Thursday, December 7, 2023

Diamondbacks upset Brewers with Wild Card Series sweep, advance to face Dodgers in NLDS

The 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks season was one with lots of highs and lows, especially in the second half. Something that seemed to define them was that every time they had a terrible stretch where it looked like the season might be over, they bounced back. In light of this, the two come-from-behind wins in Milwaukee to sweep the Brewers in the Wild Card Series felt fitting, wrapping things up with a 5-2 win Wednesday. Arizona will face the second-seeded Dodgers in the NLDS, starting Saturday.

The Game 1 rally was sudden and a bit shocking. It looked like the party was on in American Family Field when the Brewers grabbed a 3-0 lead, but a Corbin Carroll two-run shot was followed with a Ketel Marte homer to tie it. Gabriel Moreno homered next inning and the D-backs never looked back. 

In Game 2 it was, again, sudden and a bit shocking. Brewers starter Freddy Peralta was absolutely dealing. He got through four scoreless innings without even allowing a hit. He’d struck out five. He had been dominant so many times at home this season and this looked like another one of those outings. Then Alek Thomas homered in the fifth to cut the Brewers’ lead in half at 2-1. Then the Geraldo Perdomo walk to lead off the sixth meant the top of the order was coming with no outs and getting a look at Peralta a third time. Carroll doubled. Marte singled and just like that, Arizona had the lead. 

The Brewers seeming to implode in some aspects for the second straight night didn’t hurt matters for Arizona. After all the men left on base (eight in all) in Game 1, including squandering two bases-loaded opportunities, the Brewers then allowed the D-Backs some cushion with a run-scoring wild pitch. A blooper in no-man’s land plated a fourth run in that wild sixth inning. The D-Backs led 5-2 and, again, never looked back. 

The Diamondbacks move to next round behind a pair of frontline pitchers. We can call Gallen an ace and Merrill Kelly pitched like one for a good portion of the season. It’s a patchwork rotation from there. Paul Sewald is a capable closer, if inconsistent, and there’s plenty of talent in front of him (Kevin Ginkel was nails in Game 1, Andrew Saalfrank escaped a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning here in Game 2), but it’s overall a nondescript unit. 

On the position player side, you could call Carroll a star already and Marte’s been considered one before, but this is a group void of national, household names unless a lot of people remembered Evan Longoria from a long time ago (even that is a stretch). What do they do? Well, they’re versatile. They play excellent defense. They have some good base-stealers, led by an utter burner in Carroll. They have power in Carroll, Marte, Lourdes Gurreil Jr. and Christian Walker, who has hit 69 homers in the past two seasons combined. 

There’s also the steadying presence of veteran manager Torey Lovullo in the dugout. He’s now in his seventh year as D-Backs’ skipper. He made the playoffs in his first season and then there was a downturn. Many different teams would’ve fired the manager after losing 110 games, as Arizona did in 2021. Instead, they stuck with the respected Lovullo and now they head to the NLDS with a fun team that doesn’t mind being the underdog and coming from behind, if need be. 

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