Diamondbacks use power, bullpen to grab opener of NL Wild Card Series, 6-3

MILWAUKEE — Corbin Carroll swung, took two deliberate steps out of the batter’s box, then broke into a trot. It was about as close as he would ever come to appreciating his handiwork. But for as massive as his home run was from a literal sense, it was even bigger in terms of its consequence.

Carroll’s third-inning blast ignited the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, the first of three homers they would hit in a five-batter span off right-hander Corbin Burnes. They rode the momentum not just to a Game 1 victory, but to a possible series-strangling, 6-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in this best-of-three National League Wild Card Series.

Ketel Marte and Gabriel Moreno added solo home runs. Christian Walker knocked in a pair of insurance runs late. Manager Torey Lovullo pushed all the right buttons in deploying a bullpen that put up zeros over 6 1/3 innings. And the Diamondbacks made one big play after another.

With Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff missing the series due to a shoulder injury, Game 1 seemed to take on extra meaning for the Brewers with Burnes, their ace, on the mound. Instead, the Diamondbacks managed to come away with a stunning and perhaps pivotal victory.

Now, with right-hander Zac Gallen lined up to pitch in Game 2 on Wednesday and, if necessary, right-hander Merrill Kelly available for Game 3, the Diamondbacks appear perfectly positioned to capture their first postseason series since 2007.

“You win Game 1, it feels good,” Lovullo said. “We have to do it right and take nothing for granted and stay humble and come here tomorrow and play our finest game and try to close them out.”

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during game one of the Wildcard series for the 2023 MLB playoffs at American Family Field in Milwaukee on Oct. 3, 2023.
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during game one of the Wildcard series for the 2023 MLB playoffs at American Family Field in Milwaukee on Oct. 3, 2023.

The Brewers grabbed an early 3-0 lead, and Burnes — facing a Diamondbacks offense filled with inexperienced players, a lineup that had managed little at the plate in recent weeks — seemed to have little trouble cruising through the first two innings.

That all changed with one out in the third. After a Geraldo Perdomo walk, Carroll launched a change-up from Burnes out to right-center field. The ball came off his bat at 106.9 mph and traveled an estimated 444 feet. It both stunned the American Family Field crowd and galvanized the Diamondbacks’ dugout.

“Yeah, that was the spark,” Walker said. “It just kind of let everybody know, ‘’Hey, we're in this.’ You know, the confidence to see somebody turn around a good pitch, it was like, ‘Hey, stay locked in. He is going to make mistakes.’ Yeah, that was the spark. It kind of took the edge off.”

It cut the lead to 3-2, and Marte followed by rocketing Burnes’ next pitch out to right field for a game-tying solo shot. An inning later, Moreno followed suit, crushing another no-doubter, this one to left-center field, to put the Diamondbacks ahead for good.

Rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt labored through his outing and was given a quick hook after just 2 2/3 innings. But six relievers combined to cover the final 6 1/3 innings. They got some help — from both third baseman Evan Longoria and the Brewers.

With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Longoria made a lunging catch to rob Tyrone Taylor of a base hit through the left side, then threw from his knees to second to double off Willy Adames, who had strayed too far off the bag.

“I think he probably read (the ball going) over his head, and it was probably two inches from being over his head, and unfortunately it cost us, for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He made an aggressive read. It turned out to be the wrong one.”

Said Longoria: “I kind of just jumped and threw my glove up. It’s just a reaction.”

Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Evan Longoria (3) takes out Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich (22) during the sixth inning of the wildcard playoff game on Tuesday October 3, 2023 at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis.
Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Evan Longoria (3) takes out Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich (22) during the sixth inning of the wildcard playoff game on Tuesday October 3, 2023 at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis.

An inning later, it was Christian Yelich who made a reckless out, rounding second base too aggressively on an infield single to third. Longoria had charged and briefly bobbled the ball, but he quickly recovered and flung it to second to nab Yelich.

Both plays helped the bullpen work its way out of jams. Lefty Joe Mantiply got out of one after entering in the third. Right-hander Ryan Thompson benefitted from both of Longoria’s plays in the fifth and sixth.

In the seventh, Longoria made another nice play to hold Adames to a single on a ball down the line, and reliever Kevin Ginkel induced a quick double-play after that to end the inning. Ginkel struck out the side in the eighth to complete his second inning of work before handing to Paul Sewald, who worked around a two-out, hit-by-pitch to close it out in the ninth.

“There were a number of game-changing plays tonight offensively and on the defensive side of the ball,” Carroll said. “One or two of those doesn’t go our way, and we’re looking at a different game.”

More DBacks: Diamondbacks' challenges lead to crucial overturned calls in Game 1 vs. Brewers

But everything seemed to stem from the Carroll swing in the third. The Diamondbacks’ offense entered the day stuck in another of its semi-frequent ruts, having scored just three times over the final 42 innings of the regular season. After Carroll and Marte’s swings, they had scored that many runs on back-to-back pitches.

“We were a little bit staggered by falling down 3-0, but that stabilized us,” Lovullo said. “It was a huge hit.”

Said Longoria: “It’s nice to see him be able to slow the moments down. He hit a change-up out against Burnes. He’s done that all year, but the moment can sometimes get big, but to see him do that, he had a great game. He’s carried us all year.”

The Brewers announced right-hander Freddy Peralta would start Game 2, as expected, and while he is a capable pitcher, the Diamondbacks are undoubtedly in a good spot with Gallen and Kelly locked and loaded.

“This is, obviously, by no means the end, but we’re in a very good spot with our two guys going,” Longoria said. “We had them going against Houston (last weekend) and didn’t support them at all offensively. So hopefully we can turn that around.”

—Nick Piecoro

Big win: Diamondbacks' revamped bullpen comes up huge in Game 1 win over Brewers

Jake McCarthy replaced by Jace Peterson on Diamondbacks roster

MILWAUKEE — Outfielder Jake McCarthy was removed from the Diamondbacks’ roster for the wild-card series due to a right oblique strain and was replaced by infielder Jace Peterson.

McCarthy suffered the injury during his first round of batting practice on the field prior to Tuesday's game, manager Torey Lovullo said.

Peterson had been a surprise omission earlier in the day when he was left off the roster in favor of outfielder/first baseman Pavin Smith.

—Nick Piecoro

Tommy Pham battling turf toe as postseason begins

MILWAUKEE — Diamondbacks outfielder Tommy Pham said he was likely to receive a cortisone injection on Tuesday afternoon to address a bout with turf toe on his right foot.

Pham was in the lineup for Game 1, though limited to designated hitter duties like he has been for most of the past two weeks.

Lovullo first mentioned Pham’s toe to reporters in New York, where Pham exited a game against the Yankees on Sept. 22 after seven innings. That was the last day Pham started anywhere other than DH.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had turf toe,” Pham said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t even know what was going on. I thought it was my cleats, so I’ve been switching out cleats. Then it just gradually got worse and worse, so here I am.”

Lovullo said the toe is why Pham has not been running as hard down the first-base line in recent weeks. The club encouraged Pham to take it easy, Lovullo said.

Pham remaining in the lineup is “a statement as to who he is and what he wants to do every time he steps on the field,” Lovullo said. “There’s a certain toughness to him, and I think he brings that to every one of his teammates as well.”

—Nick Piecoro

Craig Counsell on what he likes most about playoff baseball

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Craig Counsell has both managed and played in the postseason before — doing the latter for both the Brewers and the Diamondbacks — and on Monday was asked what he liked most about October baseball.

“It’s really the emotion of the game and the crowd that you feel immediately as you walk out,” Counsell said. “My favorite time is always like 20 minutes before the game. I love being in the dugout as that anticipation is kind of winding up for players. It’s like no other, that part of the day.”

Counsell was a member of the Diamondbacks’ 2001 World Series championship club. That year, he was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, going 8 for 21 (.381) with three doubles and a stolen base.

“As the home team, when it goes our way, there’s just this enormous wave of emotion that you just don’t get anywhere else,” Counsell said. “That’s just being a part of that and feeling that, there’s nothing better. Conversely, on the road side, it’s like us against the world. That’s how you treat it. It hits both ways.”

—Nick Piecoro

More DBacks: Diamondbacks show faith in Brandon Pfaadt before Game 1 NL Wild Card series start vs. Brewers

Diamondbacks-Brewers NL Wild Card series schedule

Tuesday, Game 1: Diamondbacks 6, Brewers 3 (Arizona leads series, 1-0).

Wednesday, Game 2: At Milwaukee, 4:08 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (17-9, 3.47) vs. Brewers RHP Freddy Peralta (12-10, 3.86).

Thursday, Game 3 (if necessary): At Milwaukee, 4:08 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29) vs. Brewers TBA (time could change if other wild-card series have ended).

Who wins NL Wild Card series? Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers predictions, odds

MLB Wild Card series (best-of-three)

American LeagueToronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins (ESPN)

Tuesday: Toronto (Gausman 12-9) at Minnesota (López 11-8), 1:38 p.m.; Wednesday: Toronto (TBD) at Minnesota (Gray 8-8), 1:38 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 5: Toronto at Minnesota, pitchers TBD, 1:38 p.m.*

American LeagueTexas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays (ABC)

Tuesday: Texas (Montgomery 10-11) at Tampa Bay (Glasnow 10-7), 12:08 p.m.; Wednesday: Texas (TBD) at Tampa Bay (Eflin 16-8), 1:08 p.m.; Thursday: Texas at Tampa Bay, pitchers TBD, 1:08 p.m.*

National League: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN)

Tuesday: Miami (Luzardo 10-9) at Philadelphia (Wheeler 13-6), 5:08 p.m.; Wednesday, Miami (Garrett 9-7) at Philadelphia (Nola 12-9), 5:08 p.m.; Thursday: Miami at Philadelphia, pitchers TBD, 5:08 p.m.*

*-Times for all Game 3s are subject to change depending on outcomes of other series

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks take opener of NL Wild Card series behind homers, bullpen