PHOENIX -- The D-backs’ path to a World Series title is now a simple, albeit certainly not an easy, one: Win three straight games against the Rangers.
While winning three straight against an elite team may sound like a daunting task, Arizona already won three in a row against the 100-win Dodgers this postseason. The D-backs -- who lost 11-7 in Game 4 on Tuesday night at Chase Field -- swept their rival in the NL Division Series, including winning a pair of games on the road (just as they would need to do in Arlington this time around).
Oh, and to find the last time the Rangers lost three in a row to the same club? That was even more recent. Texas dropped three straight against the Astros -- all at Globe Life Field -- in the ALCS before rebounding to win Game 7. And that was with Adolis García putting together one of the greatest postseason series of all time.
García, however, is out for the rest of the World Series after being removed from the roster due to a left oblique strain. Max Scherzer, who would have been lined up to start a potential Game 7, is also done for the Series due to back spasms.
And let's face it, this is not the first time Arizona has had its back against the wall.
The D-backs went on the road to Philadelphia and won two straight against the heavily favored Phillies to clinch the NL pennant. Going back even further, Arizona lost nine straight games to start the month of August, leaving the D-backs behind the Phillies, Giants, Reds, Cubs and Marlins in the NL Wild Card race.
These are the Answerbacks we’re talking about.
Here are three reasons Arizona can still win it all:
1) Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly
Let’s start with the obvious: The D-backs have their co-aces on the mound for the next two games. Sure, Gallen hasn’t had the same success in the postseason that he had while staying in the NL Cy Young race for much of the regular season, but he still has the potential to shut down the opposition on any given night.
Also, let’s not forget that Gallen was an entirely different pitcher at home than he was on the road. During the regular season, he went 12-3 with a 2.47 ERA at Chase Field, compared to just 5-6 with a 4.42 ERA on the road. Only one of Gallen’s previous five starts this postseason has come at home.
“Another guy that I'm betting on all day, every day with our backs up against the wall,” D-backs first baseman Christian Walker said. “You know, he's my guy; he's our guy. Nothing but confidence, nothing but faith in him.”
If Gallen can help send the Series back to Arlington, the D-backs would suddenly be in the same position they were after five games in the NLCS -- and that turned out pretty well. Plus, Arizona would have to feel good about its chances in Game 6 with Kelly on the mound, considering he just turned in the best outing of his career in a dominant Game 2 victory.
2) Ryne Nelson bailed out Arizona’s ’pen
Against all odds, the D-backs will head into Wednesday’s Game 5 with their high-leverage arms fully rested.
Who would have thought that was possible coming off a bullpen game?
But after Arizona fell into an early 10-0 hole in Game 4, Nelson performed yeoman's work out of the ‘pen. The right-hander, who has been used in relief after posting a 5.31 ERA during the regular season, threw 68 pitches over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He had thrown only 56 pitches the entire month of October.
“It was huge,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I told him that when I was taking him off the mound. I wanted to make sure his teammates heard me say that.”
“Because of [Nelson], we're going to be in a spot to use our guys tomorrow, and hopefully, win a baseball game,” Lovullo said. “Without that, we would have been in a really bad spot.”
3) Texas’ bullpen, on the other hand …
Not only did the D-backs avoid using their top relief arms, but their late surge forced the Rangers to use closer José Leclerc to finish off Game 4. That seemed highly improbable when Arizona trailed 11-1 in the bottom of the eighth.
“You fall down 11-1, and then you keep fighting,” Lovullo said. “You commit to the plan and the process for 27 outs, and you close the game to 11-7. Got the fans engaged. Got a ton of energy. Got their closer in the game. There were a lot of positives to draw upon.”
Arizona’s rally showed just how capable that offense is of putting up runs in a hurry.
Ketel Marte has recorded a hit in all 16 games this postseason to extend his MLB record streak to 20 postseason games overall.
Walker had a three-hit night and has five hits over the past three games.
Tommy Pham, who is 8-for-16 (.500) with four extra-base hits in the World Series, put it best:
“The only thing we can do now is try to win every game.”