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MLB Playoff Roundup: Snakes very much alive as Arizona rallies to tie NLCS

Alek Thomas delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer and the NLCS is quickly in a dead heat.

MLB: NLCS-Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Game 4 was a dogfight in every way. The teams used a combined 16 pitchers and threw haymakers all night long. In the end, after a clutch home run by Alek Thomas, the Diamondbacks prevailed 6-5 to even the series at two games apiece in perhaps the most heart-stopping game of this postseason so far.

NLCS Game 4

Arizona Diamondbacks 6, Philadelphia Phillies 5

(Series tied 2-2)

Game 4 was a mix-and-match bullpen game for both managers on the heels of both teams using five pitchers in Game 3, Thursday’s 2-1 Diamondbacks win. Torey Lovullo went with his lefty Joe Mantiply despite being shelled in Game 2. He rewarded his skipper’s vote of confidence and worked a scoreless first inning. Cristopher Sánchez started for the visitors in his first playoff action and matched Mantiply with a scoreless first. Then came the first pitching change of many on the night when Luis Frías replaced Mantiply and put up a zero in the second with the help of this all-out leaping catch at the wall by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. It always hurts to watch October baseball without the Yankees in the mix, but it’s been fun seeing some exemplary defensive plays in these playoffs.

The home team got on the board in the second inning with the help of a pair of miscues, one of them by Sánchez. Christian Walker reached on an error by third baseman Alec Bohm, and with one out Gurriel tapped a ground ball back to Sánchez that would’ve been an easy double play to end the inning. Sánchez appeared as though he forgot how many outs there were and instead got the out at first. His miscalculation caused the inning to continue, and with Gurriel safely at first, Evan Longoria walked and Emmanuel Rivera singled up the middle to plate the first run of the game.

Frías struck out Nick Castellanos to lead off the third, then Lovullo made the move to Kyle Nelson, appearing for the second time in the NLCS — he worked 1.1 scoreless innings in Game 1. Nelson finished the scoreless inning Frías started, and the Diamondbacks extended their lead in the bottom half. It started with a Ketel Marte single to continue his torrid postseason, and after a wild pitch, Gabriel Moreno singled to score Marte and make it 2-0 Arizona.

Nelson came back out for the fourth inning and Schwarber once again homered to lead it off, his fourth of the series. He’s spent this postseason padding his already robust October résumé.

Former Yankee Miguel Castro then replaced Nelson and retired the side in order. Jeff Hoffman did the same for the Phillies in the home fourth. In the top of the fifth, Castro got two crucial outs, but yielded to Andrew Saalfrank after a JT Realmuto single. Brandon Marsh got the better of Saalfrank, driving a double to the wall to score Realmuto and pinning Castro with an earned run despite his efforts.

Matt Strahm pitched a scoreless fifth, and the game headed to the sixth tied at 2-2. Saalfrank, entrusted with the sixth as well for the Diamondbacks, continued to look like a rookie facing veteran hitters. He walked Schwarber, then Turner, then Harper, and left Ryan Thompson with a big ol’ mess — bases loaded, nobody out, Bohm at the plate. A wild sequence unfolded from there: Bohm hit a chopper to Rivera at third, who threw home for the force, but bounced the short throw, and Moreno couldn’t dig it out. The ball rolled to the backstop. It was ruled an infield single and a throwing error on Rivera.

A couple managerial decisions here could be heavily scrutinized — the first is the passive decision to leave a rookie with negative body language in to walk the bases loaded. The second is less cut-and-dry but the error begs the question of why Lovullo started a rookie with almost no experience at the position over Longoria, a veteran with loads of playoff experience and an excellent defensive reputation at third. They both bat righty, so no platoon advantage either.

Thompson got out of the inning, but the damage had been done, making it 4-2 Phillies. Their tough hard-throwing righty Seranthony Domínguez entered to pitch the seventh and immediately walked Moreno. Pinch-hitter Pavin Smith later singled to push Moreno into scoring position with one out, but the Diamondbacks couldn’t cash in.

Thompson started the seventh inning with a strikeout of Marsh, then Johan Rojas lashed a triple to the corner in right field, the Phillies’ first postseason triple in twelve years. Everything seems to be going their way in this NLCS, but tonight ultimately wouldn’t. Turner brought him in with a sacrifice fly, and at seventh inning stretch time the score stood 5-2 Phillies.

Gregory Soto, another big arm, entered to pitch the home seventh. After a Geraldo Perdomo single, a Marte walk, and a Corbin Carroll fielder’s choice, the lefty was firmly in trouble. With a three-run lead, the visitors gambled with their own rookie pitcher in Orion Kerkering with runners on the corners, and he started with two walks, one to Moreno to load the bases and one to Walker to force in a run. He got out of the jam after that, stranding the bases loaded having only surrendered one run to send us to the eighth at 5-3 Phillies.

After a scoreless inning by Kevin Ginkel, the Diamondbacks finally capitalized with ducks on the pond. Craig Kimbrel, who always seems to find himself in the postseason, came in and started the inning by giving up a double to Gurriel. Then, pinch-hitter Alek Thomas delivered a signature October swing that whipped Chase Field into a frenzy, launching a home run to tie the game after working a tough at-bat to a full count against Kimbrel. What a moment for the second-year player!

Kimbrel came undone after the home run, allowing a single to Marte (batting .385 in these playoffs!) and a walk to Carroll. Rob Thomson then went to his closer José Alvarado. No matter, as Moreno singled to give the Diamondbacks the lead just like that. This young, feisty team has zero quit in them.

Closer Paul Sewald entered to close it out in the ninth, and Schwarber made it interesting with a two-out double, but the erstwhile Seattle closer shut the door. The two teams, now even at two games apiece, play again tonight in a pivotal Game 5 at 8:07pm EST.