Good to be back: D-backs win series opener against Phillies

June 22nd, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- After he arrived at the Philadelphia hotel on Thursday evening, the memories of winning the pennant against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park last October were many for D-backs manager Torey Lovullo.

Arizona was down in the National League Championship series, 3-2, and a game away from elimination, but the D-backs hung tough and advanced to the World Series.

On Friday afternoon, Lovullo arrived at The Bank and was flooded with memories once more. He remembered the D-backs employees and their families attending the games in Philadelphia. Lovullo talked about how grateful he was that CEO Derek Hall took care of the families with breakfast and dinner at the hotel. Lovullo thanked Hall for helping the D-backs become one unit with those get togethers.

“It felt good coming here. I know there is a lot of anxiety, pressure, tense moments the last two times we were here,” Lovullo said pregame. “Walking back into this clubhouse, I had a couple of seconds where I thought we did something special here. The baseball world saw the Arizona Diamondbacks play really good baseball in a really good series and won the National League here. We deserved to because we were a good team.”

The momentum of the postseason carried over into Friday night’s game in front of a sellout crowd of 44,436. The great memories continued for Arizona in the first rematch since last October. The Diamondbacks belted three homers and edged Philadelphia, 5-4.

The atmosphere was electric, but the home crowd didn’t affect the D-backs. In fact, Arizona scored early and that proved to be enough for left-hander to win his sixth game of the season. He pitched six innings, allowing two runs on five hits. In his last two games, Montgomery has pitched 11 innings and allowed two earned runs, lowering his ERA from 6.58 on June 11 to 5.71. His only blemish on Friday was allowing a two-run homer to Trea Turner.

“I think the fastball is coming out and he is commanding that pitch,” Lovullo said of Montgomery. “Earlier for the two struggling outings that he had, [his] fastball was up and away and he is now on time. Everything is synced up. He is throwing that thing downhill with a lot of movement. The changeup was in play today. I thought the breaking ball showed some promise. For the most part, it was two-seam, four-seam command that really got him through the outing.”

The scoring for Arizona started against right-hander Taijuan Walker in the second inning, when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. swung at a 2-2 pitch and hit a solo homer over the left-field wall to give Arizona a 1-0 lead. In the following inning, the D-backs were able to plate three more runs. Gabriel Moreno hit a two-run homer and Joc Pederson followed that up with another long ball over the center-field fence.

Philadelphia came close to at least tying the score at 4 in the seventh inning. Left-hander Joe Mantiply already allowed an RBI single to Turner to make it a one-run game, while Philadelphia still had the bases loaded. Bryce Harper followed and hit a hard shot right at Mantiply, who was able to force Rafael Marchán at the plate, and catcher Tucker Barnhart threw out Harper for the double play.

“You always hope to get that groundball back to you because that’s the easiest double play,” Mantiply said. “It seems like it never happens. I’m sure that’s probably the first time it ever happened. It’s a good feeling when you are the one that gets the ground ball and gets out of that inning.”

Arizona needed that fifth run in the top of the eighth inning off left-hander Seranthony Domínguez. Blaze Alexander scored on a single by Geraldo Perdomo.

With the victory, the D-backs are back at the .500 mark with a 38-38 record, but they want more. Obviously, they want to go back to the World Series for the second consecutive season.

“We are hopefully not going to stop there,” Lovullo said about the .500 mark. That is not our final destination. We have to continue to play good baseball, continue doing the things that have gotten us to this point. Just believe what we are doing day by day.”

Including the last two games of the NLCS, Arizona has won three games in a row at The Bank, but don’t tell Lovullo his team is feeling at home.

“We are a good baseball team that plays good baseball,” Lovullo said. “We are very respectful of our opponents. Coming in here is tough. The Phillies are a good team. It’s a very hostile crowd. Our guys blocked it out and played a really good team and I want that to continue tomorrow.”