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October 19, 2023

Instant observations: Phillies walked off by D-backs in Game 3 as offense disappears in the desert

The Phillies blew a chance to set up an NLCS sweep in Arizona Thursday night as the Diamondbacks take Game 3.

The Phillies' bats didn't get on the plane to Arizona, apparently, as a record-setting offense did very little to support stellar pitching.

Philadelphia dropped Game 3 of the NLCS, 2-1, in walk-off fashion on Thursday, letting the Diamondbacks back into this, though still with a 2-1 series lead.

A pitcher's duel fell the D-backs' way in the bottom of the ninth, as two Craig Kimbrel walks and an infield single set the table for Ketel Marte's RBI base hit to win it. 

We're back at it again Friday at 8 p.m. for Game 4. Until then, here's a look at the good, the bad, and an ever fascinating Phillies fan base from a big missed opportunity in the desert.

The good

• After an insane stretch that saw the Phillies hit an astounding 19 postseason homers in their first eight games, it seems pretty fitting that in Arizona, after six innings of scoreless ball on both sides, the Phillies got on the board and took a 1-0 lead after a walk, infield single, double play and wild pitch.

Harper slid home and was more than pleased to take advantage of a big Diamondbacks' mistake, showing there are more ways than thunderous moonshots to win baseball games.

• The Phillies never lost a playoff game started by Ranger Suárez heading into Thursday evening's tilt — and though they gave him little help at the plate, he pitched 5.1 innings of shutout baseball. The lefty had seven strikeouts, walked one and scattered three hits, giving Philly just what it needed in the early going of a true pitcher's duel.

•  A big shoutout to Phillies reliever Jeff Hoffman for getting two huge outs with a runner on third after Suárez's departure. The bullpen hasn't been in a ton of difficult spots in the postseason as a whole, but they've shown up.

• Another shoutout to Jose Alvarado, who got three incredible outs with just three pitches with runners on the corners and nobody out in the seventh inning.

He one-upped himself as he overcame two very well-hit balls – one of which was a double off the wall that Johan Rojas had a chance to make a play on — and kept the game tied through eight innings.

The bad

• With no disrespect for Phillies' inexperienced rookie Orion Kerkering, I have absolutely no idea why Rob Thomson called his number in the fateful seventh inning. With all of the Philadelphia top arms still available and rested from a day off Wednesday — Seranthony Dominguez, José Alvarado, and even Craig Kimbrel — the rookie gave up a single and a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. double to allow the Diamondbacks to tie things at 1-all. He allowed another hit and was yanked having failed to retire anyone. 

Somehow, the game stayed tied with runners on the corners with one out — as Alvarado drew an impressive 6-4-3 double play, and later a fly out to keep the momentum in the red corner.

• Brandon Pfaadt was Game 3's starting pitcher for Arizona. He's a rookie who has a 3-9 record and 5.72 ERA this season over 19 appearances. It's worth noting as we continue to cover this series, that the Diamondbacks just barely made a push into the postseason with 84 wins (for contrast, that's just two more wins than the Joe Girardi 2021 Phils, and four more than the 2018 Phils that were coached by Gabe Kapler). They are a very young team. Take away 38-year-old Evan Longoria and they're one of the younger teams in baseball. They overachieved this season and they got exposed by the veteran Phillies in Pennsylvania earlier this week.

Anyway, Pfaadt had basically the best game of his entire life. He had a career-high with nine strikeouts, and after being a little too hesitant to make a move in the series' first two games, Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo pulled his red-hot starter with no one on base with two outs in the sixth. 

This Phillies lineup making this kind of pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate isn't ideal. They destroyed ace after ace from the Marlins, Braves and earlier this week the D-backs. That's baseball for you. Go figure.

• It should be easy to pile on the Phillies and call them out for their hitting issues Thursday — but we knew they were going to cool off. They had 74 hits through eight games this postseason (.284) and that's incredibly hard to maintain, particularly in pitcher-friendly Chase Field. 

• If you watched this game, you know, the umpiring was dreadfully inconsistent. And might have played a role in determining the winner Thursday. It's the last two crews (and theoretically the best) in the league. Not a great look.

• This is neither good, nor bad, but it's interesting enough to mention. The Phillies have never swept a four-game series in the playoffs. They have had three-game sweeps in best-of-five sets, and obviously swept the Marlins in two games to start this playoff season, but they won't make history after dropping Game 3.

• We mentioned Kimbrel earlier — who just made a total mess of things in the ninth. Will Thomson go another way in the Phillies' next close situation?

The fans, again

• It's pretty ridiculous that I am writing about about the Phillies fans in a game played in Phoenix. But they continue to find the most impressive and creative ways to support their team. Well, support their team and/or try and screw over opposing fans. 

Already this season, Phillies' supporters have changed the narrative about themselves thanks to their season-saving standing ovations given to struggling Trea Turner earlier this summer. They have turned Citizens Bank Park into a screaming loud pressure cooker that has already made waste to some of the best teams in baseball. The fans have been so engaged that even opposing managers are impressed. 

And Thursday before Game 3, they noticed the comically low prices at Chase Field and started buying up seats for dirt cheap — to purposefully keep casual D-backs fans from scooping up the tickets — leaving seats empty. 

There were, indeed dozens of empty seats in the stadium well after first pitch, a stark contrast to South Philly's jam-packed stadium featuring fans waiting in lines for hours to find a standing room only spot... that they could stand in for hours.

Anyway, props to the Phillies fans again.  

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