'This is our house': Red-hot Marte delivers walk-off hit in Game 3

October 20th, 2023

PHOENIX -- Game 3 wasn’t technically a must-win game for Arizona, but let’s be honest: If the D-backs had gone down three games to none in this National League Championship Series, their prospects for advancing would have been very, very bleak.

Instead, it’s a series again after delivered a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to lead the D-backs to a 2-1 walk-off win over the Phillies on Thursday at Chase Field.

The Phillies lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Games 4 and 5 set to be played in Arizona.

A sellout crowd jammed Chase Field and made noise throughout the game, as if trying to will the hometown team to capture its first NLCS win since 2001. Speaking of the '01 World Series-champion Arizona squad, it was the last edition of the D-backs to win a postseason game on a walk-off. That came on Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single in Game 7 off Mariano Rivera.

That hit lives on in D-backs lore, and while the Marte hit didn’t deliver a World Series title, its importance for this series can’t be overstated.

Marte has risen to the occasion in the postseason. Going back to the 2017 postseason run with the D-backs, he has a 12-game hitting streak. Only two players have started their postseason career with longer streaks -- Marquis Grissom, who hit in 15 straight from 1995-96, and Greg Luzinski, who hit in 13 straight from 1976-80.

“Marte’s been doing that all year for us,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “I've been watching this guy do this for four or five years now. It's not a surprise. He's one of the best hitters I've ever been around. He knows when to let it fly. He knows when to tone it back and dump one into the outfield. He executes, day in and day out.”

Marte had a pair of doubles before striking out in the eighth. In the ninth, he came up with the bases loaded and one out, with Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel on the mound.

After taking a fastball for strike one, Marte laced another fastball into right-center for a single, allowing Pavin Smith to trot home from third base.

“I was trying to get another strike, and he put enough wood on it to get a hit and drive in a run,” Kimbrel said. 

Marte knew what he was looking for from Kimbrel.

“I had faced him many times before,” Marte said. “I was sitting fastball. He threw me a great pitch that I fouled off, but then he threw another fastball that I was able to hit. I was just focusing and trying to make good contact. It feels great, obviously. I've been battling, and I consider myself a grinder. To come up and come back and give the team a win, it's just the most important thing.”

After dropping the first two games in Philadelphia, including a 10-0 drubbing in Game 2, the D-backs were well aware that the national narrative was that they were simply overmatched in this series.

They heard similar things when they lost the final four games of the regular season and barely sneaked in as the third and final NL Wild Card team. They were underdogs against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Series and against the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

Yet, they are still standing. Yes, they need to win three of the next four games against a tough Phillies team, but with Thursday’s win, they’ve given themselves a puncher’s chance.

“It's nothing we're not used to,” Walker said. “I think that’s the role we have in our division, too. I think we've been playing with that role all year -- you know, underdog or counted out, whatever you want to call it. I feel like this whole season has been an effort to play with a chip on our shoulder and prove a lot of people wrong. Within this clubhouse, we got to get a great culture and a great energy.”

Now, the D-backs will put their hopes for Game 4 in the hands of lefty Joe Mantiply, who will serve as an opener, and take their chances from there.

In all best-of-seven postseason series, teams behind 2-1 after three games have gone on to win the series 44 of 148 times (30%). Teams that have won Game 3 after trailing 2-0 have come back to take the series 13 of 50 times (26%).

While they have some momentum after this win, as they saw with the Phillies’ rout in Game 2, momentum can be a fleeting thing. They got a boost from the crowd in Game 3, and they’ll look for more of the same Friday. 

“This is our house,” said Marte. “We’re in it now. We’ve got a great team; we just need to believe it.”

After getting just eight hits (three from Marte) in the first two games, the D-backs’ offense managed nine in Game 3. They still didn’t score a lot of runs, but it is something else they can build on going forward.

“You can tell that Philly wasn't on top of their game, basically versus at home,” D-backs outfielder Alek Thomas said. “So definitely some home-field advantage here in the desert, and we're just gonna keep on running with it. One day at a time.”