PHOENIX – If you believe in playoff momentum, the Diamondbacks appear to have seized it.
After defeating the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS, Arizona rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday night to shock the Phillies and beat them 6-5.
The same culprits from Game 3, Craig Kimbrel and Orion Kerkering, were once again responsible for the D-Backs’ comeback in Game 4. Kimbrel allowed all three runs in the eighth inning, earning his first blown save of the playoffs. Kerkering started an inning earlier with two outs, two on and the Phillies ahead by three. He walked the first two batters he faced, one of them to force a run.
Just like that, the NLCS is tied at two games apiece. The series has taken a sudden and drastic turn in the last 24 hours.
Earlier in the night, the Phillies overcame a series of defensive errors to take a three-run lead. Kyle Schwarber hit a home run to awaken the slumbering offense early in the fourth and walked two innings later to start a rally. They took the lead on Alec Bohm’s bases-loaded infield single, which third baseman Emmanuel Rivera threw into the dirt on a force-out attempt at home plate, which also scored Trea Turner. Turner added a sacrifice fly in the seventh to give the Phils a three-point lead and it appeared they were on their way to a 3-1 lead in the NLCS.
They asked their bullpen to cover 6⅔ innings after starter Cristopher Sanchez recorded just seven outs and a unit that had been so good for much of the season couldn’t finish the job. Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm and Seranthony Dominguez were effective, but Gregory Soto, Kerkering and Kimbrel were not.
Kimbrel hasn’t been hot lately. He ripped fastballs outside, constantly lagged behind hitters and didn’t get enough nibbles on his curveball below the zone. This was the first appearance this year in which he allowed three goals. In Game 3, he walked two batters and threw only half of his pitches for strikes.
“I trust these guys,” manager Rob Thomson said before the game. “Did he scatter the zone at times? Secure. But if you look at our charts, everyone had a little hiccup, but they bounced back. So you have to trust that.”
The Phillies now need a win in Game 5 to avoid coming home with a series deficit. They have their ace, Zack Wheeler, on the mound and they will need him because Kimbrel, Kerkering, Hoffman and Jose Alvarado have all been used in high-stress situations in consecutive games. Thomson doesn’t like using an aid three days in a row, even at this time of year. He may not have a choice on Saturday.