Diamondbacks outplay Phillies to force Game 7 in NLCS
Posted on: 24 Oct, 2023 at 03:27 AM
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA -- Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo got an earful from Merrill Kelly upon pulling the right-hander in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Monday.
Lovullo might be hearing from Kelly again on Tuesday.
Kelly helped the Diamondbacks continue their unlikely October run by striking out eight over five innings as Arizona beat the Phillies 5-1 to force a winner-take-all finale on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back homers in the second inning for the Diamondbacks, who have won three of the last four games after dropping the first two contests.
Entering Monday, only three teams in the wild-card era -- the 1996 New York Yankees in the World Series, the 2004 Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series and the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS -- have overcome a two-games-to-none deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
The Houston Astros, who trailed two games to none in the ALCS, had a shot against the Texas Rangers in Game 7 later Monday night, but they lost 11-4.
"We deserve this moment," Lovullo said. "We're going to play Game 7, and for me, Game 7, it's like all hands on deck -- anything is possible."
Possibly including Kelly pitching in relief on zero days' rest, a la Randy Johnson for Arizona in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when he was the winning pitcher in the Diamondbacks' 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees.
"Yeah, for sure," Kelly said on MLB Network when asked if he'd be available.
The defending NL champion Phillies, who fell to 6-1 at home this postseason, will be playing in the first Game 7 in the 141-season history of the franchise. Philadelphia faced elimination just once last year, when it lost to the Astros in the sixth game of the World Series.
"We're at home, it's a great place to be," said Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper, who was 0-for-3 with a walk on Monday -- just his fourth hitless effort in 12 games this postseason. "Of course we wanted to get the job done tonight. Weren't able to do that. But tomorrow's all about going 1-0."
Kelly (2-1) allowed one run on three hits and three walks. He regularly navigated traffic against the Phillies, who were 1-of-14 with runners on base and hitless in nine such plate appearances after Brandon Marsh's one-out RBI single in the second.
Kelly retired his final seven batters -- including the top-of-the-order trio of Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Harper in the fifth -- before going viral upon expressing his displeasure with Lovullo's decision to pull him.
"It's what I expect from Merrill -- he is an unbelievable competitor, never wants to be taken out of a game until his tank is absolutely empty," Lovullo said. "He was making statements to me that told me that he was capable of going back out there, but I've got to be the parent in the room and make a tough decision and hand it over to the bullpen that's been very, very efficient."
Kelly said, "In that situation, in LCS Game 6, I want to be out there and help my team win. We had a conversation after that inning. He kind of broke down why it was that he took me out and the reason behind it, and at the end of the day, I trust my bullpen."
The Phillies didn't get a runner beyond first base against a quartet of Arizona relievers. Schwarber made the final out of the seventh while trying to advance to second on a ball in the dirt with Turner at the plate.
Pham and Gurriel went deep in a four-pitch sequence opening the second against Aaron Nola (3-1), who hadn't allowed a homer in his first 19 2/3 innings this month. Alek Thomas then worked a four-pitch walk and Evan Longoria followed with an RBI double.
Nola retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced before the Diamondbacks chased him in the fifth, when Corbin Carroll singled and scored on Ketel Marte's triple to extend Arizona's lead to 4-1. Marte added an RBI single in the seventh.
Nola gave up four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four over 4 1/3 innings.
"Didn't execute some pitches and he paid for it," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "But we didn't score any runs."
No. 9 hitter Geraldo Perdomo had two hits for Arizona, which stole four bases.
Marsh and Alec Bohm had two hits apiece for the Phillies.
The Game 7 winner will play Game 1 of the World Series against the Rangers on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
--Field Level Media