PHOENIX — Gabriel Moreno screamed as he rounded first base. He’d just hit what he believed to be the fourth Diamondbacks homer of a decisive third inning. An exclamation mark to perfectly punctuate a series defined by its one-sidedness.
He was celebrated by his teammates, just as the three before him who had taken the same trot. The crowd was in a frenzy. The team felt invincible.
Then, the umpires ruled the ball had gone foul.
It didn’t matter. Moreno emerged from the dugout, picked up his bat, and promptly hit a no-doubt 420-foot blast on the next pitch he saw.
The Arizona Diamondbacks not only beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 on Wednesday night. They not only defeated the Dodgers in the NLDS. They not only swept the 100-win NL West champs. They absolutely dominated them over the course of three games.
This franchise suffered through 110 losses just two seasons ago. These fans have seen their ballpark filled with Dodgers fans and have been a punching bag for a team that has long been the class of their division.
It was a moment of pure joy and catharsis as Moreno ran around the bases a second time.
An inning that will forever live on in this team’s history.
“It was amazing. I don’t have words for that moment,” Moreno shouted over the sounds of a raucous and beer-soaked clubhouse. “I just ran the bases, talking loud. I feel like my heart was racing.”
This Diamondbacks team is a true Cinderella. Only two teams have ever won 84 games or fewer and advanced to the NLCS — the 2008 Dodgers and 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. Beyond the record, the Diamondbacks are a fairly anonymous team. They’re a mix of quirky veterans, role players and up-and-coming youngsters.
America was introduced to Brandon Pfaadt on Wednesday. The rookie shoved for 4 1/3 shutout innings. Geraldo Perdomo, who hit the icebreaking third-inning homer? He’s hit only 11 career major-league blasts. This team is introducing itself to baseball fans everywhere. And it did so by dismantling a team full of All-Stars, MVPs and Cy Young winners.
“I don’t think anybody gave us a chance to be here,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I don’t think anybody gave us a chance to win the games that we’ve won against the teams that we had to play. … We’re a good baseball team and we’ve arrived.”
The Dodgers have tortured this franchise. Not just in the last four years, when they beat Arizona 31 of 38 times. The last time the Diamondbacks were in the postseason was 2017. That series ended in a Dodgers sweep, at Chase Field, with Los Angeles spraying champagne.
This time, it was the Diamondbacks. Their party moved to the pool beyond the outfield wall. Players chanted the names of team staffers to cannonball their way into the water. Paul Sewald, who closed the game, waved to his young daughter, who watched from center field.
It’s always pool party season in AZ. 😎 pic.twitter.com/iERXHWE3Uq
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) October 12, 2023
Lovullo, the seventh-year manager, joked that it’d take a few more glasses of champagne to express how he really felt about sweeping their rival. But the postgame scenes said everything.
“They’re a great team, but we’re a great team too,” outfielder Alek Thomas said. “We shouldn’t be worried about what their payroll is or who they’ve got over there. We’re just worried about what’s right in here in this clubhouse. You saw that this series.”
This series started with Arizona scoring six runs in the first inning against Clayton Kershaw. He was chased after recording one out. Then in Game 2, the Diamondbacks again put three runs up before the Dodgers even batted. In Game 3, Perdomo, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Moreno demolished Lance Lynn into oblivion.
The three Dodgers starters lasted a combined total of 4 2/3 innings and allowed 13 runs this series. They never stood a chance against a Diamondbacks team that finished 16 games behind them in the standings this season.
“To be able to look in the mirror and be able to say, ‘We got this, we can do this,’” Walker said, “I think that’s the only part that we need.”
The game had been over for nearly an hour, but a Diamondbacks fan was sitting alone in the second row behind their dugout. He wore a jersey and held a sign that said “Dyed my hair for the playoffs.”
Many fans stayed in their seats long after the final out was recorded. So often, it’s Dodgers fans who populate more than half of the Chase Field faithful when their team rolls through. That was not the case Wednesday. They earned the right to soak in a celebration they’ve long waited to witness.
The Diamondbacks clinched at home, but it was after a loss. They took down the Milwaukee Brewers, but that was on the road. This was more meaningful.
This team backed its way into the playoffs, losing four in a row with a non-existent offense. It fell behind by three runs to start the Wild Card Series. It would have been really easy for this to be a quick playoff exit. The Diamondbacks could have bowed out believing their young talent would materialize better in the years to come.
Instead, this group has spent the last week doing something special. They’re not only winning in the playoffs, thus far, they’re running the table.
Evan Longoria was asked about what it meant, not just to win, but to pick apart this Dodgers team. How did he feel as he stood there in a jubilant clubhouse?
A big grin came over his face. And it only widened as a teammate snuck up behind him and dumped an entire bottle directly on his head.
“I’m happy,” the 38-year-old said as he giggled, beer streaming down his body. “I’m happy. This is a special group of guys. Belief is a very strong thing.”
(Photo: Elsa / Getty Images)