Diamondbacks celebrate trip to World Series after Game 7 win over Phillies
Oct 25, 2023, 6:13 AM | Updated: 7:30 am
PHILADELPHIA — Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Corbin Carroll camped under a pop fly, waiting for it to come down to secure a win and trip to the World Series.
Pitcher Paul Sewald, moments away from closing out the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Game 7 of the NLCS on Tuesday, was praying that the ball would stay fair to end the game.
Before the pitch, manager Torey Lovullo allowed himself 15 seconds to think about what that final out meant to him, even if he tried not to until it was over.
And Zac Gallen was in the bullpen, facing a crowd of heckling and frustrated Phillies fans while he and the relievers started to celebrate seeing where that ball was going to land.
Carroll made the catch, the NLCS was over and the Diamondbacks had captured their first pennant since 2001.
Lovullo embraced bench coach Jeff Banister for a few seconds before pitching coach Brent Strom jumped on both of them, while the players swarmed Sewald at the mound.
“That last at-bat, I let my mind wander for about 15 seconds in between pitches and thought, ‘we’re really close to doing something really special,'” Lovullo said. “For the entire state of Arizona, for this organization that’s had a lot of hardships over the past 36, 48 months. For us to be where we are right now, it was a good moment.”
“Better squeeze it,” Carroll said was his thought. “To be able to finally put it away and run towards that dog pile, man, just a hell of a feeling.”
“Unbelievable,” Gallen said. “You got fans down there screaming at you, they’re not too happy. You see the ball go in the air, we’re celebrating, it’s elation, I don’t know how else to describe it.”
The players, coaches and executives took the stage, where Ketel Marte received the NLCS MVP with a .987 OPS in seven games.
Off to the clubhouse, the music was blasting, featuring Philadelphia artist Meek Mill. Players doused each other with bottles of beer — sometimes buckets full — and handed out cigars.
“Just trying to take it all in, but what an accomplishment by this group,” Sewald said.
The Diamondbacks trailed 2-0 in the series, losing the first two games in Philadelphia. The Phillies won Game 2, 10-0.
Arizona stayed in the fight with a pair of comeback victories at home, and the “Snakes Alive” moniker was born on a piece of paper in the stands caught on camera. But the Phillies regained control with a 6-1 Game 5 win.
Heading back to Philadelphia trailing 3-2 was seen from the outside as an uphill climb, but that clubhouse — with holdovers from a 110-loss 2021 season and players who dug out of a six-week funk capped by a nine-game losing streak in August — kept its composure in consecutive elimination games on the road.
“There’s a lot of grit going into that, there’s a lot of having to deal with the environment here with the fans, it’s such a great baseball environment,” general manager Mike Hazen said. “This is where we want to be, where we want to play. If you’re gonna win, you have to go through places like this.”
Lovullo said before Game 6 that the D-backs didn’t travel across the country to get their ass kicked.
“I meant that we were going to reload, refocus and even though it was a tough loss in Game 5, we still had a pulse,” Lovullo said Tuesday.
The Diamondbacks went up 3-0 in the first inning on Monday and never relented the lead, diminishing the crowd’s presence as the innings piled on.
Game 7 was different, as the Phillies took a 2-1 lead and had the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth inning. Rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt struck out Johan Rojas to end the threat and keep them right there.
Lovullo said his club played closer to “D-back baseball” on Tuesday, and the fifth inning was an encapsulation of that on offense.
Emmanuel Rivera singled and Geraldo Perdomo bunted him over to second base. Carroll delivered his third hit of the ballgame to center and tied the score, 2-2.
He took off for second and stole it easily. Gabriel Moreno poked the ball to right field, and Carroll scored what would eventually be the game-winning run. The only not-so-Diamondbacks part of the play was Moreno getting picked off first after the throw home was cut off, but the damage was done.
From there, the pitching and defense was stellar, highlighted by Ryan Thompson recording four outs, Kevin Ginkel retiring all five batters he faced — including striking out the side in the eighth inning — and Sewald locking it down.
“We have a very high baseball IQ. We truly talked about training a lot of little things here,” Lovullo said. “This is a good baseball team because they care about the right things and they do it the right way.”
The best chance Philadelphia had was in the seventh after Diamondbacks rookie Andrew Saalfrank walked a pair with Trea Turner and Bryce Harper due up. Ginkel entered and escaped the jam, as Turner and Harper combined went 0-for-8.
Inning after inning of Arizona relievers putting up zeroes created tension in the stands. None of the chants were as loud, the buzz sounded different and moments of energization were short-lived.
Evan Longoria, who turned 38 this postseason, watched the final outs recorded from the bench after getting pinch hit for.
He said he was nervous, but not as much as watching the D-backs close out the Brewers in the wild card round or the Dodgers in the NLDS.
“For whatever reason, I don’t know, I had a feeling, man,” Longoria said. “I had a ton of belief in this group. As soon as we got down to those last three outs, Sewald has been as good as anybody this postseason, so I believed he was gonna get it done.”
There was a collective feeling in the clubhouse that they were being prematurely counted out. On the other hand, what the D-backs accomplished was unheard of. No team has ever lost as many games as they did in 2021 and reached the World Series two years later.
They did so with 84 regular season wins, the fewest to win the pennant since the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.
But Lovullo pointed out pregame Tuesday, the Cardinals hung a banner just like every other champion, which is what the D-backs believe they can do, too.
The Diamondbacks head to Arlington to face the AL champion Texas Rangers in a battle of last-place teams from 2021.
The Rangers seek their first World Series title. The D-backs are looking to climb back on top 22 years after their 2001 triumph.
The Fall Classic starts Friday and returns to the Valley on Monday.