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When Gabriel Moreno hit a deep fly ball into the right-field corner in the third inning of Wednesday’s Diamondbacks-Dodgers game, it sent 48,000-plus fans at Chase Field into a frenzy.
It appeared that Moreno had given the Diamondbacks a 4-0 lead, becoming the first catcher in MLB history age 23 or younger to homer three times in a single postseason. His team was well on its way to sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.
Turns out, it actually was not a home run at all.
When the umpires huddled near the pitcher’s mound, they determined that Moreno’s screamer had actually flown to the foul side of the right-field pole. The call was changed and, upon crew chief review, confirmed. Moreno was sent back to the box.
It is well-established among baseball players and fans that, after a player hits a foul home-run ball, they might as well head back to the dugout instead of the batter’s box.
“You usually strike out,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Goes all the way back to little league. It happened every time.”
Not this time.
On the very next pitch, Moreno got a hanging slider on the inner half of the plate and crushed it well over the left-center field wall. This one went even deeper — 420 feet, to be exact. And it was, most certainly, not a foul ball.
Moreno started a brisk jog out of the box, slowing up as he saw it sail over the fence and into a sea of Diamondbacks faithful. He then sent his bat soaring 20 feet into the air, flipping at a rate perhaps north of 100 revolutions per second as it fell right in front of the Dodgers dugout.
“He’s getting pretty good at it,” Zac Gallen said of Moreno’s bat flip. “I didn’t even see. Someone had told me where the one ended up today. And I look, it was like all the way by the dugout.”
Moreno’s homer was not just a statement-maker. It was the Diamondbacks’ fourth homer of the inning against Dodgers starter Lance Lynn, the last straw that finally got Dodgers manager Dave Roberts out of the dugout to make pitching change.
Geraldo Perdomo had started that third inning with a solo shot, his first dinger since Aug. 13 and his second since May 28. Two batters later, Ketel Marte did the same with a 428-foot rocket to right field. Then, Christian Walker and Moreno went back-to-back. Four home runs in the span of six hitters.
The Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to hit four homers in one inning in the postseason.
Outside of those four dingers, the Diamondbacks’ offense had a relatively quiet night against the Dodgers on Wednesday. But, with an excellent performance from rookie starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt and yet another good day from this new-look Diamondbacks bullpen, it was enough to seal a 4-2 win — and a series sweep of a Dodgers team that won 100 regular season games compared to the D-backs’ 84.
“It’s an understatement to say we were counted out, especially in this series,” Gallen said. “It’s no secret we’ve had our our battles with them, our struggles, but yeah, this one tastes a little bit sweeter.”
“I don’t think anybody gave us a chance to be here,” Lovullo added. “I don’t think anybody gave us a chance to win the games that we’ve won against the teams that we had to play, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
In 2017, the Diamondbacks’ last postseason run, the script was quite different. The Dodgers swept Arizona in the NLDS. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Diamondbacks went 15-46 against the Dodgers in regular season games.
In this NLDS, however, it was the Diamondbacks who dominated.
In what was ultimately just a three-game series, the Diamondbacks outscored the Dodgers, 19-6, out-hit them, 29-16, and out-homered them, 9-1. Diamondbacks starting pitchers lasted a combined 16 innings compared to just 4 2/3 innings for the Dodgers’ starters.
In Game 1, Clayton Kershaw gave up six runs in one-third of an inning. In Game 2, Bobby Miller gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings. And, in Game 3, Lynn, after tossing two scoreless innings, was yanked with two outs in the third inning after allowing a quartet of dingers. In total, Dodgers starters allowed 13 earned runs and posted a 25.07 ERA in the series.
“We focused on ourselves,” Christian Walker said of the team’s offensive approach. “There’s a little bit of preparation that comes in with scouting reports and then plans and stuff like that, but, at the end of the day, it’s about staying calm, being in a spot to execute, being clear-minded and just letting it fly. And that’s exactly what we did.”
On the pitching side, all three Diamondbacks starters threw well. Merrill Kelly was the most dominant, tossing 6 1/3 innings in a blowout Game 1 win. Zac Gallen gave up only two runs over 5 1/3 innings before he being hooked at 84 pitches by Lovullo, a decision that ultimately worked out well. In Game 3, Brandon Pfaadt pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings before being removed with 42 pitches.
Wait, 42 pitches? Yes, only 42 pitches. After a one-out double to Will Smith, Lovullo turned to his bullpen.
“I understand this was a mistreatment,” Lovullo told Pfaadt as he took the ball from him. “I promise I won’t always do this to you, but we’re going to win this game because of your effort. And I want you to understand that.”
Sure enough, the Diamondbacks did. It was not all pretty for the bullpen — Ryan Thompson gave up a pair of runs on four consecutive singles in the seventh inning — but they did well enough to preserve the four-run lead they inherited.
“My goal,” Pfaadt said, “was to be winning the game when I came out. That was my only goal, no matter how long that was. And you’ve got to trust your manager.
“There’s just so much trust in our bullpen right now,” he added. “Why not go to them in this big of a game?”
While Pfaadt’s outing was cut short, he was remarkably efficient and he allowed only two hits. He pounded the strike zone, throwing 30 of his 42 pitches for strikes. He will be a big factor in the upcoming NLCS.
Combined with the team’s Wild Card Series victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Diamondbacks’ postseason success has been beyond unprecedented.
Their 2.20 ERA is the second-best of any postseason team. Their .877 OPS is the highest of any team. Their 13 home runs are the most of any team.
The Diamondbacks are clicking on all cylinders when it matters most, and, while the rest of the baseball world looks on in disbelief, their players are reaching new heights of confidence.
“There’s times, a lot of times, where I’m like, man, I can’t actually believe this is happening. But then, at the same time, it’s like we did it all year. I don’t know why I’m so surprised that it’s happening now. But I think sometimes it’s different in the postseason, right? The lights are brighter. We’re one of the only few games on TV, and sometimes that can be overwhelming.
“But everybody stepped up. Everybody’s ready for the moment. We’ve prepared for this, talked about it in here a lot. Just really embracing that pressure and making it your friend and it hasn’t overwhelmed anybody.”
The Diamondbacks have now beat two division winners in the Dodgers and Brewers, and they have yet to lose a playoff game. Next, they will play either the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. As of the time of publication, the Phillies have a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday night in Philadelphia.
For now, the Diamondbacks have some time to rest and, potentially, reflect. No matter how much thought they give it, however, they might never fully grasp what has happened so far.
“I don’t even know if it’s worth trying to explain,” said Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll. “I think it’s just one of those magical things about baseball.
“We talked about it all year. I think a lot of people will say it: All you’ve got to do is get in. We got in and just some truly magical things have happened so far.”
Magical, indeed. Game 1 of the NLCS is on Monday.
Top photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic
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