PHOENIX — Two months ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were toast. Tuesday night, they were the gourmet entree on a menu of postseason brilliance.
The Diamondbacks are going to the World Series.
A 4-2 victory over Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park in Game 7 of the NLCS secured the franchise’s second trip to the Fall Classic. The Diamondbacks will face the Texas Rangers beginning Friday.
To think just two years ago, the Diamondbacks and Rangers had each lost more than 100 games each.
This journey seemed improbable in mid-August. They had lost nine straight and dropped to below .500. But the vision this organization had, quite possibly for next season, bega n to reveal itself in the second half of the schedule.
After Paul Sewald induced a fly ball to right from Jake Cave for the final out of the game, players charged to the mound to embrace their reliever. And how appropriate, considering how much pitching played a role in the postseason success.
Tuesday’s starter, Brandon Pfaadt, who spent part of the season in the minors, was strong again, pitching four innings and allowing two runs and four hits against a might Phillies lineup. He also struck out seven.
That’s the second night in a row a pitcher with something to prove has made a difference.
Monday’s starter, Merrill Kelly, toiled in the Korea Baseball Organization for four seasons, confident he would one day find his way to the major leagues. He would start every morning by checking on the progress of friends who had already made it there.
“I accepted the fact that that was my career at the time until the foreseeable future, but I definitely didn’t accept that that was my career, and that was where it was going to finish,” Kelly said.
He was right, and on Monday, he confirmed why he belonged. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ go-to starter kept his team’s season alive as he quieted Philadelphia bats in Game 6 of the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park.
“He cares about getting better, and that’s part of the process of being a big leaguer,” outfielder Tommy Pham said after the 5-1 Diamondbacks victory..
Kelly previously made a tone-setting start in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, shutting out the NL West champions over 6 1/3 innings by striking out five and allowing just three hits. Although Kelly struggled in his first start of the NLCS, allowing three home runs against the Phillies, he bounced back, allowing just one run over five innings and striking out eight Monday.
“My priority was not necessarily to change the whole game plan, not really go back to the whole drawing board, but more of just focus on each and every pitch and just try my best to execute,” Kelly said.