of trying to contain and Wheeler specifically mentioned with Carroll. Carroll brought up how Wheeler’s even lower times with how quickly he got the ball to the plate through his motion on Saturday and catcher J.T. Realmuto’s savvy in that department put him in a tough position to go for it.

The balance in the order just wasn’t there again. Walker, Smith and Evan Longoria all lacked impactful at-bats. The trio accounted for half of the D-backs’ 24 swing and misses.

The D-backs struck out 11 times, eight of which were against Wheeler, who made up for 18 of those swing and misses.

“I think once again, Wheeler threw the ball well,” Lovullo said. “He walks off the mound after seven, and he had given up one run. So I think he got really stubborn, and we started to get into a little bit of a chase mindset.

“There were some fastball sliders on the upper half of the plate to left-handed batters and two-seamers to right-handed batters that I feel like we didn’t eliminate. We could have been a little more patient and put more pressure on him. There were some key at-bats and some key moments where if we slugged, it’s a totally different outcome. But he made pitches and kept us in check.”

Walker in particular is really going through a slump when it comes to how he is reading the pitcher. Saturday included a few check swings after he guessed wrong on the pitch selection and sometimes even on balls far out of the zone, like earlier in the series. He did knock a sweeper over the zone in the fifth inning down the left field line for a double, so perhaps that can get him back on track for Monday’s Game 6.

It would be absolutely bizarre for a D-backs playoff series to go at least six games and not include a big-time offensive moment from either Carroll or Walker. Then again, as our own Alex Weiner pointed out in the video above, Arizona could lose all four games Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly started.

Playoff baseball is weird.

Walker is now 2-for-17 with four walks and eight strikeouts in the NLCS.

Smith took the place of Tommy Pham, an insane suggestion to make two weeks ago but a justified one curently with Pham sporting six strikeouts and a hit in 14 at-bats through four games. Smith came into his own for Games 3 and 4, and there was a right-hander on the mound. But Smith’s at-bats Saturday resulted in a slow groundout to first, a three-pitch strikeout, another punch-out featuring two swings on balls outside of the zone and a groundout to second.

Longoria is now 4-for-30 in the postseason with three walks after an 0-for-3 night plus a walk on Saturday.

Smith and Longoria together encapsulate the needs felt for the D-backs at the trade deadline, one they filled with Pham as another right-handed bat but another they passed on in landing an everyday third baseman. Jace Peterson was acquired but was dropped off the NLCS roster after holding a place in the previous two rounds so the D-backs could bring an extra pitcher. Those things tend to catch up to teams in the postseason eventually.

Perdomo (two singles) and Carroll were the two D-backs to reach base twice.

The Phillies only reached base two more times than Arizona but the long ball was once again the difference. They clubbed three of them for four of the six runs, and the other two came in the first inning when sharper defense from Arizona could have prevented both.

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