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Underdog Diamondbacks aim for postseason glory while playing with “house money”

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly (29) reacts after leaving the game with a 11-0 lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning during Game 1 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Oct. 7, 2023.

In the realm of baseball, a recurring theme over the past five years has been the emergence of underdog teams that defy expectations and embark on deep playoff runs come October.

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We’ve witnessed this pattern with the Nationals in 2019, the Braves in 2021, and the Phillies in 2022, all hailing from the National League.

Now, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks’ turn to try and write their own underdog story.

After making a commanding statement against the Dodgers in an 11-2 Game 1 blowout, the Diamondbacks are just two wins away from advancing to their first NLCS since 2007.

In this year’s postseason, the D-backs boast an impressive 3-0 record, having outscored their opponents 22-7.

But what’s sparked this sudden resurgence after seemingly crawling across the finish line into the postseason?

From Merrill Kelly’s perspective, you can credit the fact that they are playing with house money.

The Diamondbacks entered the season with modest aspirations, aiming to merely stay above .500. With a roster lacking marquee names, even a slight improvement from the previous year would have been considered progress.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers, a team burdened by the weight of lofty World Series expectations, contrast sharply with the D-backs’ situation. This pressure was easily visible in Game 1.

Now competing in the NLDS, the Diamondbacks have nothing to lose, they have exceeded expectations, and the pressure to move on is relatively small, at least from a front office perspective.

Torey Lovullo, the Diamondbacks’ manager, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that his team is fueled by the underdog mentality. As reported by Bob Nightengale at USA Today, the low expectations have given the Diamondbacks a chip on their shoulder.

While the Diamondbacks still have two more wins to secure against the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS, it’s evident that their young core is playing with a refreshing lack of stress, simply enjoying the game.

This attitude has swiftly resulted in an outstanding start to their 2023 postseason run and, as long as they are able to tune out the noise, may very well be the reason they continue to cruise through October.

 

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