Diamondbacks Secure Narrow Game 2 Victory to Push Dodgers to Brink of Elimination

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 1 of the NLDS, the 84-win Arizona Diamondbacks raced to a commanding 11-2 victory over the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers, their longtime tormenters in the NL West. While Game 2’s 4-2 win wasn’t quite as dominant, it nevertheless lifted the D-backs to a 2-0 series lead and the brink of a sweep. With a combination of patience (forcing Bobby Miller to throw 52 pitches in under two innings) and guile (becoming the second team to notch four stolen bases in a game this postseason), the upstart Arizonans firmly established themselves as legitimate title contenders.

Though the Los Angeles crowd roared at Miller’s first 100-mph heater, déjà vu set in within a few hitters. With the bases loaded and no one out in the top of the first, Christian Walker rocketed a four-seam fastball 105.6 mph off the bat to deep center. But while James Outman missed his first chance on Saturday, he didn’t blink this time, leaping and snagging the slicing drive and limiting the damage to a sac fly:

The other two runners would come around anyway, however, with Ketel Marte scoring on a Gabriel Moreno groundout and Tommy Pham — whose stolen base kept Moreno’s grounder from becoming an inning-ending double play — coming home on a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. single. In the latter instance, Miller had bounced all but one of his sliders in the inning, forcing him to return to the four-seamer that he ultimately went with 56% of the time in the frame — nearly twice his seasonal average. Gurriel smashed the heater back through the box at 104.1 mph:

When Miller froze the next batter, Alek Thomas, on a changeup to end the inning, the Dodgers came to bat in a hole only half as deep as Saturday’s.

Zac Gallen, meanwhile, had all of his pitches working from the get-go. He notched five swinging strikes on three different pitch types in the first, including three whiffs in a row against J.D. Martinez.

Miller’s struggles continued into the second. The first hitter of the inning, Evan Longoria, saw eight pitches, three of which catcher Will Smith couldn’t glove; the third baseman finally lined a center-cut heater 110.2 mph into left field for a single. The frustrating at-bat, pictured below with each color representing a different pitch type, would prove emblematic of Miller’s night on the whole, which ended shortly thereafter:

Geraldo Perdomo bunted Longoria over, though a Corbin Carroll walk — his second of four times reaching base on the night — would’ve advanced the veteran anyway. Next, Miller turned to his changeup a couple of times to draw even with Marte before inducing a foul pop that Smith snagged on the run, but the Dodgers weren’t taking any chances; they turned to Brusdar Graterol — he of the 25-inning scoreless streak — to get the last out of the frame.

Graterol retired five more hitters in a row, including one on this impressive behind-the-back grab:

A walk ended his perfect night and his outing overall, as the Dodgers turned to Ryan Brasier. Meanwhile, Gallen’s own streak ended in the bottom half of the inning. After the Arizona ace retired nine in a row beginning with that dominant strikeout of Martinez, the Dodgers’ DH got his revenge, taking Gallen deep to right just over the reach of Carroll’s outstretched arm:

Brasier cruised through the top of the fifth, but Gallen once again bent in the bottom half of the inning. David Peralta led off with a liner that Perdomo snagged due to perfect positioning, but then Outman walked on five pitches and Miguel Rojas ripped one up the middle that no one could glove. Mookie Betts, mired in a playoff slump going back to last year, grounded into a fielder’s choice before Gallen went up 1-2 on Freddie Freeman. After two curves in the dirt in a row, Freeman seemed to be anticipating something harder, and Gallen froze him on a deuce that caught the zone this time:

At the time, that at-bat seemed like it might have been the Dodgers’ best chance to shift the momentum of the game. In the top of the sixth, as the TBS broadcast crew was singing Brasier’s praises, one of the righty’s signature sliders caught a bit too much of the zone on a 1-2 pitch to Gurriel. He golfed it just over the wall in left to put the D-backs up by three once again:

But Gallen quickly ran into trouble again. Though he induced just three more whiffs after the first inning, the right-hander succeeded by limiting hard contact. Yet, soft contact was ultimately his undoing as well: the Dodgers notched back-to-back singles on a bloop and a soft liner with one out in the sixth.

From there, Torey Lovullo went with the rookie southpaw Andrew Saalfrank to face Jason Heyward and Peralta, but Dave Roberts pinch-hit for both of them with Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández. The pair reached on a walk and an infield single, with Max Muncy scoring on the latter. Saalfrank, a 25-year-old with just 11 major league innings under his belt, pulled back his glove on Hernández’s grounder, a tough play but one that a more seasoned reliever might have made nonetheless:

Los Angeles finally let a lefty — Outman — face the D-backs’ southpaw, and after Saalfrank started him 2-0, the center fielder obliged on an outside curve that brought the rookie hurler back into the at-bat; Saalfrank bore down and ultimately struck Outman out on a well-located full-count sinker. Arizona brought in Ryan Thompson next, a wildly different look as a right-handed sidearmer, to face Rojas. However, Roberts again went to the bench, swapping out his shortstop for the light-hitting Kolten Wong, who squeaked onto the Dodgers’ postseason roster and represented their only lefty bench bat. He chopped out to first to end the threat.

Joe Kelly, the next man up for the Dodgers, allowed a trio of baserunners but ultimately worked out of trouble with a trio of strikeouts and a hand from Evan Phillips. Yet, in the top of the ninth, the typically dominant Phillips showed some uncharacteristic wildness, hitting Longoria. Arizona added another pair of baserunners thanks to an intentional walk and an infield single, giving Walker another bases-loaded chance. But this time, he couldn’t even put the ball in play, going down swinging on a sweeper and providing the Dodgers’ offense with one more shot at erasing the two-run deficit.

All-Star closer and marquee trade-deadline acquisition Paul Sewald came on to face the Dodgers’ seven through nine hitters in the bottom of the ninth. Hernández, who stayed in the game after his pinch-hit appearance, led off with a 106.5-mph lineout to left. Sewald then punched out Outman, the rookie’s third time being set down on strikes in the game. Lastly, Wong, another pinch-hitter who stuck around, swung at the first pitch, lifting a routine fly to center and sealing the Dodgers’ fate.

Despite Kershaw’s relatively low pitch count in Game 1, Roberts has indicated that Lance Lynn is the team’s likely Game 3 starter, choosing not to take any chances with the oft-injured veteran after his blowup. But if you had told me two Dodgers starters wouldn’t make it two innings in the series, I would have pegged Lynn, who surrendered 44 homers this year, as one of them. What’s more, Dodgers relievers have already amassed 16 innings in the series; even with Game 2 sandwiched by off-days, they’re likely to have a depleted corp. Those 16 innings have been solid, with only six runs coming around, but they haven’t been enough to make up for lousy starting performances. If Lynn can’t get through the second, Los Angeles’ season will probably come to an end.

Meanwhile, after winning their first four playoff games on the road, the Diamondbacks now get to head back home. It’ll be their first postseason contest at Chase Field since the Dodgers clinched an NLDS sweep against them there back in 2017. This time, the D-backs have the opportunity to turn the tables, and they have a pretty well-rested bullpen to boot. Even with volatile rookie Brandon Pfaadt the likely starter, Arizona has a good chance of clinching their third Championship Series berth in franchise history on Wednesday night.





Alex is a FanGraphs contributor. His work has also appeared at Pinstripe Alley, Pitcher List, and Sports Info Solutions. He is especially interested in how and why players make decisions, something he struggles with in daily life. You can find him on Twitter @Mind_OverBatter.

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ryanzimmermanhof
6 months ago

Dread it… run from it… the team that beats the Brewers arrives all the same