It’s October, so Major League Baseball is down to a small handful of teams seeking to play in the annual “Fall Classic.” The Texas Rangers secured the bid from the American League, and on Tuesday night, the Senior Circuit went to Game 7 of the NLCS to determine which team would take on the Rangers.
The underdog Arizona Diamondbacks squared off against the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in the city of Brotherly Love. To add an extra layer of drama, Arizona was down two games to none, only to storm back and force a Game 7.
Taking the mound for the upstart Diamondbacks was a most unlikely 25-year-old rookie named Brandon Pfaadt. Last season, Pfaadt was in Triple-A Reno, where he led the team to a Pacific Coast League championship. It was there where D-Backs Manager Torey Lovullo first noticed the rangy right-hander and realized they had something special waiting in the minors.
Fast forward a year, and Pfaadt answered the bell in Game 7 and proved that Lovullo was right. Pfaadt struck out seven batters, bringing his postseason total to 22 in four starts with a 2.70 ERA. That strikeout total ranks third highest by a D-backs pitcher in a single postseason. His composure under pressure was outstanding as Lovullo allowed him to work out of trouble in the fourth as he fanned Johan Rojas to quell a Philly rally.
The youngster from Louisville, Kentucky, didn’t seem to feel the heat in the post-season, and before the pressure-packed start in Game 7, he appeared to be gaining inspiration in the dugout before the game. Cameras caught Pfaadt reading what appeared to be a Bible by himself in the dugout before taking the mound.
The rookie hurler attended Trinity High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Louisville, before playing his college baseball at Bellarmine University, also a private Catholic school in Louisville. It is small wonder he turned to his faith to calm his nerves before the biggest night of his life.
After the game, Pfaadt said: “It feels unbelievable. To come up with the guys that I came up with, and look them in the face and say that we’re going to the World Series, it feels surreal.”
Phillies Manager Rob Thomson was impressed and offered up this: “Pfaadt, he backed it up, what he did over in Arizona. He pitched well, and their bullpen did a great job.”
Diamondback Manager Torey Lovullo offered his assessment of his young pitcher. He added: “You expect hiccups for young players. But … he’s just gone out there and learned and grown with good coaching, accepting that. For him to start Game 7, it didn’t faze any of us. We knew he could develop a game plan and go out there and execute it. We wanted that to continue.”
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing this season, as Pfaadt had bounced back and forth between the minors and Arizona, but the Louisville native took the opportunity to grow and learn during each stint, and his teammates took note. Teammate Zac Gallen said: “Every time he came back to the big leagues, it was like, ‘OK, he learned something else when he was down there. To go out there in Game 7 when your back’s against the wall, maybe in one of the more hostile environments in baseball, maybe in all of professional sports, I just think speaks to the character of the guy.”
It’s a true Cinderella story: The lightly regarded Arizona Diamondbacks, who snuck into the playoffs, knock off the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in Philly before a hostile crowd. Add in the fact that Brandon Pfaadt shut down the powerful Phils after reading his Bible, and fans actually have someone to root for in the Fall Classic.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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