Thomas' 'in your dreams' homer helps D-backs even NLCS

October 21st, 2023

PHOENIX -- could have sulked when he found himself out of the starting lineup for the second straight night.

Instead, the outfielder etched his name in franchise lore with a game-tying, two-run homer that helped propel the D-backs to a 6-5 win over the Phillies in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night at Chase Field.

After dropping the first two games of the series in Philadelphia, the D-backs incredibly find themselves tied up in the series, with Game 5 set for Saturday night in Phoenix.

The D-backs (along with the Astros in the ALCS) are trying to become the 15th team to win a best-of-seven postseason series after losing the first two games. Teams that have fallen behind 2-0 before winning Games 3-4 have gone on to win the series nine of 21 times (43%).

Momentum is now firmly on the D-backs' side after the emotional win, and they’ve got their ace Zac Gallen going in Game 5 opposite Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler.

It certainly didn’t look like things were going to go the D-backs' way when they coughed up an early 2-0 lead and trailed 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when they got one run back to pull a little closer.

Then came the decisive eighth. With Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on second after a leadoff double and Evan Longoria at the plate, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo sent Thomas to the on-deck circle to pinch-hit.

As Longoria’s at-bat went on, Lovullo called Thomas over to the dugout railing to talk to him.

Was it some wise words Lovullo wanted to share with him? No, the manager simply wanted to warn Thomas that depending on the outcome of Longoria’s at-bat, he might want to send Jordan Lawlar up to the plate to bunt in place of Thomas.

Longoria flied out and Lovullo elected to have Thomas hit. Like most every other move he’s made this postseason, it could not have worked out better as Thomas hit a game-tying home run into the pool.

“That play is definitely something that you see in your dreams,” Thomas said. “For it to come in real life and for it to happen to me is just awesome. I'm so grateful to have that moment. It's just unreal. Just crazy. I haven't really processed it yet, but it was awesome.”

It was left to fellow 23-year-old Gabriel Moreno to deliver the game-winner later in the inning with a line-drive single to left-center that scored Ketel Marte.

With the win, the D-backs became the first team to win consecutive postseason games when trailing in the seventh inning or later in each since the 2015 Royals won Games 4 and 5 of the World Series.

Comeback wins have been a hallmark for the D-backs this month. This was their fourth, which leads all teams this postseason.

“Some huge hits today, almost too many to count,” D-backs outfielder Corbin Carroll said. “Gabi, Alek, just an unbelievable win. We’ve just got a group of guys that believe in each other and believe in ourselves. We’ve got full confidence in that next-man-up mentality.”

The regular season was a journey for Thomas, who at one point ended up back in the Minor Leagues after slumping at the plate.

Then, after a strong finish to the regular season and start of the postseason, Thomas found himself on the bench for Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS.

“He didn't start the past couple of days because I was matching up and trying to maximize some situations offensively,” Lovullo said. “But he stayed ready, and that to me speaks volumes about a young player and his readiness. When you don't take it personally when you're not playing and you wait for your opportunity and then seize that opportunity, that's what excites me most.”

While he didn’t start in Game 3, Thomas found a way to contribute when he pinch-ran and scored from first on a double to tie the game in the seventh inning.

“Just having a good mindset about it,” Thomas said. “I definitely want to be in there all the time. But I trust Torey and I trust the coaching staff. So just stay ready at all times. And that's what I was doing. I'm definitely not going to hang my head about not being in the lineup, but I knew at some point they were going to call me and just got to be ready.”

The D-backs’ eighth-inning magic came just hours after the Astros had mustered some of their own in an ALCS matchup against Texas, making this the first day in postseason history where multiple teams won when trailing by multiple runs in the eighth inning or later.

And much like Houston, which has won three straight, the D-backs are a confident team with momentum, a dangerous combination.

“I'm tired of that narrative that we're lucky to be here,” Lovullo said. “I want everybody to know that we don't feel like it, and hopefully they're starting to change their mind as well.”