Home-field advantage swings the NLCS in favor of the T-Backs

PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks are getting a world-class education in the 2023 postseason. They teach the Philadelphia Phillies a few things.

Lesson no. 1: There is a big difference between playing regular season baseball in downtown Phoenix and playoff baseball at Chase Field.

The latest example was Friday’s stunning 6-5 win over the Phillies in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

“When we do things like this, the baseball world sees the Arizona Diamondbacks as a good team,” T-backs manager Torrey Luullo said. “I’m tired of that narrative that we’re lucky to be here.”

The stats don’t tell how the Diamondbacks tied the NLCS at two games apiece. Their offense is often leaked. Some of their stars are struggling, notably Corbin Carroll and Christian Walker.

The difference is their home field advantage. A raucous, relentlessly sold-out crowd shattering reputations and eardrums. In a game that featured 36 players and was slogged to 16 pitchers, 47,806 fans wouldn’t stop screaming until the Diamondbacks stepped into the winner’s circle.

Once again, Lovullo took some time after the game to personally thank the Arizona fans.

“It’s really loud,” Lovello said. “It helps us get through those emotional highs and lows. You carry us through those down times.

The game was not an easy watch. The T-backs tiptoed through a delicate tapestry for the first six innings, piecing together a bullpen game to mask their flawed starting rotation.

They lost their grip as a pair of left-handed pitchers struggled to give relief to left-handed hitters in Philadelphia’s powerful lineup. Kyle Schwarber went deeper than Kyle Nelson in the fourth inning, passing Reggie Jackson for most postseason home runs by a left-handed hitter; And an inning later, Brandon Marsh hit an RBI double to left off Andrew Chalfrank.

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Bullpen games are great during the dog days of summer. They are dangerous in October because so much is required and so much can go wrong. A platoon of relief pitchers isn’t always as pretty as the matchups appear on paper. As the Phillies got their footing on Friday, they felt like they had a stranglehold on the NLCS.

But the T-backs kept grinding. When Alec Thomas smashed a pinch-hit home run into the pond to tie the game in the eighth inning, it was Bedlam time in the Valley. Neither the home team nor the home crowd were deterred.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here,” Thomas said. “None of that matters … (It’s been) a crazy season, a crazy playoffs, and I’m just so grateful to be here with all the guys.”

What a twist. In the first two games of the NLCS, the difference in pedigree and class seemed stark. It felt like the Phillies were too much of a baseball team for the T-backs to handle. The story turned on deaf ears.

The big twist is inside Chase Field, a field that is sparse and quiet during the regular season, often referred to as a morgue or an airplane hangar. Not anymore. The team is now 3-0 at Chase Field in a postseason where every game has been a thrilling experience and full-decibel madness. And it gives the D-backs an edge they lacked for much of the regular season, proving another axiom of baseball:

Before placing the rings on your fingers, you should listen to the ringing in your ears.

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