'He's a superstar': Carroll leads D-backs in Game 7 win

October 25th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Since sneaking in as the sixth seed in the National League, the D-backs have shown the baseball world their brand of baseball. They have a trio of legitimate starters. Their bullpen is better than most thought, thanks to some key midseason additions. Arizona is relentless on the bases, giving it a clear advantage in that department.

And now, it’s no longer a secret that the D-backs have a bona fide superstar in leading the way.

After a dominant rookie season, Carroll turned himself into one of the best and most dynamic players in the Majors. Though the D-backs’ lineup has shown its length throughout the postseason, they’re at their best when Carroll is leading the charge.

Playing in his first career Game 7, Carroll was the best player on the field against the Phillies, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases to lead the D-backs to their second World Series appearance in franchise history with a 4-2 win on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.

Carroll tied a rookie record with three hits in a winner-take-all postseason game, becoming just the sixth rookie to accomplish the feat. He’s also the sixth rookie to record two stolen bases in any postseason game. No rookie had ever done both in a winner-take-all game.

“We have so many good players, but he’s a superstar. And you can’t win without superstars,” said D-backs general manager Mike Hazen. “We wouldn’t be where we’re at without him.”

Coming into Game 7 as considerable underdogs, which is not uncharted territory for this group, the D-backs knew they needed to punch early in order to quiet down a raucous crowd in Philadelphia.

Carroll, who started the NLCS going 3-for-23 with no stolen bases through the first six games, was able to do just that. He lined a one-out single off left-hander Ranger Suárez in the first inning. Carroll then took third on a Gabriel Moreno single that came in a perfectly executed hit-and-run. He came around to score the first run of the game on Christian Walker's fielder’s choice.

In the fifth, Carroll had his biggest postseason moment, at least so far. With two outs and the D-backs trailing by a run with a runner in scoring position, Phillies manager Rob Thomson let Suárez face Carroll for the third time.

Carroll was able to line a 2-1 sinker back up the middle, scoring Emmanuel Rivera from second base to tie the game at 2. It was the first time in his career that Carroll recorded three hits against left-handed pitching in a single game, and they all came against Suárez, who had been lights-out in the postseason coming into Game 7.

“I kept telling him, I knew at some point you were going to come through,” said D-backs third baseman Evan Longoria. “And he came through in the biggest moment for us.”

The overwhelming favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year wasn’t done creating chaos, however. He stole second base on the first pitch Jeff Hoffman threw to Moreno. Carroll then scored the go-ahead run as Moreno delivered an early dagger with an RBI single.

“I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day and get caught up in just the minute,” said Carroll, when asked how he was able to deliver Tuesday after being held quiet the first six games of the NLCS. “In the end, I think everything evens out eventually.”

It’s been quite the year for Carroll. In Spring Training, with just 32 big league games under his belt, the D-backs locked up Carroll to an eight-year deal that will guarantee him $111 million. With a club option at the tail end of it, Carroll could be in the desert until '31.

That’s quite the commitment for any organization to make. It is definitely a risk. For the player, being the face of the franchise is no easy task. That rings particularly true when you’re expected to lead as a 23-year-old.

Carroll, however, has thrived in the spotlight. After hitting 25 homers and stealing 54 bases in '23, he was clearly the best rookie in the Majors and became a candidate for NL MVP. In the postseason, he was the first player in 16 years to record six hits and two or more homers in his first three career postseason games.

Now he has a Game 7 win under his belt. With four more wins, he can cap off his magical rookie season with a World Series championship.

“I had a photo on my phone two years ago that popped up on my phone yesterday, and it was me on my couch in Seattle watching the 2021 NLCS,” Carroll said. “How cool is this, that I was sitting on my couch probably still rehabbing [from shoulder surgery] at that point, and now I get to play in the games. Just very fortunate.”