Orion Kerkering (and partly Rob Thomson)
If you recall, Orion Kerkering came on to pitch in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS. He faced the middle part of the Diamondbacks’ order and ended up striking out three of the four batters he faced, including Tommy Pham, Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
As a result, perhaps just on a hunch by manager Rob Thomson, Kerkering was surprisingly sent back out in Game 3 on Thursday in the seventh inning to face Pham and Gurriel again in a high-leverage situation with the Phillies up 1-0.
It was a lot to ask of the rookie pitcher, putting him directly into a stressful environment. With high hopes he could replicate the success from Tuesday’s game, the Kerkering experiment would end up flopping big time. Pham singled off the rookie, and Gurriel promptly followed it up with a clutch, game-tying double.
It was the first Diamondbacks run off of the Phillies in over 17 innings, giving both the team and the home crowd some sudden life and momentum. Ultimately, it gave them the necessary boost to propel them to their comeback win in the end. While Kerkering may have faltered, allowing the tying run to score, perhaps it was Thomson's questionable decision to even let him pitch in such a situation that was more at fault.
Craig Kimbrel had been spotless so far in the 2023 playoffs, as he came into the game with a perfect 0.00 ERA with three saves. But like Castellanos, he chose the worst possible time to have his worst playoff outing with the game on the line. With the score tied 1-1 and the Phillies hoping to push it to extras, Kimbrel was called upon to hold the Diamondbacks at bay.
However, two walks and two singles later, the game was over, sending the home crowd into a frenzy as the Diamondbacks finally toppled the seemingly invincible Phillies. If Kimbrel had done his job and the Phillies had gone on to win the game, they could have put a huge stranglehold on the series up 3-0.
Instead, the aspiring Diamondbacks’ have woken up and now have the firm belief that they are more than capable of beating the powerhouse Phillies.
Don’t look now, but we may finally have a series, folks.