Pfaadt sets up 'pen for G4 with length, but gets little support

October 31st, 2023

PHOENIX -- Brandon Pfaadt has caught the attention of fans around the league as the surprise rookie pitcher who has delivered in the D-backs’ postseason run.

Pfaadt worked two clean innings out of the gate in his first World Series start in Game 4 vs. the Rangers, showing glimpses of the underdog pitcher who delivered two key performances in the National League Championship Series against the Phillies. He was one out away from escaping trouble in the third inning, too.

Instead, the Rangers took a three-run lead by the end of the frame. Ultimately, one bad pitch, along with the lack of offense, came back to haunt the D-backs. Arizona lost, 3-1, to Texas at Chase Field on Monday night to fall behind, 2-1, in the World Series.

“I felt good,” Pfaadt said. “I made some good pitches, and we paid the price when I didn’t. Some things didn’t go our way. Outside of a bad changeup, I thought it was pretty good.”

Pfaadt gave up a leadoff double to Nathaniel Lowe in the third. Three batters later, Marcus Semien, who has been struggling this postseason, drove in the game's first run with a line drive to center field.

It prompted D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom to come out for a mound visit. With Corey Seager, who hit a game-tying home run in Game 1, up to bat, it was going to be important to pitch to him wisely.

On his first offering, Pfaadt delivered his improved changeup, but this time it caught too much of the plate on the inner half. Seager made him pay, sending the ball a Statcast-projected 421 feet into the right-field bleachers. The homer had an exit velocity of 114.5 mph, making it the hardest-hit home run in the World Series under Statcast (since 2015).

“He’s been hot,” Semien said of Pfaadt. “We’ve been watching him all playoffs doing what he’s done. We had to come through in big situations.”

But Pfaadt’s outing was not a clunker. He did what D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has asked him all season to do --  put Arizona in a position to win. The right-hander had 14 whiffs, and outside of the third inning, he controlled the Rangers’ bats.

“He did great,” D-backs outfielder Alek Thomas said, “except for that one inning, but that's baseball. It happens, and we didn't do a good job of helping him out. And we definitely could have done a way better job helping [the pitchers].”

Pfaadt also provided some much-needed length, going 5 1/3 innings. The D-backs announced postgame that Joe Mantiply would start Game 4, indicating that Arizona was going to use a bullpen game.

Pfaadt faced 21 batters, the most he’s encountered this postseason and the first time he has passed the 18-batter threshold. When the D-backs went with a bullpen game in Game 4 of the NLCS, they used eight pitchers, so it was important that Pfaadt kept the bullpen as fresh as possible.

“Pitching into the sixth inning, giving us a little bit extra, was a big moment for him,” Lovullo said. “Because I know I extended him a little bit, but he accepted that responsibility. He did enough to win the baseball game.

“Unfortunately, we just couldn't get him any run support. That was the difference in the game, for me.”

There isn’t much panic from the D-backs. After all, they erased a two-game deficit in the NLCS to get to this point, driven by an important Game 7 outing by Pfaadt. Similarly, the next time Pfaadt would pitch would be if the World Series were to come down to a Game 7 in Arlington. 

At this point in his young career, the 25-year-old Pfaadt is no stranger to the big stage. After what he’s proven in the postseason, Pfaadt will be ready to rise to the occasion if needed. Until then, he has trust that his teammates can take care of business. 

“Just take it day by day and one game at a time and bounce back,” Pfaadt said. “And I think we've shown that throughout the season, and we're certainly planning on doing that tomorrow.”