The D-backs did it, Arizona fans. Not only did they grit out a playoff appearance, they came into Milwaukee and took down the 3-seeded Brewers in a 2-game sweep, coming back from respective 3 and 2-run deficits to move on to the NLDS.
Here are the biggest takeaways from a stellar Diamondbacks performance in the NLWC:
Takeaway 1: The Diamondbacks bullpen is a HUGE strength
The D-backs' bullpen had been in the bottom region of MLB through the first half of this season, dating back several years. Despite Arizona's bullpen ranking near the bottom in ERA, they've managed to improve all the way to a 4.22 cumulative ERA, working their way back to the middle of the pack.
But this doesn't do justice to just how good the pen has been towards the end of the season, and the Wild Card performance showed exactly how well Diamondback relievers have been pitching in recent weeks.
Arizona's bullpen threw a collective 9.1 innings over two games, allowing 0 total runs to score over that time. In game 1, rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt exited after allowing 3 earned runs in just 2.2 innings, forcing the D-backs then turned to an army of six relievers, comprised of Joe Mantiply, Miguel Castro, Ryne Nelson, Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel, and Paul Sewald.
The pen went 6.1 innings, allowing 5 hits and 3 walks, and punched out 7 batters. Thompson and Ginkel both pitched more than a full inning, allowing just 3 baserunners over 3.2 innings and racking up 5 Ks, setting up Paul Sewald to shut it down.
In game 2, manager Torey Lovullo went back to Thompson and Ginkel, and although Ginkel fell victim to a few hits, he was able to get a bases-loaded strikeout before handing the ball over to rookie LHP Andrew Saalfrank. Since joining Arizona late in the season, Thompson and Saalfrank have collectively gone 26.2 innings, allowing 14 hits, 1 earned run, with just 6 walks and 17 strikeouts. Both pitchers have been massive additions to a team that was in dire need of bullpen stability.
Takeaway 2: This Diamondbacks offense never quits
They call them the Answerbacks for a reason. Although the offense going dead has been the source of multiple bad slumps over the course of the season, the truth is this team rises to the occasion offensively.
The D-backs scored a cumulative 2 runs over the final 3 games of the regular season. Their at-bats looked sloppy, impatient, and fatigued. But a 0-0 start can do wonders for a team.
They came into Milwaukee looking more patient and methodical than they'd looked in a while, seeing the ball well and not trying to do too much. Facing Corbin Burnes, the ace of the Brewers' squad, boasting a stellar 2.73 ERA in his previous 15 games, the D-backs waited patiently for the right moment after trailing 3-0. After a walk from Perdomo, Corbin Carroll jumped on a changeup, sending it 444 feet for a 2-run blast to close the gap. Ketel Marte homered on the next pitch, and the D-backs ended up chasing Burnes out after only 4 complete innings, notching 4 runs on 5 hits.
Game 2 was a similar story. Down 2-0 and being no-hit by RHP Freddy Peralta, Alek Thomas got the D-backs on the board with a solo shot. In the next inning, Arizona would pressure Peralta.
After another rally-starting Perdomo walk and Carroll double, Ketel Marte shot a groundball up the middle, scoring both runners and taking the lead. Arizona would put up 4 runs in the 6th, chasing Peralta out at 3-2 and scoring 2 runs off RHP Abner Uribe on a wild pitch and sac fly.
This is what this scrappy young team has done all year, and they continue to do so at an even higher level in the postseason. 23-year-old star Corbin Carroll went 4-7 in the series, with a double, a 2-run homer, and 2 walks. The rookie is rising to the occasion in his first-ever playoff series.
Takeaway 3: Defense Still Wins Championships (Diamondbacks edition)
The Diamondbacks put up 0 errors in the WC series, a number they're used to seeing. The D-backs were first in the majors in fielding in 2023, with the fewest errors per game, committing only 56 on the season. The defense was sharp once again in this series.
37-year-old Evan Longoria made a game-saving play in game 1, leaping to snag a hard-hit ball and doubling up the runner at 2B to escape a bases-loaded jam. He would later make a sliding stop to prevent a down-the-line double.
In game 2, the D-backs put out another defensive masterclass, this time a more collective effort. Zac Gallen caught a line drive, losing both the ball and his glove in the process, but still had the presence of mind to fire back to 2B, where Perdomo shot a rocket to 1B to strand yet another base path full of Brewers.
Perdomo was responsible for turning 2 critical double plays, and made a leaping stop--nearly a catch--in the 9th, allowing a force out at 2B for the second out of the inning. Even the rookie Andrew Saalfrank made a heads-up play, throwing home to force Yelich out to keep the bases loaded, rather than attempting a near-impossible DP.
Ultimately, this scrappy team is showing us that they can fight and compete on both sides of the ball, and although facing an extremely tough customer in the LA Dodgers for the NLDS, they're showing us day in and day out that they can fight and hang with the best teams in MLB. We could be in for a treat of a divisional series.
Just embrace the chaos, baby.