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Despite sour end, Diamondbacks' postseason run was pure magic

Jesse Friedman Avatar
November 2, 2023
Fans cheer as Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen (23) is pulled from the game during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers during game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field.

As Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo approached the podium in the Chase Field interview room, there was an unusual heaviness in the air.

Lovullo did not exchange pleasantries with the reporters in the front row, as he is known to do, nor did he greet the transcriptionists, who have typed out his every word since the Diamondbacks’ postseason run started a month ago.

Slowly, he walked toward the microphone and, looking up, met eyes with a row of family members standing in the back of the room.

Lovullo walked back away from the microphone and just stood, attempting to keep himself composed.

Before long, he descended back into the shoulder of the room, meeting his wife, Kristen, and his three kids for what eventually turned into a family group hug.

Approximately 30 minutes earlier, Lovullo saw the Texas Rangers deal a final blow to the Diamondbacks’ hopes of winning a world championship in 2023.

During his final postgame presser of the year, he felt that he had let Diamondbacks fans down.

“I’m just sorry,” Lovullo said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do my job to get us there. But I will. We all will.

“They can say what they want to us in the good times and the bad, but we know what they want. They want a world championship as badly as we do. We all bleed Sedona red.”

Entering the year, few would have been surprised if the Diamondbacks’ championship hopes had expired in late or even mid-September, as the team was hypothetically eliminated from the playoffs. Few gave them a shot to make it into October, or, if they did, to do much of anything once they got there.

But the 2023 Diamondbacks did not simply outperform their expectations. They blew them to smithereens and launched the remains into outer space.

When all was said and done, it took until Nov. 1 for the tenacious Diamondbacks to play their last game. They lost to the Rangers, 5-0, on Wednesday night, and they lost the World Series as a result, four games to one.

Wednesday’s finale was scoreless through six innings, but the Rangers dominated the final three frames. It was their third straight win at Chase Field — and, remarkably, their 11th straight road win in the postseason.

Scrutinizing the specific events of Wednesday night’s Diamondbacks loss would be a futile task now, but it would be a mistake to not at least mention Zac Gallen’s effort in the Diamondbacks’ final game of the year.

Gallen carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, becoming the first pitcher in World Series history to do so when facing elimination, according to Katie Sharp of Stathead.

He was well-aware that it was happening during the game.

“I wasn’t shying away,” Gallen said after the game. “I felt like, if I could get through the meat of that order, I felt pretty good about where my pitch count was.”

But Gallen was unable to get through the middle of the lineup unscathed. His no-hitter ended with one out in the seventh on a Corey Seager cue-ball grounder at 67.1 mph off the bat that was perfectly placed to the left side of the infield. It was perhaps Seager’s least notable accomplishment in his monstrous World Series performance that led to his second World Series MVP Award of his career.

After Evan Carter followed Seager’s hit with a double into the gap, the Rangers went on to break the scoreless tie on an RBI single by Mitch Garver. Gallen’s performance was still outstanding — 6 1/3 innings, three hits, one run, six strikeouts — but it was not enough to lead the Diamondbacks to a win.

“I would have rather given up a thousand runs,” Gallen said, “and we still won the game.”

Outside of Gallen’s performance, the rest of the Diamondbacks’ performance on Wednesday was largely forgettable. The team went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. Alek Thomas let a ball get under his glove in the outfield. Paul Sewald gave up four runs in the ninth, turning a potentially manageable one-run deficit into an insurmountable five-run one.

But, while the way it ended was rather forgettable, this 2023 Diamondbacks season was anything but.

“We’re definitely disappointed the way it ended,” Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker said, “but, all things considered, we’re all just very proud of each other. Happy to be a part of this team, honored to be with this group of guys. You think back to what we accomplished the season, nothing to hang our heads about.”

After losing 110 games just two seasons ago, the Diamondbacks eked their way into the playoffs with 84 wins and went all the way to the World Series, becoming the first team in MLB history to go from 110-plus losses to the Fall Classic in two years or less.

In the Wild Card Series, the Diamondbacks overcame early deficits in two straight games to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers on the road.

Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, the Diamondbacks put six runs on Clayton Kershaw in the very first inning of Game 1 and never looked back. They never trailed in the series, jolting to a three-game sweep.

In the NLCS, they drew the Philadelphia Phillies, who were widely favored against them, just like their previous two opponents. After being outscored 15-3 in Games 1 and 2, the Diamondbacks pieced together back-to-back comeback wins at home to even the series. After dropping Game 5, they did what seemed impossible, beating the Phillies on the road in back-to-back games to win the NL pennant.

Along the way, there were numerous moments that will be live on in Diamondbacks lore for years to come, such as when Gabriel Moreno just missed a homer on the wrong side of the foul pole and then homered on the next pitch. Or Alek Thomas’ pinch-hit, two-run homer against Craig Kimbrel that sparked the Diamondbacks’ Game 4 win against the Phillies. Or any of Evan Longoria’s dazzling defensive plays in the very first game of the postseason.

What a ride it was.

“You just never want it to stop,” Lovullo said. “It’s like your favorite roller coaster that you never want to get off of. And you want to be the last team standing. You want to be in the middle of a pile and have everybody pile on top of you. That’s the best feeling in the world.”

The Diamondbacks will not experience that feeling in 2023. Nonetheless, given the amount of youth on this team, this might not be the last time we see this iteration of the Diamondbacks late in the postseason.

“I don’t think anybody really thought that we were going to be here,” Alek Thomas said. “But we did.

“We have a lot brewing here. We have a special team. And I think we’ll be back.”

“The playoffs tend to mature you at a faster rate than anything,” Gallen added. “I’m excited for the guys in here, just excited to go to battle with them every single day.”

The Diamondbacks will not hang a World Series trophy here this year, but they did win the NL pennant. And the story that unfolded along the way will not be be soon forgotten.

How this team — with its 84 regular-season wins and accompanying negative run differential — came within three wins of a World Series is a question that will be discussed for years to come.

“I don’t even think anybody in here knows,” Sewald said. “Just a resilient group that came to work every day ready to give everything they had. We gave it everything we had until the very last pitch.”

“I hope the city of Phoenix, I hope the state is proud of us and enjoyed this journey we were on,” Gallen added. “This was special.

“Hopefully, next time around, we’re ending with champagne on the last day of the year.”

Follow Jesse Friedman on X (formerly Twitter)

Top photo: Joe Rondone/The Republic

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