Arizona Diamondbacks suffer another Nov. 1 nightmare in World Series
Nov 1, 2023, 10:11 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2023, 7:50 am
PHOENIX — We were never supposed to be here. Baseball in November reads weird. It feels odd to type, strange to see given how often we associate the postseason with October.
The first we saw of it in the World Series was in 2001, with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 pushing back the MLB calendar. A few logistical happenings bumped back more postseasons into November, and with the expanded playoff format, we will now see the season more often than not end in this month.
That is horrible news for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have once again been haunted by the first day of November after a 5-0 loss on Wednesday eliminated them in the 2023 World Series and made the Texas Rangers champions.
Wednesday marks the second Nov. 1 result — and third painful game that was live during that date — to be indescribably brutal to the D-backs, in a nightmare way where any semblance of realism has escaped us for how bad a defeat could possibly get.
This one was physically painful.
The runners left in scoring position for five straight innings. The agonizing nature of that overshadowing any sort of ability to take in the mastery Zac Gallen was putting on display. The way Gallen lost his no-hitter, on a perfect knuckle curve low and away that Corey Seager got the nub of his bat on to put the ball where no one was down the left field line. For him to score the go-ahead run.
For Pavin Smith to strike out looking with a runner on in the eighth and for the team’s offensive stars Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte not even getting a chance in the ninth at a one-run game after Texas blew it open in the top half, thanks partially to arguably the best defensive outfielder in franchise history Alek Thomas booting a ball rolling to him on the ground.
A special brand of cruelty, this was. I can’t help but suspect some other-worldly forces are at play surrounding this stupid day I now loathe.
The start of this wasn’t even on Nov. 1 yet. It was Halloween. And apologies in advance for unearthing the scars on your sports fan heart and peeling open the scabs once more, the same ones placed on mine when I was 11 years old. The context of the sequences cannot be underplayed, especially after how the season ended on Wednesday.
Armed with a 2-1 series lead in 2001’s Game 4 at Yankee Stadium and scoring two runs in the top of the eighth inning to take a 3-1 game lead, D-backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim entered for a two-inning save after Curt Schilling got through seven innings of one-run ball on three days of rest.
Kim across his four playoff outings coming in tossed 6.1 scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and three walks. He retained that form in the eighth, striking out all three batters.
On a seven-pitch at-bat to New York Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill with one out in the ninth, O’Neill got jammed inside and fought it off for a bloop single into short left field. Kim quickly recovered, striking out Bernie Williams in three pitches, making four of his five retired batters punchouts.
Tino Martinez didn’t want to get to that part of his duel with Kim and was first-pitch swinging, finding excellent contact on a pitch in the zone to blast a two-run homer to center, tying the game.
Kim, no stranger to long outings, remained in for the 10th after Arizona couldn’t find a run to answer.
With two outs and nobody on, after Derek Jeter fouled off the first pitch he saw from Kim, the FOX broadcast elevated the tension of the moment by showing the clock striking midnight in New York. In hindsight, an eerie “Attention fans: Welcome to November baseball” message came across the jumbotron.
Jeter’s next swing missed to put Kim ahead 0-2, the part of his heroics largely forgotten. Half his body lunged across the plate while laying off ball one, ready for Kim to work the outside part of the plate and foul anything off he didn’t like. Jeter did that for pitchers four and five, again leaned over for balls two and three outside before getting a good beat on pitch eight that he still managed to foul off down the right field line.
Kim took a while before throwing the ninth and final pitch of the at-bat, the exact one Jeter was looking for. A belt-high, floating pitch on the outside portion of the strike zone was smacked over the right field fence by just a few feet. Game over. Mr. November nickname cemented.
Twenty hours and change later, Game 5 kicked off and Arizona once again brought a two-run lead into the ninth.
Kim was back out there, and after scaring the crap out of D-backs fans with a leadoff double for Jorge Posada, he retired the next two hitters to bring up Scott Brosius. Fifteen minutes before midnight.
After ball one, he hung another breaking ball over the plate that Brosius absolutely tattooed, delivering it to hysterical Yankee fans in the left field bleachers.
In a hat tip to our own Dave Burns of Burns & Gambo, no one remembers Albie Lopez being the pitcher to give up the game-winning run in the 12th, much like Paul Sewald will be the guy first referenced for blowing it in the ninth inning of Game 1 this year before Miguel Castro allowed the walk-off homer to Adolis Garcia two innings later.
But it’s no hard feelings for Kim after the significance those two events hold in the franchise history books and his reputation amongst the fanbase. He was interviewed in late October and said he still loves the D-backs, rooting ’em on this go-around.
His was different. November baseball still brings about good memories first, because of how it ended. This one, not so much. And it didn’t even make it past the first day of the month.
Just know, if this team at any point is back in this position four wins away from a title and the schedule involves a game taking up a spot in this wretched box on the calendar, it will be on those D-backs to reverse a day that now feels cursed.