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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Diamondbacks cool off the Phillies in the desert heat with 2-1 walk-off victory in Game 3

Arizona’s Ketel Marte celebrates with his teammates Thursday after hitting an RBI single against Philadelphia to win Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field in Phoenix.  (Tribune News Service)
By Scott Lauber Philadelphia Inquirer

PHOENIX – Craig Kimbrel turned and looked, if only for a split second.

With the score tied, the bases filled, one out, and perhaps the toughest out in the Diamondbacks’ lineup at the plate, the Phillies closer gave up a line-drive single to center field.

Ballgame over.

Series on.

Ketel Marte punched the walk-off single that defeated the Phillies 2-1 on Thursday at Chase Field in Game 3 of a National League Championship Series that also stands at 2-1 (for the Phillies), with Game 4 set for Friday night.

It was a game for the second-guessers, many of whom among a mixed crowd of 47,075 Diamondbacks and Phillies fans booed loudly in the sixth inning when Arizona manager Torey Lovullo took the ball from a rookie starter who was twirling a gem.

And there was plenty to go around for Phillies manager Rob Thomson.

•Should he have taken out starter Ranger Suárez at the first hint of trouble in the sixth inning?

•Was this the time to put rookie reliever Orion Kerkering in his highest-leverage spot yet?

•Is Kimbrel the best choice in the ninth inning of a tie game?

Before Kimbrel gave up the winning run, Kerkering inherited a 1-0 lead in the seventh against the Diamondbacks’ Nos. 5-7 hitters. Two nights after striking out Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the ninth inning of Game 2 in Philadelphia, they got him back in Game 3.

Pham punched a single to right field, and Gurriel drove home pinch-runner Alek Thomas from first base with a double down the line in left. Kerkering gave up another hit before being lifted for Jose Alvarado, who got the Phillies out of the jam and kept the game tied.

It didn’t help, of course, that the Phillies had just three hits after a 10-run outburst in Game 2. But Kimbrel came into a tie game and dealt with command problems. He walked Gurriel, gave up an infield hit to Pavin Smith, and after the Phillies cut down the go-ahead run at home plate, he walked Geraldo Perdomo to load the bases before Marte lined a 96 mph pitch to center field.

As the NLCS relocated to the desert, the atmospherics changed. It was 100 degrees at first pitch (thank heavens for a retractable roof). Ticket prices plummeted. The crowd went from ear-shattering to ordinary.

Drama? Sure, there was drama, if you were interested in how on earth the Diamondbacks would get 27 outs in a game started by neither Zac Gallen nor Merrill Kelly.

But after the Arizona co-aces got roughed up in the first two games, a rookie righty named Brandon Pfaadt muted the Phillies through the first half of Game 3. Jot down his name. You’ll hear it again.

Pfaadt (pronounced ‘fought’) unleashed his fastball-sweeper-sinker mix and plowed through the hottest offense in the postseason, racking up nine strikeouts in 5⅔ walk-free innings. When Pfaadt gave up a one-out double to Brandon Marsh in the third, he struck out the next two batters. He dominated.

The Diamondbacks have a formula with Pfaadt. Manager Torey Lovullo described it as “18 (batters), plus or minus four.” It means that they allow the kid to face a lineup twice, then go to the bullpen, a strategy supported by hitters going 27 for 68 with eight doubles, six homers, and an 1.193 OPS when they faced Pfaadt for a third time.

So, how come it felt like Lovullo was doing the Phillies a favor when he took the ball from Pfaadt – to a chorus of boos – with two out in the sixth inning of a scoreless game?

Thomson managed the bullpen aggressively, too. Never mind that Suárez mostly breezed through five innings. At the first spot of trouble in the sixth, Thomson turned to righty Jeff Hoffman. Dubbed the “Garbage Man” by Bryce Harper for his knack for cleaning up a mess, Hoffman got out of a one-on, one-out situation.

The Phillies broke the scoreless stalemate in the seventh.

Harper, who barely got anything to hit in four plate appearances, drew a leadoff walk, went to second on an infield hit and to third on a ground-ball double play, then dashed home on a wild pitch.

This time, though, a one-run lead was too little for the Phillies’ bullpen.

And now, against all odds, it’s a series, after all.