ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

How the Phillies are keeping Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll from stealing bases in NLCS

Oct 22, 2023, 12:14 AM

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll has stood on first base for more than 40 pitches in the NLCS against the Phillies and has yet to attempt to steal second.

This is a player with 54 steals during the regular season and 99th percentile sprint speed, so what is missing?

In Game 5 on Saturday at Chase Field, Carroll reached first base twice against Phillies veteran ace Zack Wheeler, creating a cat-and-mouse game between a player who wants to run and a pitcher who did everything he could to prevent him from doing so.

It goes beyond throwing over to first base, which Wheeler utilized, certainly.

“Teams know that I run and so Philly has done a good job of just making their pitchers be pretty quick to the plate,” Carroll said postgame.

“Certain guys, Corbin on first, you’re obviously going to pay more attention to him than maybe somebody else,” Wheeler said. “Learning over the years what you have to do to limit base runners getting to second.”

Wheeler was unpredictable with how many beats he took until starting his delivery. Carroll said Wheeler sat between 1.2 and low 1.3s seconds to the plate.

The pitcher said the plan going into the series was to change up looks and timing to home plate in order to keep Carroll from being able to time up a quality jump. At the same time, he stressed not getting outside himself and lose focus on the batter.

Phillies No. 2 starter Aaron Nola used a slide step to keep Carroll from running in Game 2, but Wheeler didn’t.

Carroll said part of his job was to take that attention from the pitcher and give his teammates a mistake pitch to work with.

“What I’ve got to remind myself there is I’m doing my job,” Carroll said. “By him being quicker to the plate, by changing his tempo, the hope is that there’s an extra ball or two over the heart of the plate for the hitter to get the job done. As frustrating as it is to just kind of sit there, that’s kind of what I have to remind myself and what (first base coach Dave) McKay reminds me, as well.”

McKay told Arizona Sports after Game 2 that Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto was keeping an eye on Carroll and dropping his glove to signal the pitcher to pick over to first base.

He said there were a few instances when Carroll was going to steal, but he did not get the jump he needed.

“That’s what good base runners do, they don’t run into outs,” McKay said. “It’s not that we’re standing still, we’re looking for that opportunity.”

The Phillies, on the other hand, took advantage of aggressive base running in Game 5 to steal a run, literally.

With runners on the corners and two outs in the first inning, Philadelphia’s Bryson Stott took off for second and stopped in the middle of the base path.

D-backs catcher Gabriel Moreno, MLB’s leader in caught stealing percentage, threw down to second, springing the trap.

Phillies base runner Bryce Harper took off for home, and D-backs second baseman Ketel Marte cut the ball off and threw home. The ball got there in time, but the throw was low and Moreno could not pick it before facing a collision with Harper. Both players were okay after Moreno was checked on by training staff.

“From the start of the playoffs, the message to everybody was let’s put pressure on people,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said postgame.

“That doesn’t mean the double steals. It also means getting down the line, putting pressure on people with ground balls. And Harper did it on the ground ball to second base. Putting pressure on the outfield, thinking about going first to third, good turns. Forcing them to make mistakes.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said the play was not surprising and his club practices defending it. He felt they had the out easily if the throw was up.

So far, the Phillies have neutralized a potential advantage the D-backs had coming in.

In the series, the Phillies have six steals compared to the D-backs’ one. Arizona stole 166 bases in the regular season, second most in baseball. Lovullo said the Diamondbacks are a risk-friendly team that will take advantage when given the chance. But that doesn’t mean running into unnecessary outs when the opportunity does not present itself.

Carroll also hasn’t been on base many times this series. He was 1-for-15 before Game 5 and said postgame he isn’t pleased with his performance.

He felt he’s put the ball in play but has struggled to barrel it up. In Game 5, he roped a 109 mph single and flew out 396 feet to right-center field. Carroll said he made some adjustments that have him feeling more confident.

Why didn’t Carroll score?

In the first inning after Carroll walked and reached second on a ground out, Moreno came up and singled to center. The ball was on the ground just to Carroll’s right. He went back to second base before seeing it through and taking off for third, where he was stranded. Had he not gone back, chances were he scored.

“Usually you’re trained when the ball is hit to your left, you can advance freely. The ball was hit to his right, and he was retreating back to the bag,” Lovullo said.

“But there’s two parts to that. We’ll get a chance to talk to Corbin about it. You have to know where your infielders are placed. If the infielder is going to have to move as far left as (Phillies shortstop Trea) Turner was going to, you just have to know where that placement is.”

Lovullo said he didn’t fault Carroll but explained he could have made a batter read on the situation. He thought Carroll lost sight of where Turner was set up.

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