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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Diamondbacks power past Phillies 5-1 to force NLCS Game 7

Big outing for Arizona’s Kelly with eight strikeouts

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PHILADELPHIA — Merrill Kelly retired Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper in order in the fifth inning, striking out Schwarber and Harper — October’s biggest home run threats.

When the pitcher reached the dugout, manager Torey Lovullo offered a handshake to signal the start was over after 90 pitches. Kelly appeared agitated and gestured with his glove as if to point out he struck out Schwarber and Harper and had much more in the tank.

“It kind of just, I think, took me by shock more than anything,” Kelly said.

Here might be the real shock — especially in Philly. After losing the first two games of the NL Championship Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks are one win from their first World Series since 2001.

Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back homers and Kelly struck out eight before his early hook to help Arizona force Game 7 with a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.

The winner of Tuesday night’s game advances to the World Series.

Kelly and four relievers combined to shut down the Phillies and stifle their rousing run of success at Citizens Bank Park. Arizona’s bullpen didn’t allow a runner to reach second.

“I’m expecting some fun,” Kelly said. “Game 7, obviously, they talk about, it’s the best words in sports. I think the fact that we’re here, I don’t think anybody thought we were going to take them to Game 6. I don’t think anybody thought we were even going to make it to Game 1. I don’t think anybody thought we were going to make it past Milwaukee, to be honest with you.”

Arizona backed up the bold pregame words from Lovullo and tamed Phillies bats and the hostile home crowd of 45.473.

“Getting there is really important, so we have that all-in mentality,” Lovullo said ahead of Game 6. “We didn’t come cross-country to get our asses kicked. We came here to play our best baseball game, and our guys will be ready to go.”

Kelly allowed one run and three hits and three walks.

“He was making statements to me that told me that he was capable of going back out there,” Lovullo said. “But I’ve got to be the parent in the room and make a tough decision and hand it over to the bullpen that’s been very, very efficient.”

Sure enough, Arizona’s bullpen allowed three hits over four scoreless innings.

Schwarber, Turner and Harper, the top three hitters in Philadelphia’s batting order, went 0 for 9 with four strikeouts. Nick Castellanos was 0 for 4, dropping to 1 for 20 in the series.

Philadelphia lost at home for the first time in seven home postseason games. The Phillies dropped Games 4 and 5 to Houston in the World Series but had won 11 straight postseason home games against NL opposition.

Pham said Arizona gave notice the team is as resilient as any that played this postseason.

“We always felt like if we got some good pitching, played great defense, and we played our game, that we could win this,” he said.

The Phillies sent Aaron Nola to the mound — a year to the day after they beat San Diego to win the NL pennant — in hopes of making it two straight trips to the World Series.

Nola was lights out in every postseason start, pitching against the backdrop that the pending free agent could be down to his final games with the Phillies. He was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in October.

Make it 3-1.

Nola allowed homers to Pham and Gurriel in almost the same spots in the left field seats, the first ones the longest-tenured Phillies player allowed all postseason.

A sign this wouldn’t be Nola’s night? Pham was benched for Game 5 because of a 1-for-13 effort in the NLCS.

Nola walked light-hitting Alek Thomas, who hit a tying, two-run homer in Game 4, and Evan Longoria doubled for a 3-0 lead. Longoria, who played for Tampa Bay against the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, had been 1 for 12 in the series.

“They didn’t miss too many balls over the plate,” Nola said.

Philadelphia had never trailed by more than two runs in the postseason until the second.

Kelly, who allowed three solo homers in a Game 2 loss, pitched his way out of trouble in this one.

He put two runners on in the first inning before striking out slumping Alec Bohm and retiring Bryson Stott on a shallow flyout. Kelly gave up an RBI single to Brandon Marsh in the second and put two on with two outs. Kelly then got Turner to swing at three pitches out of the zone to end the threat.

Ketel Marte stretched his postseason hitting streak to 15 games with a run-scoring triple in the fifth that built a 4-1 lead and chased Nola. He added an RBI single in the seventh off Orion Kerkering.

“We deserve this moment,” Lovullo said.

UP NEXT: RHP Brandon Pfaadt starts for Arizona and LHP Ranger Suárez for Philadelphia. Pfaadt has a 2.13 ERA in three postseason outings, striking out 15 and walking one in 12 2/3 innings. Suárez is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA, striking out 13 and walking two in 14 innings.

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