The 5-0 defeat in the deciding Game 5 was full of missed opportunities for the home team, which lost all three games at Chase Field, but even that outcome didn’t put a damper on the D-backs’ magical postseason run.
“At the end of the day, I feel like we shocked the world, for the most part,” veteran Evan Longoria said. “When we walk out of this clubhouse, no one should be hanging their heads.”
Instead of hanging heads, there were hugs and smiles. Perhaps that’s because no one expected the Diamondbacks to get this far, or perhaps it’s because they don’t believe they’re a one-and-done team. Arizona has one of the youngest rosters in the league and a fertile farm system.
“If I know the guys in this room, it’s going to fire them up,” Game 5 starter Zac Gallen said. “It’s going to motivate them so I’m excited for things to come.”
Gallen pulled a “Bob Gibson,” as pitching coach Brent Strom put it. After struggling to find his best stuff all week, Gallen finally did as he took the mound Wednesday. He threw six no-hit innings before Corey Seager broke things up in the seventh and then scored the game’s first run. That would be enough for the Rangers to take the title.
With no run support, Gallen needed to be perfect.
“I would have rather given up 1,000 runs tonight and still win the game,” he said.
Gallen was asked to put the Diamondbacks’ postseason in perspective. Not only were they underdogs in every series, but they also were in every game, save the final two. They lost both.
“I could stand up here for 10 minutes and talk about that,” Gallen said. “It’s pride. Everyone counted us out. The thing about us is we’re fearless. There were a bunch of times we were down and came through and got the job done.”
That fearless attitude showed up in a big way during the National League Championship Series when the Diamondbacks were down 2-0 and 3-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies before winning Games 6 and 7 in Philadelphia to advance. But they couldn’t turn things around the same way against the Rangers. Seager kept beating them, and they never made an offensive run against what was considered to be a vulnerable Texas bullpen — except for Tuesday night, when Game 4 had already been decided. Arizona simply came up short in many areas.
“This is painful,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “This is just plain painful. And I can’t quite move past that right now. But I will.
“I want to hurt because I want to remember what this feels like because I never want to feel it again. Everybody knows that feeling I’m talking about, whether it’s personal, something personal or something professional, you want to move off of these moments. But I’m not going to run away from it.”
That was part of Lovullo’s message to his team: Don’t run from the pain. It will only motivate you.
“He kept it brief so it wouldn’t get too emotional,” closer Paul Sewald said. “Everyone gives everything they have for this.”
“I can imagine I’ll have more suitors than last year,” Pham said. “I would still like to play five more years in this game.”
That might be a little too long for Longoria, who is undecided on whether he’ll retire this offseason. He was brought in last winter to help lead the young club and said he feels like the mission was accomplished.
“I really enjoyed this postseason run,” Longoria said. “It reminded me a lot of why I play the game. … I can walk out of here happy.”
The oldest pitching coach in the game might not feel the same way. Strom, 75, wants to return for another season. He has felt the sting of losing on the biggest stage more than anyone else associated with the team. As the pitching coach for the Houston Astros, he lost in the World Series in both 2019 and ’21 — before losing again this year with Arizona.
“This is the third time I’ve been on the losing end of a World Series on my own turf,” he said. “That’s becoming a pain in the ass. I did it with the Nats, the Braves and now the Rangers. I’m starting to feel like the Buffalo Bills a little bit. When you’re this close, you want to put a finishing touch on it.”
That was yet another overriding feeling in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse. The magical run didn’t have the happy ending everyone wanted. Yes, the year was satisfying, especially winning three rounds in the playoffs after achieving only 84 victories during the regular season, but falling short so close to a championship still stings a little.
“There’s the motivating side,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “We had a taste of it.”
The Diamondbacks view this postseason as the start of something, not the finish. They can make that case with a talent like 23 year-old Corbin Carroll — the likely Rookie of the Year — or dynamic catcher Gabriel Moreno, also just 23. Plus, all their key pitchers are under team control for 2024. It gives them a head start on next year — when they’re ready to attack it again.
“I know this team will be hungry and I know it’s going to take a little time for us to absorb but I think you’re going to see a very passionate, hungry baseball team walk into Salt River Field next year and be ready to go,” Lovullo said.
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