World Series just the start for promising D-backs

November 2nd, 2023

PHOENIX -- Wednesday spelled the end of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A 5-0 loss at the hands of the Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series sent the D-backs home for the winter.

Rather than the end of something, though, it felt like more of a beginning for a young team that found its way into the playoffs with 84 wins and a negative run differential and then showed the world it belonged on the biggest stage.

Yes, there was hurt and disappointment on their faces as they said their goodbyes and exchanged hugs, but there was also a feeling of hope and an excitement to get back after it again in February at Salt River Fields.

“We got to taste this stuff and it’s awesome, and we’re going to do everything we can to get back here,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “I think we're all looking forward to getting back and giving it another shot. I think what's cool about this whole thing is how I feel like we went through this whole thing and here we are competing for a world championship. So there's no regrets, there's nothing like that. It's just all love.”

Two years ago, the D-backs lost 110 games, and a number of those same players were here for this year’s run. It began with a decent start to the season and peaked in June when the D-backs were 16 games above .500 and in first place in the NL West.

They had a miserable July and early part of August, dropping below .500 before barely capturing the final NL Wild Card on the next-to-last day of the regular season.

They were the underdogs in the Wild Card Series and swept the Brewers in two games in Milwaukee.

They were again the underdogs in the NL Division Series against their nemesis, the Dodgers, only to sweep them in three games.

They were supposed to meet their match in the NL Championship Series, especially after the Phillies captured the first two games of the series. But again, they found a way and won the pennant with a dramatic Game 7 win in Philadelphia.

After splitting the first two games of the World Series on the road, the D-backs could not get going offensively against the Rangers at home as they dropped three straight.

Wednesday was the most frustrating because they got a gem of a pitching performance from their ace, , who carried a no-hitter through six innings and allowed just one run over 6 1/3.

Time and time again, the D-backs had scoring chances against Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi, putting 10 runners on base in the first five innings. Over that stretch, though, they were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

So desperate were they to try to push across the first run of the game that No. 3 hitter Gabriel Moreno bunted with runners on first and second and no one out in the third. The sacrifice was successful, but the next two hitters made outs and the D-backs remained scoreless.

“He bunted on his own,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We talked about playing downhill baseball, getting a lead. We just felt good about trying to get out front. We just couldn't find that big knock. That's the difference in the game today. They did and we didn't.”

Lovullo, who fought back tears in the interview room after the game, stood and stoically watched the Rangers’ initial celebration on the field before heading into the clubhouse to deliver a message to his players.

“Let it burn,” Walker said Lovullo told them. “You know, let it sting, embrace that, but also be fair on ourselves and let's use it for motivation, going through the offseason.”

Gallen said a postseason run like this can help a young team mature even faster, and outfielder Alek Thomas, in his second year in the big leagues, was asked what he learned from getting this far in a season.

“It's going to be a rocky season and there's going to be a lot of ups and downs, but you just got to enjoy being here and have fun and embrace it and have fun with your teammates,” said Thomas, whose error in the ninth inning opened the door to the Rangers' decisive four-run rally. “These guys did a good job of putting their arms around me and being a good teammate, and I appreciate that a lot. I’m going to take this season, learn from it and hopefully get better.”

In that way, the D-backs believe that Wednesday night was just the beginning and not the end.