PHILADELPHIA – Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back home runs and Merrill Kelly struck out eight to help the Arizona Diamondbacks force Game 7 of the NL Championship Series with a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.
The winner of Tuesday night’s game advances to the World Series against Houston or Texas, which played Game 7 of the AL Championship later Monday night.
“I expect some fun. It’ll be fun,” Kelly said. “Of course they talk about Game 7, those are the best words in sports. I think the fact that we’re here, I don’t think anyone thought we were going to take them to Game 6. I don’t think anyone believed we would even make it to Game 1. I don’t think anyone thought we were going to make it past Milwaukee to be honest.”
The Diamondbacks were ready in Game 6 to back up manager Torey Lovullo’s bold pregame words and tame the Phillies hitters and the hostile home crowd.
“It’s really important to get there, that’s why we have this all-in mentality,” Lovullo said before Game 6. “We didn’t come across the country to get our asses kicked. We came here to play our best baseball game and our guys will be ready to go.”
The Diamondbacks were ready to go — and Kelly didn’t want to go.
Kelly retired Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper in order in the fifth period and the Diamondbacks led 4-1. As Kelly retreated to the dugout, Lovullo told the right-hander he was done. Kelly, who had thrown 90 pitches, appeared excited as he gestured with his glove as if to point out that he had struck out Schwarber and Harper in the inning and had plenty more left in the tank.
“When I beat Schwarber, Harper and Turner right there in the fifth round, I figured I would probably go out in the sixth round,” Kelly said. “It just surprised me a little bit. But that’s Torey’s job. My job is to pitch. His job is to make the decisions and at the end of the day I have to live with those decisions.”
Four relievers joined the Phillies together and quelled their rousing run of success at Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia was forced into the first Game 7 in franchise history.
The Phillies were held to six hits and lost at home for the first time in seven postseason games. They lost Games 4 and 5 to Houston in the World Series, but had won 11 straight home games against opponents from the Netherlands after the season.
The Phillies sent Aaron Nola a year to the day after they defeated San Diego and won the NL pennant in hopes of making their second straight World Series appearance.
Nola has been a hit in every postseason start, playing against the backdrop that the impending free agent may not play in his final games with the Phillies. In October, he was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA.
Make it 3:1. The Diamondbacks, who lost the first two games of the NLCS, never had to worry about late-inning turnovers that put them back in the series.
Nola allowed home runs to Pham and Gurriel in almost the same spots on the left field pitches, the first allowed by the longest-serving Phillies player all postseason.
A sign that this wouldn’t be Nola’s night? Pham was benched for Game 5 due to a 1-13 performance in the NLCS. Back in the lineup, a crowd of 45,000 towel-waving fans calmed down.
Nola singled Alek Thomas, who hit a tie-breaking two-run home run in Game 4, and Evan Longoria doubled for a 3-0 lead. Longoria, who played for Tampa Bay against the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, was 1-for-12 in the series.
The Phillies never trailed by more than two runs in the postseason until the second.
Kelly, who allowed three solo home runs in a loss in Game 2, bailed out of trouble in this game.
He put on two runners in the first inning before striking out Alec Bohm and retiring Bryson Stott on a flat flyout. Kelly gave up an RBI single to Brandon Marsh in the second, putting two on with two outs. Kelly then got Turner to hit three throws from the zone to end the threat.
Ketel Marte extended his postseason hitting streak to 15 games with a run-scoring triple in the fifth that built a 4-1 lead and chased Nola. He added an RBI single off Orion Kerkering in the seventh.
RHP Brandon Pfaadt starts for Arizona and LHP Ranger Suarez for Philadelphia.
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