PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s Brandon Pfaadt had some good moments on the mound during the regular season, but struggled to contain the long ball, giving up 22 homers in just 96 innings.
Now the Diamondbacks turn to the rookie right-hander for Game 3 of the NL Championship Series in an effort to slow the homer-happy Philadelphia Phillies, who have built a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff thanks to six homers.
If that doesn’t sound ideal for the D-backs, well, it’s not.
“Yesterday was a really frustrating outcome,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said Wednesday, a day after Philadelphia’s 10-0 rout at Citizens Bank Park. “We didn’t perform up to our capabilities, didn’t meet our expectations. We’ve got to find a way to get this turned around.
“Our mindset is one well-played game could lead to one win and we’re right back in the series.”
The two-game deficit is the first adversity the surprising D-backs have experienced this October. They were just 84-78 in the regular season, earning the last NL spot as the No. 6 seed, but won their first five games of this postseason while sweeping Milwaukee in a best-of-three series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five.
That success came to a screeching halt in Philadelphia. Kyle Schwarber has three homers in the series, including a pair in Game 2, while Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner have also gone deep.
“They’re a hot team. We knew they were a hot team,” Lovullo said. “They’re built to slug.”
The good news for the D-backs is Pfaadt is coming off one of his best outings this year. The 25-year-old threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, helping Arizona complete a sweep the 100-win Dodgers and a lineup that included former MVPs Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
The difference is the Dodgers were scuffling. The Phillies, most certainly, are not.
Pfaadt hopes of change of scenery to the desert can help the D-backs.
“We went through Milwaukee’s lineup. We went through the Dodgers’ lineup,” Pfaadt said. “I think we can hold our own. If we show that, coming into our ballpark, limiting damage, getting the momentum on our side, I think we can come out on the strong end.”
Lovullo has said that even if Pfaadt is pitching well in Game 3, he’ll likely face 18-to-22 batters. The D-backs used that strategy with Pfaadt against the Dodgers, yanking him at the first hint of trouble, and it led to the series-clinching 4-2 victory.
“It’s about going out, landing pitches, and not placing the ball in the nitro zones,” Lovullo said.
Arizona had just four hits in each of the first two games for a .129 batting average. The defense has not been crisp; three fielders let a short popup fall for a base hit in the seventh inning of Game 2.
Lovullo said the D-backs need the synergy from aoffense, defense and pitching to recover.
“Grinding out at-bats, having mature at-bats, driving up pitch counts, catching popups, picking up the baseball,” Lovullo said. “You know, the pitching and defense goes hand in hand, and we find a way to score five runs or more and win a baseball game by just being a really smart, stubborn baseball team in all areas.”
Arizona weathered a 7-25 stretch in July and August that knocked the Diamondbacks out of the NL West lead, and the team recovered to reach the NLCS for the first time since 2007.
“We’ve been playing meaningful baseball games for about the past 45 days,” Lovullo said. “So we’re battle tested from an emotional standpoint. We know that one quick turn, one quick moment, can turn the tide.”
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