July 23rd, 2024

Diamondbacks force Game 7 in NLCS by powering past Phillies 5-1

By Dan Gelston, The Associated Press on October 23, 2023.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back homers and Merrill Kelly struck out eight to help the Arizona Diamondbacks force Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.

The winner of Tuesday night’s game advances to the World Series against Houston or Texas, who played Game 7 of the American League Championship later Monday night.

The Diamondbacks came ready in Game 6 to back up the bold pre-game words from manager Torey Lovullo and tamed Phillies bats and the hostile home crowd.

“Getting there is really important, so we have that all-in mentality,” Lovullo said before 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.”

The Diamondbacks came ready to go – and Kelly didn’t want to leave.

Kelly retired Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper in order in the fifth with the Diamondbacks ahead 4-1. When Kelly retired to the dugout, Lovullo told the right-hander he was done. Kelly, who had thrown 90 pitches, appeared agitated as he gestured with his glove as if to point out he struck out Schwarber and Harper in the inning and had much more in the tank.

No worries.

Four relievers combined to shut down the Phillies and stifle their rousing run of success at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies were held to six hits and lost at home for the first time in seven home post-season games. They dropped Games 4 and 5 to Houston in the World Series but had won 11 straight post-season home games against NL opposition.

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 post-season 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. The Diamondbacks, who lost the first two games of the NLCS, never had to worry about the kind of late-inning rallies that propelled them back into the series.

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 post-season.

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. Back in the lineup, he quieted a crowd of 45,000 towel-waving fans.

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.

The Phillies had never trailed by more than two runs in the post-season 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 fly out. 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 post-season 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.

UP NEXT

RHP Brandon Pfaadt starts for Arizona in what will be the first Game 7 in Phillies history. The Phillies had not decided who would pitch Game 7.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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