PHILADELPHIA — The Arizona Diamondbacks couldn’t complete their late-inning comeback on Monday night against Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies’ bullpen.
Even so, the Diamondbacks hope their near-miss translates into the type of momentum boost that eluded the Atlanta Braves against the Phillies last week.
Arizona will look to even the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night when the teams play Game 2 of the best-of-seven set.
Merrill Kelly (1-0, 0.00 ERA this postseason) is slated to start for the Diamondbacks against Aaron Nola (2-0, 1.42) in a battle of right-handers.
The Phillies took the series lead Monday night, when they held off a series of late rallies by the Diamondbacks to record a 5-3 win. Kyle Schwarber homered on the first pitch of the home half of the first and Bryce Harper — celebrating his 31st birthday — went deep two batters later for Philadelphia. Another long ball by Nick Castellanos — his fifth in three games — helped the Phillies extend what eventually became a 5-0 lead in the fifth.
“Just being (up) 1-0, that’s all I care about,” Harper said. “Good opportunity to hit a homer. That was great. But at the end of the day, if I hit a homer and we don’t win, there’s nothing else.”
Wheeler gave up two runs on three hits and no walks over six innings as he lowered his postseason WHIP to 0.70 in nine starts — the lowest WHIP over any nine-start span for any pitcher in postseason history.
But Arizona, which received a two-run homer from Geraldo Perdomo in the sixth and a sacrifice fly from Alek Thomas in the seventh, sent the tying run to the plate in each of the final three innings, which provided the Diamondbacks some hope that they can do what the Braves couldn’t in the NL Division Series.
The loss was the first of the postseason for the Diamondbacks. Arizona qualified for the playoffs as the NL’s final wild card at 84-78 before sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in a best-of-three wild-card series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five NLDS.
“We were just waiting for that one little push and Gerry had that big two-run homer for us and got us right back in it,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’ve got to sleep on it and understand what we did right, what we did wrong and be ready to play another baseball game (Tuesday).”
Wheeler carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS on Oct. 9, when the Braves overcame a four-run deficit and earned a 5-4 win in a game that ended with Michael Harris II robbing Castellanos of a game-tying RBI extra-base hit before he doubled Harper off first base.
The Phillies responded by outscoring the Braves 13-3 while winning the final two games of the NLDS in Philadelphia.
“Everything is about momentum this time of year, and Arizona is really good at creating momentum and then keeping it,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “That’s one of the things we need to do — get momentum, keep it, don’t let them back in the game.”
Kelly will be pitching for the first time since he made his first career postseason appearance on Oct. 7, when he tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings and earned the victory as the Diamondbacks rolled to a 11-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Nola won Game 3 of the NLDS last Wednesday, when he allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Phillies’ 10-2 victory. He is 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA in seven career postseason starts.
Kelly is 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies. Nola is 2-2 with a 7.67 ERA in five career starts against the Diamondbacks.