Fair or foul? For Moreno, both?!

October 12th, 2023

PHOENIX -- It was an eventful night for D-backs catcher .

Moreno went deep to cap Arizona’s historic four-homer barrage against Dodgers starter Lance Lynn in the third inning of Wednesday's National League Division Series-clinching 4-2 win at Chase Field, but he ended up exiting the game after taking a foul-tip bunt off his right hand two innings later.

Moreno looked visibly in pain after being struck on the right hand by Chris Taylor’s bunt attempt with one out in the top of the fifth, drawing immediate attention from a D-backs trainer and manager Torey Lovullo. Moreno tested out his hand by making some throws to third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Christian Walker, eventually convincing the D-backs to let him stay behind the plate for the remainder of the inning.

Still, television cameras showed Moreno’s hand beginning to swell up, prompting the club to lift him in favor of pinch-hitter Pavin Smith in the bottom of the fifth. Fellow backstop Jose Herrera took over catching duties in the top of the sixth, with the D-backs announcing that Moreno departed with a right hand contusion.

Moreno said he was a bit worried after he had trouble gripping a bat, but X-rays came back negative. It’s a major sigh of relief for him and the D-backs, who will be counting on their young backstop to continue handling their pitching staff as they prepare to take on either the Braves or the Phillies in their first NL Championship Series appearance since 2007.

“The hand is good, thank God,” Moreno said in Spanish. “Everything came back negative, so I should be available for the rest of the playoffs.”

“He went and got some treatment, came back out and actually warmed up the pitcher, I think [Paul] Sewald or [Kevin] Ginkel, in the eighth or ninth inning,” Lovullo said. “I asked him how he was. He said he was doing fine. … When I saw him in the dugout, I was, like, 'Thank you. Thank you, God. We're going to be OK.'”

Moreno also suffered an injury scare in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Brewers on Oct. 4, when he was struck on the head by a backswing and was removed after experiencing some dizziness. The 23-year-old Venezuelan ultimately avoided entering concussion protocol and has continued to do damage this postseason, crushing three homers in five games.

“A lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness in a very demanding position,” Lovullo said. “And then the ability to barrel baseballs and have that dynamic approach we're talking about. He doesn't give away at-bats. He's engaged. He's not afraid to have two strikes. Every good Major Leaguer is not afraid to hit with two strikes on him.”

Prior to his early exit on Wednesday, Moreno was involved in one of the wildest innings in playoff history. After Geraldo Perdomo, Ketel Marte and Walker launched solo shots off Lynn to stake the D-backs a 3-0 lead in the third, Moreno sent another drive to the right-field corner that was initially ruled a home run, though it ended up being overturned following a crew-chief review.

Still, Moreno came back to smoke Lynn’s next offering over the left-field fence for a no-doubt shot, heaving his bat high in the air before making his second trip around the bases in the span of two pitches.

“That’s something you can’t explain,” Moreno said. “I can’t even find the words to describe that. When I hit that first one, I thought it was fair, but things happen for a reason. I got another chance to continue the at-bat, and I was able to execute on the next pitch he threw me and hit another home run.”  

With their power play in Game 3, the D-backs became the first team to hit four homers in a single inning in postseason history. Moreno made a bit of history of his own, becoming the youngest catcher to go deep three times in the postseason.

“That motivates me to keep working every day and keep pushing myself to help the team win,” Moreno said. “To have the opportunity to be here in the playoffs and beat a team like the Dodgers is a blessing from God. I’m super grateful. I’m really proud of the team and the work we’ve done so far. We deserve this.”