Diamondbacks’ Ryne Nelson plays pivotal role in setting up Game 5 vs. Rangers

Oct 31, 2023, 10:40 PM

PHOENIX — In the words of Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, the Diamondbacks would be in a “really bad spot” going into Game 5 of the World Series on Wednesday without the efforts of Ryne Nelson in Tuesday’s 11-7 loss.

The D-backs turned to a bullpen game trailing 2-1 in the series against the Rangers, and it went sideways quickly with Texas taking a 10-0 lead after three innings.

That’s when Lovullo called to Nelson for length, a rookie who spent most of the year in the starting rotation but lost that role going into the postseason. His last outing was in a clean up spot during Game 2 of the NLCS at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nelson, against a lineup with eight hits in three innings, retired the first 11 batters he faced with four strikeouts. He bridged the gap to the ninth inning, finishing with 68 pitches in 5.1 innings and one earned run.

He received a standing ovation from a crowd that didn’t have a ton to cheer for early and kept high-leverage arms Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald in the bullpen.

“I’ve been champing at the bit to get in there,” Nelson said after his World Series debut. “It was nice I had a job to do, it wasn’t just kind of garbage time, like I needed to keep those guys from going in so I had a purpose. It was nice to go out there and execute.”

Lovullo said when he went to the mound to remove Nelson in the ninth inning, he told the rookie, “Without his commitment to staying ready, the disciplines that it takes behind the scenes to make sure you can go out there and give us 65, 75 pitches and keep us right where we needed so we’re gassed up tomorrow in the bullpen, that was a true team moment.”

Nelson has not started a game since Sept. 17 when he had a two-game stretch of 7.1 innings and eight earned runs. He was added to the bullpen where he has been used sparingly ever since. He started 27 games this year, but the D-backs ran into the playoffs with a three-man rotation.

The last time Nelson surpassed five innings was on Sept. 7.

Nelson said his fastball-slider combination felt good and he was able to keep hitters off-balanced. He felt tired toward the end with such a long layoff between a long outing like that.

Why wasn’t Ryne Nelson an option to start?

The D-backs’ quartet of Joe Mantiply, Miguel Castro, Kyle Nelson and Luis Frias allowed the 10 runs, five of which were unearned, in a disaster second and third innings. The D-backs were burned by a wild pitch, a rare error by Christian Walker and a couple long balls.

Lovullo has been asked many questions about the viability of bullpen games, but the D-backs have leaned on them late in the season and won one in the NLCS.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” Lovullo said. “Maybe (Nelson) was an option for us after an opener. Maybe he was an option for us to start the baseball game. But he did his job and didn’t surprise me. I just know there were some wobbly outings in the postseason, and we were trying to protect him a little bit and build up his confidence and get him in the right spot. And today certainly was that.”

Nelson said not starting is frustrating, but he took accountability for not getting the results he wanted in the second half.

If the D-backs get what they need out of Zac Gallen and have a fresh back end of the bullpen to keep the season alive, Nelson’s fingerprints will be all over that.

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