2023 NLCS: Thomas, Moreno Rally Diamondbacks Past Phillies to Even Series

Alek Thomas of the Diamondbacks hits a game-tying pinch-homer against the Phillies in Game Four of the 2023 NLCS
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 5; Series Tied, 2–2

PHOENIX, Oct. 20 — A dramatic eighth-inning pinch-hit homer by Alek Thomas and RBI single by Gabriel Moreno gave the Arizona Diamondbacks three runs in the bottom of the eighth, propelling them to a come-from-behind 6–5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night and evening the best-of-seven NLCS at 2–2. “We’re in the middle of a journey,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said in his postgame media session. “It’s a three-game series. We’re not going to lose focus. We are going to keep that competitive edge and that competitive focus. I can guarantee you that.”

The seesaw battle — one that saw a combined 16 pitchers — was a “bullpen game” for the Diamondbacks that worked out in their favor. “It’s exactly how I would have done it,” closer Paul Sewald said about the sequence of the pitchers. “I feel like I pitched two days ago,” starter/opener Joe Mantiply joked after the game.

The Phillies and Diamondbacks used eight pitchers each, but the Phillies were not using starter Cristopher Sanchez as an opener. Manager Rob Thomson said in his pregame media session that Sanchez was a starter. But he did not survive the third inning, forcing the Phillies to also empty their ‘pen.

Sloppy Phillies Defense Gifts Diamondbacks the Lead

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Mantiply struck out designated hitter Kyle Schwarber before giving up a single to right by shortstop Trea Turner. Turner’s time on base did not last long, as Mantiply fooled him with a crafty pickoff move. Turner broke for second as a dead duck, and the Diamondbacks retired him in a 1-3-6 pickoff-caught stealing. First baseman Bryce Harper grounded to second for the third out.

The Diamondbacks went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. So did the Phillies in the top of the second off new pitcher Luis Frias, with the third out coming on a leaping catch at the wall by left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to rob Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto of an extra-base hit.

First baseman Christian Walker led off the bottom of the second with a grounder to third but was safe when Alec Bohm’s throw went high and wide. After right fielder Tommy Pham struck out looking, Gurriel hit a one-hopper back to the mound. Sanchez forgot how many outs there were — something Thomson confirmed after the game — throwing to first to retire Gurriel despite having plenty of time to start a double play. Up came designated hitter Evan Longoria. The tense situation grew worse for the Phillies when a passed ball by Realmuto advanced Walker to third. A walk by Longoria put runners on the corners for third baseman Emmanuel Rivera, whose single to center scored Walker with an unearned run. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo popped to the second baseman near the mound, ending the inning with the Diamondbacks holding a 1–0 lead.

A New Ballgame

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The Diamondbacks extended their lead in the bottom of the third. Second baseman Ketel Marte led off with an infield single to the shortstop and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Center fielder Corbin Carroll advanced him to third on a groundout to short, bringing up catcher Gabriel Moreno. Moreno drove in Marte with a single near the right-field line.

The Phillies cut the deficit to 2–1 when Schwarber led off the fourth with a homer to right off Kyle Nelson, a 115-mph drive that traveled 409 feet. One inning later, they tied it up on a one-out single to left by Realmuto combined with a two-out double to left-center by left fielder Brandon Marsh.

Phillies Take Lead, Diamondbacks Chip Away

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The Diamondbacks unraveled in the top of the sixth. Rookie southpaw Andrew Saalfrank, who finished the previous inning, walked Schwarber, Turner, and Harper to load the bases. In came sidearmer Ryan Thompson to clean up the mess. First to face him was Bohm, who hit a chopper down the line. Rivera made a lunging backhand to corral it and fired home. The low throw bounced before reaching Moreno, who couldn’t gather it in for the force play. Schwarber scored as the ball ricocheted off Moreno’s chest and went to the screen, allowing the speedy Turner to also score. Bohm tried to advance to second, but Moreno threw in time for Marte to apply the tag. Thompson walked Stott — who later stole second — before striking out Realmuto and getting Nick Castellanos to ground to second.

The Phillies extended their lead to 5–2 in the top of the seventh on a one-out triple to right by center fielder Johan Rojas and sacrifice fly by Turner. In the bottom half, the Diamondbacks got one of those runs back. It began with a one-out single off Gregory Soto by Geraldo Perdomo. A walk by Marte and 6–4 fielder’s choice grounder by Corbin Carroll put Perdomo on third and Carroll on first with one out. In came rookie Orion Kerkering, who walked Moreno to load the bases. Another walk, this time to Walker, scored Perdomo to make the score 5–3. Right fielder Pavin Smith, who pinch-hit for starting right fielder Tommy Pham in the bottom of the sixth, could not keep the rally going. Instead, he grounded to the first baseman unassisted to end the inning.

The Comeback

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Kevin Ginkel pitched around a leadoff single to left by Bohm, holding the Phillies scoreless in the top of the eighth. In came Craig Kimbrel, who gave up the winning run in Game Three, to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Gurriel welcomed him with a double to the left-field corner. After a lineout to deep left by Longoria, Alek Thomas stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Rivera. On 3–2, Kimbrel left a fastball out over the plate. Thomas turned on it, belting it 412 feet into the pool in right-center.

Tie game.

For the sixth time in the history of the LCS (est. 1969), a pinch-hitter hit a game-tying home run. Thomas seemed to float on air as he ran the bases, boosted by the roar of the 47,806 in attendance. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a stadium that loud. That was electric,” closer Paul Sewald said.

But the Diamondbacks weren’t done, despite Perdomo following with a called strikeout for the second out. Marte stroked a single to left and advanced to second when Carroll took a pitch off the lower thigh, chasing the erratic and ineffective Kimbrel from the game. Jose Alvarado, whom the Phillies were trying to avoid using, came in the game to face Moreno. As Moreno did the day before, he drove a 100-mph fastball to the outfield, this time for a go-ahead single. Walker ended the inning with a lineout to right, but the Diamondbacks now held a 6–5 lead heading into the top of the ninth.

Sewald Slams the Door

As the opening strains of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” echoed through Chase Field, the crowd went nuts. Their beloved closer, Sewald, was entering the game to nail down the victory. “That was the most jumping around I’ve ever seen,” Sewald grinned. He started the inning with consecutive strikeouts, Marsh looking and pinch-hitter Jake Cave swinging. But a double to right by the pesky and dangerous Schwarber kept the inning alive and brought Turner to the plate as the go-ahead run. “My motivation was to not have to face Bryce (Harper),” Sewald admitted. And he made sure he didn’t, fanning Turner to end the game and even the series.

Quick Hits

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Both Diamondback victories in this series have come at the expense of Craig Kimbrel. “The last two games sucked,” he flatly stated after Game Four. “I rolled up in here and cost us two games. But the bright side is it’s still tied, 2–2.” … Ginkel knew he was pitching the eighth no matter what the score or situation was. But his mindset did not change. “Going out, doing my job, find any way to throw up a zero,” he said.

Ginkel recorded a scoreless frame without the benefit of a strikeout. The last time Ginkel pitched in a game without recording a strikeout was a 6–3 win over the Texas Rangers on August 22. Including the postseason, Ginkel had recorded a strikeout in 18 straight appearances (13 regular season, five postseason). “You don’t always need a strikeout,” he explained afterwards. “Maybe weak contact just to get outs as quickly as you can is helpful.” … This was the fourth come-from-behind victory for the Diamondbacks in the 2023 postseason. No other team has more than two.

The pickoff-caught stealing in the first inning was the first time Trea Turner was caught stealing all season. Including the postseason, he had stolen 40 consecutive bases without being caught. This is the third-longest span in major league history, tied with former Phillie Jimmy Rollins (2007-08). The two players with longer streaks were Vince Coleman (50, 1988-89) and Ichiro Suzuki (45, 2006-07). … Kyle Schwarber’s fourth-inning homer was the 19th of his postseason career, the most ever by a left-handed hitter. He passed Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. The homer was his 11th in an LCS, tied for second-most with Jose Altuve, who homered earlier Friday. Manny Ramirez leads the list with 13.

Looking Ahead

Ginkel earned the win, while Kimbrel took the loss. Sewald recorded the save. The Diamondbacks and Phillies face off in Game Five Saturday evening at 5:07 pm Arizona Time (8:07 pm Eastern). Zac Gallen and Zack Wheeler will start for the Diamondbacks and Phillies, respectively, in a rematch of Game One. The game can be seen live on TBS and streamed live on Max.

Main Photo:

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See Also:

ALCS Game Five (Altuve homer in ninth), NLCS Game Three (Marte walk-off single)

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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