LOS ANGELES — Not many people picked the Arizona Diamondbacks to beat Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card Series. Even fewer pegged them to take down the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series.
Surprise! After a rough ending to the regular season, the upstart youngsters from the desert are sailing through the playoffs.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and the Diamondbacks made quick work of another Dodgers starter, beating Los Angeles 4-2 on Monday night behind Zac Gallen for a 2-0 lead in their NLDS.
“Why would we play with anything to lose?” closer Paul Sewald said. “We were the sixth seed. We weren’t supposed to win in Milwaukee. No one is going to pick us to beat the Dodgers when we haven’t played well against them. We’re going out there with a lot of confidence.”
The D-backs, who earned the final National League wild card despite losing their last four regular-season games, improved to 4-0 in these playoffs — all on the road against division winners. They were 5-8 against the Dodgers during the regular season, losing the final five meetings.
“These guys are very hungry and they feel like they have a lot to prove,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
They’ll try for a stunning sweep of the NL West champions when the best-of-five series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Wednesday.
“It’s two games, but our backs are against the wall,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got to make some type of adjustments and we have no more margin.”
Gallen allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings for his second win of the postseason. Gurriel laced an RBI single to cap a three-run first, and the Diamondbacks chased rookie starter Bobby Miller in the second.
“I don’t think it’s any secret we’ve come in here and struggled,” Gallen said. “It was good for us just mentally to come in here and set the tone, have a little faith in ourselves.”
The early outburst came two nights after Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw was tagged for six runs while getting only one out during Arizona’s 11-2 rout in Game 1.
Gurriel added a solo homer in the sixth to make it 4-1. Sewald pitched a perfect ninth for his third save of the postseason, aided by a nice catch from Gurriel in left field.
Gallen retired nine in a row during one stretch in his second career postseason start. The 17-game winner gave up five hits, struck out four and walked two.
Arizona’s hitters weren’t intimidated by Miller’s 100 mph heat in his playoff debut. They loaded the bases with nobody out and got a sacrifice fly from Christian Walker and an RBI groundout from Gabriel Moreno before Gurriel’s two-out single made it 3-0.
Kershaw and Miller worked a combined two innings and gave up nine earned runs. Miller allowed four hits, struck out one and walked two in 1 2/3 innings before Roberts had seen enough and went to the bullpen.
“Especially after losing Game 1, you want to go out there and set a tone for your offense and get them in a good mood,” Miller said. “Stuff happens. We’re not done yet. They’ve still got to win another game. I know we can do this.”
Kershaw and Miller have a combined 40.50 ERA through the first two games — the worst starters’ ERA over that span in postseason history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Dodgers have lost five straight postseason games dating to Game 2 of last year’s NLDS against San Diego.
Once again, the Dodgers got little production from the top of their lineup. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, two of the team’s four 100-RBI players, were a combined 1 for 13 with three walks and a strikeout in the first two games of the series.
“All of us gotta get going,” Betts said. “We had a couple opportunities and we didn’t cash it in. For me and Freddie, that’s kind of our role. We’re not doing it, and I take ownership in that. Gotta figure out a way, man. No excuses.”
Los Angeles went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position during the two games and stranded 13 overall.
Despite having the sellout crowd behind him from his first pitch, Miller issued a leadoff walk to Corbin Carroll. Ketel Marte reached on a bunt single and Tommy Pham singled to load the bases.
James Outman crashed into the center-field wall making a leaping catch of Walker’s sacrifice fly that scored Carroll for a 1-0 lead. Outman bobbled a catch in the first inning of Game 1 that contributed to Kershaw’s six-run inning before the three-time Cy Young Award winner was yanked.
After Pham stole second, Arizona added two more runs on Moreno’s RBI groundout to shortstop and Gurriel’s sharp single to center.
Miller had two-strike counts on seven hitters and retired only three of them. He needed 32 pitches to get through the first after visits by catcher Will Smith and pitching coach Mark Prior.
J.D. Martinez hit a solo homer in the fourth that pulled the Dodgers to 3-1. They had runners at the corners in the fifth, but with the crowd chanting “Freddie! Freddie!,” Freeman took a called third strike to end the inning.
“Couple pitches I missed that will make me not sleep,” Freeman said.
The Dodgers chased Gallen with back-to-back singles by Max Muncy and Martinez in the sixth. Andrew Saalfrank, a September callup, walked pinch-hitter Chris Taylor to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández bounced the ball over the mound and second baseman Marte made a diving stop as Muncy scored to make it 4-2. Outman struck out and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong grounded out against side-armer Ryan Thompson with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Betts reached on a fielding error by Thompson leading off the seventh, and Freeman came to the plate as the potential tying run. He fouled a ball off the inside of his right leg before hitting into a double play, and Smith ended the inning by taking a called third strike.
“That’s what happens when you take a terrible swing. You hurt yourself,” Freeman said, laughing.