The Dodgers might never have been more delighted to see a bullpen gate open than they were around 7 p.m. Wednesday.
They were not playing in this game. They were watching on television, from hundreds of miles away. And there he was on the mound, the pitcher that was supposed to torment them Friday, rushed into emergency duty.
The Arizona Diamondbacks needed Robbie Ray to save their season.
When it's time for Dodgers baseball Friday, the opposing pitcher will be someone other than Ray, and other than Zack Greinke. The Diamondbacks deployed their two finest starting pitchers Wednesday — Greinke by choice, Ray by necessity — in winning the National League wild-card game and advancing to a division series against the Dodgers.
In nine innings that were less of a classic showdown and more of a wild frolic, the Diamondbacks beat the Colorado Rockies 11-8. The Rockies were down three runs before they got an out, they nearly made up a six-run deficit, and they were all but sunk when the Diamondbacks' best relief pitcher slugged the first extra-base hit of his career.
"Right away, all hell broke loose," Colorado manager Bud Black said, "and from then on, it was a heavyweight fight."
In this year in which most home runs in major league history were hit, the Diamondbacks hit four triples and two home runs. They scored five of their runs on home runs, by Paul Goldschmidt and Daniel Descalso, five on triples and one on a bunt single.
The Diamondbacks led 6-0 after three innings, a lead that nearly went for naught when Greinke gave up four runs in a fourth inning he could not survive. The Diamondbacks, in a win-or-go-home game, used Ray for the fifth and sixth innings, and part of the seventh inning.
He made 34 pitches, too many to get the Game 1 start against the Dodgers. Ray started five times against the Dodgers this season, posting a 2.27 earned-run average and striking out 53 batters in 32 innings. He still could start Game 2, and then a possible Game 5 on regular rest.
But that still leaves Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1 against three letters that will make the Dodgers happy: TBA. Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Ray and Greinke would be "candidates" to start Game 2.
The Diamondbacks clung to a one-run lead in the seventh inning, when reliever Archie Bradley tripled home two runs against All-Star reliever Pat Neshek. Bradley is the Diamondbacks' answer to Andrew Miller, the stud who can pitch more than one inning ahead of the closer, and Lovullo said he was not thrilled when Bradley rounded second base and headed for third.
"I was thinking, 'Please stop right there,'" Lovullo said. "I could see him turn a corner and pull a hamstring."
The Diamondbacks won 11 of 19 games against the Dodgers this season, including the last six meetings. When the Diamondbacks swept at Dodger Stadium last month, catcher Yasmani Grandal said he was not at all apprehensive about a possible playoff matchup with Arizona.
"We know we're the better team," he said.
On Wednesday, Bradley acknowledged the Dodgers had a better overall record, then said that counts for nothing now.
"This series will determine who the better team is," he said.
Kershaw will take the ball Friday and try to carry the Dodgers on his back, all the way to a parade. The big horse is one of baseball's grandest traditions, from Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson to Orel Hershiser and Madison Bumgarner.
If Kershaw can deliver that magic this October, he would be bucking an emerging October trend, the one in which starters pitch roughly half the postseason innings.
In the two winner-take-all wild-card games, Greinke lasted the longest of all the starters. He worked 32/3 innings, as many as the other three combined: the Minnesota Twins' Ervin Santana (two), the Rockies' Jon Gray (11/3) and the New York Yankees' Luis Severino (one-third), all aces on their respective teams.
On Wednesday, Gray faced 11 batters and gave up seven hits.
As the Dodgers prepared for their fifth consecutive appearance in a division series, Arizona rejoiced in its first trip there since 2011.
Said Bradley: "We want to make baseball here good again."