PHOENIX – For the first time since 2017, the Arizona Diamondbacks won a postseason game.
The Diamondbacks’ bullpen threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings to secure the 6-3 Game 1 National League Wild Card victory against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field Tuesday night. The best-of-three series resumes today in Milwaukee.
Six Diamondbacks relief pitchers held the Brewers to only five hits, while striking out seven batters. While the bullpen was around league average during most of the regular season, posting a combined 18th-best 4.22 ERA, the pitchers delivered in the most important game of the season so far.
“Our bullpen was the reason why we won this game,” seventh-year manager Torey Lovullo said.
Relief pitcher Kevin Ginkel was especially dominant in his two-inning appearance. Ginkel struck out four batters, including all three hitters in the bottom of the eighth. His dominance maintained the Diamondbacks’ one-run lead heading into the final inning.
Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker said Ginkel’s performance stood out to him the most.
“The zeroes are great, but also the momentum that gets stopped when there are two consecutive times that they’re batting and there’s nobody on base,” Walker said. “There’s barely a ball put in play. As an offense, that’s frustrating. He really put us on his back there today.”
Three-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman Evan Longoria flashed his leather on multiple occasions, which helped sustain the Diamondbacks’ lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Brewers outfielder Tyrone Taylor connected with a hard-hit line drive to left field. Longoria leaped to his left, caught the ball in the air and threw out Brewers’ shortstop Willy Adames at second base.
“I have a good feeling when I look out there and he’s standing at third base,“ Lovullo said of the veteran’s performance in Game 1. “I can only imagine what some of his younger teammates or all of his teammates were feeling. He ends up getting a big base hit, making some unbelievable defensive plays and really saved us in a couple key situations.”
Longoria made an important heads-up play to interrupt the Brewers’ momentum in the next inning.
After mishandling a grounder, Longoria threw out Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich at second base as he began running toward third. Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte tagged Yelich before he could dive back in time.
Two of the Diamondbacks’ youngest players, standout rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll and catcher Gabriel Moreno, hit home runs in their first career playoff games. Both players made history in Tuesday’s win.
Carroll’s third-inning two-run home run put the Diamondbacks on the scoreboard.
“This is why we do it,” Carroll said of his first career postseason home run. “This is why we play this game, and to be able to come through for the team in a game like this is just an incredible feeling.”
At 23 years and 43 days old, Carroll became the youngest Diamondback to hit a postseason home run.
On the very next pitch, second baseman Ketel Marte tied the game with a home run of his own. The pair combined for only the third set of back-to-back home runs in Diamondbacks postseason history.
“I think at that point we all exhaled, and I think we collectively got our feet underneath us and felt very good about the direction in which we were going,” Lovullo said about the reaction to Carroll’s home run. “Then, literally, seven seconds later, the score is tied.”
Marte was a part of the second set of back-to-back home runs in team history, too. Marte and then-Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis hit consecutive home runs against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the 2017 National League Divisional Series.
Moreno’s fourth-inning solo home run Tuesday in Milwaukee gave the Diamondbacks a 4-3 lead they wouldn’t squander.
Moreno, 23, is the youngest catcher to hit a postseason home run since Buster Posey did so in the 2010 World Series.
All three of the Diamondbacks’ home runs came against Corbin Burnes, the Brewers’ ace starting pitcher. The Diamondbacks continuously battled with Burnes, who was removed in the fifth inning after surrendering walks to the first two batters.
“I thought we took real patient at-bats,” Carroll said. “We got rewarded with that patience by getting some balls in the middle of the plate that we were able to put some good swings on.”
Burnes’ four-inning start was tied for his shortest of the 2023 regular season. The Diamondbacks had previous success against Burnes earlier in the year, as well. Arizona scored seven earned runs against Burnes on June 19 at American Family Field – the most he allowed in a single start this season.
Walker extended Arizona’s lead to three against Milwaukee’s All-Star closer Devin Williams. Walker’s two-run ninth-inning double allowed closer Paul Sewald to finish the game with ease.
“It starts with getting him in the zone,” Walker said of his approach battling against Williams. “If you can start the at-bat with one or two balls, I think hopefully there’s a little less conviction in the nasty changeup, and you’re playing the mistake game at that point.”
Rookie starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt began on the mound for Arizona and allowed three earned runs and seven hits over 2 2/3 innings. Lovullo said while Pfaadt didn’t throw his best game, he got big outs when they needed him to.
“I thought wiggling out of his situation in the first inning showed that he was ready,” Lovullo said. “He was ready to go.”
After allowing an early first-inning run, Pfaadt regained his composure and struck out the next three batters on 12 pitches.
Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen is scheduled to make his first career postseason start Wednesday in Game 2 against the Brewers. Gallen is one of only five starting pitchers to throw 200-plus innings during the regular season, and he leads the team in innings pitched.
Gallen has consistently shown the ability to throw late in games. He has pitched seven or more innings 11 times during the regular season. His ability to throw deep in Game 2 will be crucial for an Arizona bullpen that featured six relief pitchers in the opening game.
“Knowing that Zac is going tomorrow with Merrill [Kelly] on the back side of that, we could maneuver a little bit to keep this game close,” Lovullo said about his bullpen strategy. “It was one after the other just came in, executed and did a really good job.”
Right-handed starting pitcher Freddy Peralta will start on the mound for Milwaukee. Originally, the team’s plan was to start Brandon Woodruff, but Brewers manager Craig Counsell announced Monday that Woodruff would be sidelined from the entire series with a shoulder injury.
Peralta, who recorded a 3.86 ERA over 165 innings during the regular season, surrendered nine hits and four earned runs in his most recent appearance on Sept. 24.
Peralta has appeared in three postseason games during his six-season MLB career. He most recently threw four shutout innings against the Braves in the 2021 National League Divisional Series.
The Braves went on to win the World Series that postseason.
Lovullo said he feels better about the series after defeating the Brewers and Burnes in Game 1 of the short series. Still, the team needs to play its finest to close out Milwaukee.
“We got to do it right, take nothing for granted and stay humble,” Lovullo said. “We beat their ace, and they’re going to try to beat ours tomorrow. We’ll be ready to go.”