I think we have found the most electric moment of the playoffs so far. With his team trailing two games to nothing to the red-hot Phillies, Ketel Marte stepped up in the biggest moment of the Diamondbacks season, lacing a one-out, bases-loaded single off closer Craig Kimbrel to walk off Arizona’s first win of the NLCS. It’s the first walk-off of the 2023 MLB Postseason and ensures that the Diamondbacks will get to play the full three games in front of their home fans at Chase Field.
After being thoroughly outclassed by their opponents in the first two games of the series, the Diamondbacks had to have yesterday circled on their calendars as their best chance at victory in the first three games. Opening the series with two games against Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola in front of a raucous Philly crowd was always going to be a long-shot, so returning home and facing a less intimidating starter in Ranger Suárez became a must-win.
We’ve seen how some of the best recent playoff teams rely on a pair of aces to give them the closest thing to a guarantee in four of seven games in a series — Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole of the 2019 Astros while this year it’s Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery for the Rangers and Wheeler and Nola for the Phillies — so the opposition has to target the three other games. And while things might not have gone according to that script, they still turned out in Arizona’s favor by the end of the game.
NLCS Game 3
Arizona Diamondbacks 2, Philadelphia Phillies 1
(Phillies lead, 2-1)
The reason I say this game did not follow the aforementioned script was because Suárez performed just as well as the pair of aces to go before him. I suppose it shouldn’t have been too surprising that Suárez had a shutdown performance in him — he held the Braves to a run on four hits across his two NLDS starts. Nonetheless, the Diamondbacks could never build any momentum against the 28-year-old lefty, managing no more than one baserunner in any of his five innings.
Luckily, their rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt pitched the game of his young career. He mowed down Phillies hitters left and right, matching Suárez stride-for-stride and truly giving the impression that he understood his team’s season was on the line. Bryce Harper grounded into an inning-ending double play to erase a Trea Turner single in the first and Philly couldn’t capitalize on a Brandon Marsh one-out double in the second, but that was all the offense the Phillies would manage against Pfaadt. He finished the day with 5.2 scoreless giving up just two hits with a career-high nine strikeouts on a career-high 17 swings and misses.
Mirroring a trend we saw from Cristian Javier last night as he mowed down Rangers batters in four no-hit innings to start his outing, Pfaadt’s wipeout effectiveness was accompanied by — and perhaps owed to — significantly elevated spin rates. Both Javier’s and Pfaadt’s breaking balls saw increases of up to if not more than 100 RPMs, and while it appeared the umpires were still conducting foreign substance checks between innings, there’s no denying that both starters brought an extra level of nastiness to the park.
Things got a little spicier once both bullpens entered the game. The Phillies broke through first, with Harper leading off the seventh with a single followed by an Alec Bohm walk. Just when it appeared Ryan Thompson would escape unscathed, getting Bryson Stott to ground into a double play, a wild pitch to J.T. Realmuto allowed Harper to score from third.
Arizona immediately responded, thanks to Tommy Pham leading off with a single before coming around to score the tying run on a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. double. They threatened with more, a Pavin Smith single placing runners on the corners with no outs, but Trea Turner made a fantastic high baseball IQ play, holding Gurriel at third on an Emmanuel Rivera grounder while still leaving himself enough time to convert the double play as the Diamondbacks would fail to plate the go-ahead run.
Philadelphia continued to flash the leather in the ninth. Gurriel drew a leadoff walk and stole second and Smith singled to again put runner on the corners with no outs, yet Turner again prevented them from scoring the game-winning run by gunning down Gurriel at home. As we know, it was only delaying the inevitable.
After falling behind 1-2, Geraldo Perdomo worked an unbelievable walk off Kimbrel, taking three straight borderline pitches to load the bases for one of the hottest hitters of these playoffs in Marte. His third inning double extended his postseason hitting streak to twelve games but the decisive moment saw him lace an elevated 0-1 fastball to center for the bases loaded walk-off victory. He’d finish the day 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles to raise his postseason average to .371 and OPS to 1.046, none more important than the single to win the game.