Diamondbacks have a new challenge in front of them after postseason’s most painful loss

ARLINGTON, Texas — When the Arizona Diamondbacks lost their first two NLCS games in Philadelphia, the disappointment was eased in knowing they never had a shot. There were no regrets to be had. The went down early. Didn’t come back. They were the kind of defeats you can flush.

What transpired in the first game of this World Series was much different. If they thought the Phillies crowd was loud — it didn’t compare to the booming fireworks inside Globe Life Field on Friday night. The mix of noises erupting so ferociously it would have made it difficult for anyone on the Arizona side to process the 6-5, 11-inning walkoff loss.

This has been a magical October for Arizona. But that was their most painful defeat. It presents a new challenge for a team that was oh so close to taking early control of this Fall Classic.

“We played a pretty good baseball game. We were in a position to win it,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We did a lot right. Let’s improve on the things that we need to tighten up and come out tomorrow and play our finest game.

“That’s all we can do. That’s how we’ve looked at it all season long.”

This is the message that Arizona has to tell itself. There is no other option. The Diamondbacks were two outs away. Their game was following the script of the previous two. Grind out a lead. Watch the bullpen work. Instead, Corey Seager tied the score with a two-run shot in the ninth. Then Adolis Garcia walked it off with a homer in the 11th inning.

Game 1 is, by its very nature, a swing game. And the D-Backs missed out on a golden opportunity.

“If we have that opportunity four more times, I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “We have to figure out a way to turn the page.”

Longoria, the elder statesman in the D-Backs clubhouse, said it’s possible there’s some sort of proactive regrouping message before Game 2. But more than likely, this team will have to draw on its expertise this season in stopping the bleeding.

Before Friday’s game, Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen recounted the ugly midsummer skid that saw his team fall from 16 games over .500 to three games under. He said Lovullo took more of a hands-on approach at that point — meeting with players individually. Holding everyone more accountable. The team rallied to make its first postseason in six years.

Then there was the NLCS. They faced a two-game deficit but won four of five to earn the opportunity that’s in front of them now. One they’ll have to avoid believing is squandered because of this ugly series opener.

“It’s Game 1,” starting pitcher Zac Gallen said. “Whether we won or lost, there’d still be work to be done.”

He’s right, but it’s not that simple. There is now much more work to be done. Arizona had a chance to capture home-field advantage. That would have guaranteed an opportunity to fly back to the desert without necessarily needing a return trip to close this out. Now, they’ll need to win four of six against a Texas Rangers team that has, like Arizona, continued to topple all the favorites in their way.

Gallen was solid. He threw five innings and allowed three runs. The Diamondbacks played their brand of baseball. They stole four bases. Corbin Carroll raced home on a grounder, even with the infield positioned to get him at the plate. He slid in under the tag. That vaunted D-Backs bullpen was nails for their first 3 1/3 innings.

Everything was set up for an incredible win. And then, in an instant, they were left to pick up the pieces.

“There’s a lot of ball to be played,” second baseman Ketel Marte said. “They’re just up one. We’ve just got to come back and win.”

Arizona has earned the right to have confidence in its ability for a rebound. The Diamondbacks were counted out heavily against Philadelphia, and for good reason. That may very well be the case again, and so be it. There’s a body of work to suggest their confidence isn’t just bluster.

Carroll pulled up at the right-field wall, realizing his defense would be futile for reeling in Garcia’s homer that landed in the first few rows. It was in that instant this Game 1 became an instant World Series classic. The kind people re-watch for years to come. Where highlights are replayed over and over and over again.

You never want to be on the losing end of an instant classic.

And this D-Backs team finds itself needing an instant solution to stay competitive in this series.

“It’s frustrating. This is how the game goes sometimes,” Lovullo said. “And we’ve got to find a way to be resilient and adaptable and come out with a clean mind and do our best.

“I have every reason to believe we will. We’ve done it a lot this year.”

(Photo: Rob Tringali / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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