Ketel Marte plays hero as D-backs top Phillies in NLCS Game 3

PHOENIX — With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 on Thursday, the Arizona Diamondbacks got the matchup they wanted.

Their hottest hitter strode to the plate against Philadelphia Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel, who was trying to grind his way out of a jam. Ketel Marte wasn’t having any of it.

The Diamondbacks second baseman turned on a rising 96 mph fastball, sending it into right-center field to break a 1-1 tie and deliver Arizona a 2-1 win — its first of this National League Championship Series.

Chase Field exploded.

“I’m not a pressure guy,” Marte said later. “I know what kind of hitter I am. He threw me a fastball up and I put a good swing.”

The victory breathed life into the Diamondbacks, who now trail 2-1 in this best-of-seven series with Games 4 and 5 scheduled for at home Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Marte has six of Arizona’s 17 hits (35%) this NLCS, tied for the fifth-highest percentage through three games of a playoff series all time.

“I played against him a lot when I was in San Diego,” teammate Tommy Pham said. “He always hit. Very hard guy to defend.”

The winning run scored after a tense game featuring a pitchers’ duel from starters Brandon Pfaadt and Ranger Suarez, both of whom left without giving up a run. Pfaadt struck out nine over 5.2 innings, yielding just two hits and no walks and becoming the fifth rookie in major league history with nine-plus strikeouts and no runs allowed in a postseason game. He was denied a chance to face the top of the order a third time, including Kyle Schwarber, whom he had struck out twice.

“He was great,” Pham said of Pfaadt. “If anything, I would have left him in. You don’t want to take out a guy like that with so much momentum on our side. Let him keep going.”

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo was left explaining his decision during his postgame news conference; seven of the first eight questions asked touched on the move.

“It’s 18 hitters plus or minus four, depending on the score, depending on the situation,” Lovullo said. “We had a back-end bullpen that hadn’t thrown and they were going to pitch in this game no matter what. I wanted to engage the entire team, and there’s a portion of the bullpen that had several days off. I wanted to get them sharpened up as well.

“Why run him through that portion of the lineup?”

Asked about being taken out, Pfaadt added: “Obviously I’m a competitor. I want to keep going. Everybody does, but at the end of the day you just have to trust his decision and move forward, go to the bullpen, let them do their jobs.”

Reliever Andrew Saalfrank came on and walked Schwarber before Trea Turner grounded into a fielder’s choice. Saalfrank wasn’t as lucky in the seventh inning, allowing a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper before being replaced by Ryan Thompson, whose wild pitch allowed Harper to score the game’s first run.

But Arizona tied it in the bottom of the seventh inning when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. doubled home pinch-runner Alek Thomas.

The game stayed tied until Marte’s heroics.

“There were some missed opportunities that could have affected us, but we stayed in it, focused on the next pitch and doing our job and ended up on top,” outfielder Corbin Carroll said. “It says a lot about the resilience of the team.”

Kimbrel was asked where he wanted that final pitch after giving up two walks and a hit before facing Marte.

“Not on his bat,” he said. “Just trying to get another strike, and he put enough good wood on it to get a hit. … I got ahead. I feel like I made some pitches to get us out of it. Some days you get ’em, some days you don’t. Today just wasn’t my day.”

The winning hit let Lovullo off the hook and gave meaning to Pfaadt’s great outing. It also means the series will last through the weekend with the Diamondbacks needing to win one of the next two to send the series back to Philadelphia, where the Phillies are 6-0 this postseason.

“It’s exactly what we were looking for in Game 1 back at home here,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “Our dugout knew something was going to happen there with Marte, and he didn’t let us down.”

Added Marte: “I’m seeing the ball good. I’ve been working hard the whole year. That’s the player I am. I’m not surprised.”

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