DAN BICKLEY

Phillies’ power puts Diamondbacks on the brink of elimination heading back Philadelphia

Oct 21, 2023, 8:48 PM | Updated: 9:58 pm

The jabs came early. The haymakers came late.

The string of house parties at Chase Field ended on a sobering night in the Valley.

After seven months, 172 games and a magical romp through the postseason, the Diamondbacks are on the brink of extinction.

A 6-1 loss to the Phillies was more than a buzzkill to another sellout crowd, a gathering of 47,897 yearning for another wild night at the ballpark. It revealed some of the team’s deepest flaws, from more baserunning mistakes to a lineup with too many soft spots, to leaving too many runners in scoring position, to a defense with too many noodle arms.

It also fueled an uncomfortable question: Is Zac Gallen really a shut-down ace? Is he really that dude?

The answer: Not in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, when Gallen inverted his failures from Game 1. This time, he yielded monstrous home runs to Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper near the end of his performance.

But just like Game 1, they sound like cannon balls and traveled over 900 feet combined.

Schwarber’s blast cleared the pool by a jaw-dropping margin. Both were impact statements that will tear at a pitcher’s reputation on the big stage. Especially when Gallen had been so dominant at Chase Field in 2023, where he went 12-3 with 120 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched.

He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the pitcher that Arizona needed in a pivotal Game 5. If you’re the Diamondbacks, you’re hoping that Gallen hit a wall after producing a career-high in innings pitched, and not the alternative.

Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo conceded the best pitchers in baseball are able to elevate their game in the postseason. But he insisted that Gallen was close to making that happen.

“I thought Zac threw the ball well enough,” Lovullo said. “Just made some mistakes in that last inning of work.”

The Phillies received a much different night from their ace, Zack Wheeler. He was Zack with the “K.” Twice, he struck out a Diamondbacks hitter with one out and a runner on third, shutting down an Arizona scoring opportunity. He made most of the lineup look foolish.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” Phillies Manager Rob Thomson said.

Said Lovullo: “We made some mistakes today. We didn’t capitalize on some key situations. And that was the difference in the game.”

October baseball is not the time for silver linings. But let’s be real here. While Game 5 was a clunker, the Diamondbacks shocked most of the baseball world with their stout performance in Games 3 and 4. There should be no shame or sense of failure anywhere in the Valley. Not in the clubhouse, and not around the watercoolers on Monday morning.

They have taken the series back to Philadelphia for at least one more night in the crucible. And at the very least, they kept those scruffy, hairy Phillies out of their swimming pool.

Dan Bickley

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Phillies’ power puts Diamondbacks on the brink of elimination heading back Philadelphia