MILWAUKEE – Corbin Carroll and the Arizona Diamondbacks are one resilient bunch. Staring at an early deficit against Corbin Burnes, they slugged their way to the front of their NL Wild Card Series.
Carroll and Ketel Marte homered on back-to-back pitches and Gabriel Moreno also went deep, sending the Diamondbacks to a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night in the opener of their best-of-three series.
Arizona is making the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2017, and it had been 0-14 in postseason games when trailing by at least three runs. But this is a tested group of Diamondbacks who had to push all the way to the final days of the season to secure an NL wild card.
So that 3-0 hole with Burnes on the mound for the Brewers was just another challenge that had to be overcome.
“He is a really good pitcher,” said Carroll, who added another memorable performance to his breakout rookie season. “We wanted to get him out of there. I thought we took really patient at-bats and got rewarded with that patience by getting some balls in the middle of the plate that we were able to put some good swings on.”
The rally put Arizona in a prime position to advance. Game 2 is Wednesday, and the Diamondbacks have All-Star Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly lined up after rookie Brandon Pfaadt lasted just 2 2/3 innings in the opener.
Arizona’s comeback began when Carroll followed Geraldo Perdomo’s one-out single in the third with a 444-foot drive into the second deck of the stands in right-center. On Burnes’ next pitch, Marte sent a cutter over the right-field wall to tie the game.
Moreno put the Diamondbacks in front by homering for the first time since Sept. 2. Moreno’s 425-foot shot in the fourth came on a 2-2 slider.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo felt Carroll’s homer was a turning point.
“I think at that point, we all exhaled,” Lovullo said, “and I think we collectively got our feet underneath us and felt very good about the direction in which we were going.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria protected Arizona’s 4-3 lead in the fifth by robbing Tyrone Taylor of a bases-loaded hit and turning it into an inning-ending double play. Christian Walker provided some insurance with a two-run double off Devin Williams in the ninth.
Taylor hit a two-run homer for Milwaukee. The NL Central champion Brewers left the bases loaded in the first and third, and they failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out in the fifth.
Arizona’s Joe Mantiply, Miguel Castro, Ryne Nelson, Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald combined for 6 1/3 innings of shutout relief.
“Our bullpen is the reason why we won this game,” Lovullo said.
Milwaukee appeared to have a starting pitching advantage for Game 1 by virtue of clinching its playoff berth early enough to set up its postseason rotation. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Gallen pitched Friday and Kelly went on Saturday, so the Diamondbacks opted against using them on short rest and instead started Pfaadt. Although Pfaadt yielded three runs and seven hits before departing in the third, Burnes also struggled.
Burnes retired seven of the first eight batters he faced but faltered the rest of the way. The 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner allowed four runs through the first four innings and left after he walked the only two batters he faced in the fifth.
“When I was executing pitches the first couple of innings, we got quick outs, and a lot of ground balls, some strikeouts,” Burnes said. “Then when I stopped executing pitches, they didn’t miss.”
Longoria said the Diamondbacks benefited from their regular-season experience against Burnes.
The three-time All-Star pitched eight shutout innings in a 7-1 victory over Arizona in April, but he gave up seven runs over five innings in a 9-1 loss to the Diamondbacks two months later.
“It doesn’t mean that we were going to get to him today, but I think it just gave us a little bit of confidence knowing that we were able to have some success against him the last time that we faced him,” Longoria said.
Longoria helped the Diamondbacks survive a shaky relief performance from Nelson, who typically starts rather than working out of the bullpen.
Milwaukee trailed 4-3 when Sal Frelick and Willy Adames opened the sixth with back-to-back singles. Nelson then walked Josh Donaldson to load the bases for Brice Turang.
It was initially ruled that Nelson’s first pitch to Turang hit him around the foot, which would have brought in the tying run. But the Diamondbacks challenged the call, and it was overturned on a replay review.
Turang struck out, and Thompson got the final two outs with a huge assist from Longoria, a three-time Gold Glove winner. Taylor’s high, screaming liner was grabbed by Longoria, who threw from his knees to double Adames off second.
“I kind of just jumped and threw my glove up,” Longoria said. “Sometimes those plays, I think, it’s just a reaction. … I threw my glove up there and I felt it hit my glove. I couldn’t actually believe I caught it.”
Arizona outfielder Jake McCarthy was removed from the team’s Wild Card Series roster shortly before the start of Game 1 due to a right oblique strain. Utilityman Jace Peterson replaced McCarthy on the roster.
Under MLB postseason rules, McCarthy wouldn’t be able to play for the Diamondbacks until the NL Championship Series, if they get that far.
Gallen (17-9, 3.47 ERA) is pitching for Arizona in Game 2. Freddy Peralta (12-10, 3.86 ERA) starts for Milwaukee.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB