PHOENIX – With despondency beginning to overtake the Arizona Diamondbacks fan base, rookie starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt threw the game of his life. His performance led to Ketel Marte’s walk-off single – the third walk-off hit in Diamondbacks’ postseason history.
The result? Arizona earned its first National League Championship Series win since 2001 and now trail the Phillies by just a game in the NLCS.
Pfaadt appeared poised as he dismantled the Philadelphia lineup during his 5 2/3 innings appearance. He only allowed two hits, while striking out nine batters. Pfaadt became just the fifth rookie in MLB history to throw nine or more strikeouts and allow zero runs in a postseason game.
“It feels great to pick up the team,” Pfaadt said of his performance in the 2-1 victory. “We went down 2-0. That was a big win for us. We knew that going in. I think coming out with that win, that helps us get some momentum on our side, and we’ll see where it takes us tomorrow.”
In his 18 batters faced, Pfaadt limited Philadelphia’s powerful lineup to only one extra-base hit. The Phillies had hit 15 home runs over the past four games – the most over a four-game stretch in postseason history.
Pfaadt struck out seven hitters with a breaking ball or elevated fastball. He said the command of those pitches was key to his success against the Phillies.
“I think the heater up was good today,” Pfaadt said. “The slider control was good, especially with two strikes and expanding the zone. I think having those two pitches being on today was key and using other pitches to get ahead and show something different and put guys away when we needed to.”
Manager Torey Lovullo has placed a batter-count on the 25-year-old rookie’s postseason appearances. Pfaadt faced only 16 batters against the Milwaukee Brewers during the wild card series and 14 hitters against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Divisional Series.
Despite Pfaadt’s impressive Game 3 performance, Lovullo went to the bullpen before the Phillies’ third time around the order, prompting a steady stream of “boos” from the Chase Field crowd.
“We just felt like once we got to a certain point in the game, we could hand it off to a bullpen that was able to match up and give us what I feel is a really good advantage against some really good hitters,” Lovullo said. “The conversations are very typical. Am I an idiot if I take him out of the game with nine strikeouts in 5 2/3? Those are the things I’m asking and trying to keep it loose.”
Despite the offense’s slow start in the NLCS, the team’s best hitter came around when it mattered most. With the bases loaded and one out, Marte delivered a walk-off single to center field – the third walk-off hit in Diamondbacks postseason history.
The walk-off completed a dominant performance at the plate, where Marte finished 3 for 5 and recorded the game-winning RBI.
Marte’s heroic play is similar to those by two other hitters who secured postseason walk-off wins for the Diamondbacks.
Luis Gonzalez – who watched Game 3 from a luxury suite – hit the team’s most previous playoff walk-off to win the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees. Gonzalez’s legendary hit floated into center field to earn Arizona its only World Series trophy.
Tony Womack ended the 2001 NLDS with a floating single to left-center field.
The Diamondbacks will look to their relief pitchers for all nine innings of Game 4 Friday night. Left-handed relief pitcher Joe Mantiply will begin on the mound for Arizona. Mantiply surrendered three hits and three earned runs in his one out appearance against Philadelphia in Game 2.
Friday’s start will only be the fourth in his six-year MLB career.
Similar to previous games this postseason, Lovullo said hitting matchups will determine who comes out of the bullpen.
“We’re going to get to certain points of their lineup, we gotta see what happens,” he said. “Just continue to matchup the best we can. It’s not a perfect science what we do here, but we feel we’re very thorough when we discuss it. You want to maximize potential to keep a very potent offense in check.”
Much of the bullpen hasn’t appeared since Game 1 or Game 2 of the NLCS.
Three of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen arms — Slade Cecconi, Kyle Nelson and Luis Frías — have allowed zero earned runs during the postseason. All three pitchers have yet to appear since Game 2 of the series.
The Diamondbacks will face Philadelphia starting pitcher Christopher Sanchez in Game 4, who hasn’t appeared since Sept. 30. Sanchez threw seven innings in his most recent start on Sept. 24.
Star rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll and veteran first baseman Christian Walker have combined for two hits in the NLCS. Both players dominated the first two rounds of the MLB playoffs.
Arizona hasn’t scored more than three runs since Game 3 of the NLDS, when the team hit a postseason-record four home runs in the third inning.