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This story first appeared in Jesse Friedman’s weekly Tuesday newsletter. Newsletter stories are not typically published on gophnx.com. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.
PHILADELPHIA — As Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo surveyed the visitor’s clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon, it felt like any other day.
“It looks the exact same to me,” Lovullo said. “They’re on their phones, checking what they want to check. There’s different conversations, groups of two or three. They’re in the food room eating their Philly cheesesteaks. A couple guys are playing games.”
On Tuesday night, the Diamondbacks will play the second Game 7 in franchise history. The previous one went down as perhaps the best moment in Arizona sports history. It happened on Nov. 4, 2001, and it ended in a World Series victory.
The Diamondbacks cannot win the World Series at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night, but they can punch a ticket to get there.
“I could lie to you and say it’s another day and we all know it, and blah, blah, blah, that stuff,” Lovullo said. “It is a little bit different. The stakes are high.
“One of these teams is going to go home.”
Brandon Pfaadt’s leash, Zac Gallen’s availability and more
In one of the biggest games in franchise history, the Diamondbacks will turn to rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt, who led his team to a Game 3 victory at Chase Field on Thursday.
In that game, Pfaadt tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. Like Lovullo’s decision to clip Merrill Kelly after five innings in Game 6, his decision to take Pfaadt out after two runs through the Phillies’ lineup was equally, perhaps even more, controversial.
Throughout the playoffs, Lovullo has said that the baseline for Pfaadt is 18 batters faced, plus or minus four.
Pfaadt pitched basically as well as could possibly be imagined in his previous start, and yet, he still only faced 18 batters.
With Game 7 being a winner-take-all, perhaps Lovullo’s hook will be faster than it was in Game 3.
“Anything is possible,” Lovullo said prior to Tuesday night’s game. “I’ll just read and react, pay close attention to it and make a tough decision.”
Pfaadt posted an unsightly 5.72 ERA across three major league stints in the regular season, but he was better down the stretch and has pitched extremely well in back-to-back starts in the playoffs.
Prior to that impressive showing in Game 3 at home against the Phillies, Pfaadt was instrumental in helping the Diamondbacks close out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS.
In that game, Pfaadt faced 14 batters and recorded 13 outs. In 4 1/3 scoreless innings, he allowed only two hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
For Lovullo, Pfaadt’s quick ascension from Triple-A prospect to key postseason pitcher illustrates the kind of opportunity that is available in the Diamondbacks’ organization.
“If you are a player inside the Arizona Diamondbacks player development system or an up-and-coming potential starter that could be here,” Lovullo said, “wherever you are inside of our system, this is a perfect example of what you can become if you work hard, accept coaching, and keep progressing every single day.”
While Pfaadt’s turnaround is remarkable and he has pitched very well of late, Tuesday’s game will be an all-hands-on-deck affair.
Even Diamondbacks Game 5 starter Zac Gallen will be in the bullpen.
“Is he part of the game plan? I don’t know that answer,” Lovullo said of Gallen. “But if we need him at some point, whether it’s in the game plan or late innings, extra innings, he’s going to be available to us.”
As far as the Diamondbacks’ plan of attack against the Phillies’ offense is concerned, Game 6 starter Merrill Kelly spoke openly after his outing about not allowing Kyle Schwarber or Bryce Harper to beat him.
Lovullo was asked prior to Game 7 about the possibility of using that same plan of attack on Tuesday. His answer was unclear.
“There are times where I’m not going to talk about our game plan,” he said, “This might be one of them. You can see how it was mapped out a little bit yesterday. I respect Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper immensely. Our clubhouse does too.”
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo responds to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo
Prior to the Diamondbacks’ Game 6 win on Monday, long-time commentator Chris “Mad Dog” Russo made his lack of belief in the Diamondbacks clear on his Sirius XM radio show, “Mad Dog Unleashed.”
“I’ll say this right now,” Russo said on the air. “If [the Diamondbacks] win the next two days, if they win the next two games and win this series in seven games, if they win, I will retire on the spot.”
Lovullo said that Russo is a good friend, and responded playfully to those comments in his pregame presser on Tuesday.
“I would love to see him quit if we won today,” Lovullo said. “There’s nothing better than a wise guy New Yorker saying something and then having to chomp on those words.”
Russo has said openly that he expected the Diamondbacks to lose to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Series, and get swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks can prove him wrong again on Tuesday. The second World Series appearance in franchise history is on the line.
Top photo: Joe Rondone/Arizona Republic
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