Momentum shifts early as D-backs quieted in Game 3 loss

October 31st, 2023

PHOENIX -- D-backs fans waited 22 years to see their first World Series pitch in Arizona since Luis Gonzalez blooped Mariano Rivera's offering into center field for his iconic walk-off to clinch the 2001 Fall Classic.

But with a clutch hit nowhere to be found in Game 3 of the 2023 installment, they'll need to wait at least one more night to witness a World Series win.

After erupting for nine runs to even the series heading back to Arizona, the D-backs' bats fell silent in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Monday night at Chase Field. In similar fashion, the sold-out crowd also went from roaring to quiet following a pivotal early sequence.

Moments after attempting to will out of his postseason slump with an ovation, the hometown fans were left in a stunned silence when he was thrown out at home for the first out of the second inning. Walker, who roped a double off the right-center-field wall, got a late read on Tommy Pham's single to right field before cruising through a stop sign from third-base coach Tony Perezchica.

"I feel like that was a huge momentum swing," said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who acknowledged that Walker took full accountability. "You're looking at [runners on] first and third, potentially, and no outs. ... Who knows? The timing, everything would have been different; we may have scored a bunch of runs."

Instead, the D-backs didn’t score until the eighth. And worse, they promptly gave up three runs in the top of the third inning -- all with two outs.

"It's a game of capitalizing on the right pitch at the right time ... and we just didn't get that job done today," Lovullo said. "They did. They got a two-out hit from [Marcus] Semien and a two-out, two-run home run from [Corey] Seager. And that was the difference in a game."

Texas' two-out rally in the third against rookie starter proved to be more than enough on a night when the D-backs were unable to make the most of their limited opportunities.

Aside from the second-inning mishap, Pham had a one-out double in the seventh, but never advanced as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Alek Thomas followed with consecutive strikeouts. One inning later, Emmanuel Rivera hit a leadoff double and scored on an RBI single by Geraldo Perdomo to cut the deficit to two.

But with each representing the potential tying run, Corbin Carroll struck out looking and Ketel Marte grounded into a double play to end the threat. Overall, the D-backs went just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position – and one of those hits resulted in an out at home plate. Arizona never threatened in the ninth, though a missed potential ball-four call on a 3-1 pitch to Gabriel Moreno to start the frame didn’t help the cause.

“I'm not happy about it,” Lovullo said. “I know that if they were off the plate and there were missed calls, they've got to tighten it up. I say that to everybody.

“But I will say this, that the umps are doing their absolute best. Ball is moving at a high velocity. It's getting manipulated at home plate. But there were some calls that didn't go our way today. Was that the difference in the game? I don't know. I don't think so.”

"That's baseball," Carroll said. "You're not going to get them every time. We've got confidence in our guys that we're going to get the job done."

That confidence soars to another level entirely if Walker can fully break through.

On the surface, Walker is just 6-for-48 (.125) with five RBIs and 17 strikeouts over his past 14 games. But taking a closer look, he might not be far off from returning to his 33-homer, 103-RBI form from the regular season.

Walker has registered a hit in back-to-back games for the first time this postseason, but it's his other at-bats over those two games that may carry more weight. Along with a 103.6 mph single, Walker had two groundouts with an exit velocity of more than 100 mph in Game 2. In Game 3, he had groundouts of 101.6 mph and 96.8 mph.

“We need him to get going,” Lovullo said. “He hit a couple more 100 mph balls today. It's been showing up over the past couple of days. Getting him going is crucial, but I think he's very close right now.”

After going 2-for-26 with 12 K's in his previous eight games, Walker has struck out just once over the past two contests.

"I can deal with the outs if I'm being competitive up there,” Walker said. “Doing your job, executing and [stuff] happens. I'd much rather be hitting balls hard and not getting rewarded for it than just swinging and missing like I was a few games ago."

So would Walker agree with Lovullo’s assessment that he’s on the verge?

"I'm closer to where I want to be, yeah,” Walker said. “But I need to find a way to help this team win."

Considering Walker hit .525 during the regular season on hard-hit balls (exit velocity of 95+ mph), it’s only a matter of time until he does exactly that if he maintains his recent form.

The D-backs’ offense could certainly use him.

“It will be huge,” Lovullo said. “We count on him offensively. He's been somebody that in a lot of different ways has been a catalyst for us.”