MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 07: Willie Bloomquist #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks lays down a bunt single to tie the game and score Gerardo Parra #8 in the ninth inning off pitcher John Axford #59 of the Milwaukee Brewers in Game Five of the National League Division Series at Miller Park on October 7, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
"It was a heck of a game, it really was. Both of us played as hard as we could, and it came down to the last hit. We have nothing to be ashamed of, we played our butts off, we played well and they just got us in the end. We did the best we could, and there's no shame in that. We left it all on the field."
-- Willie Bloomquist
Wow. It all came down to a final game, and that contest was the best of the bunch, with never more than a run separating the two teams. First Arizona had the lead, then Milwaukee, before the Diamondbacks pulled out another one of their late comebacks, hanging a blown-save on one of the most dominant closers in the majors this year. But they couldn't quite complete it, and went down in extra innings - Arizona's record is now 0-5 in post-season games that go past regulation.
It was a marvelous end to a marvelous series. But let's see why the chips fell Milwaukee's way.
Chances missed for Arizona
This was a theme through all three games at Miller Park. While it seemed the Diamondbacks got key hits, almost at will, in Chase Field, on the road the team went 3-for-22 with runners in scoring position. And two of those hits failed to score a run - one in the opener saw Willie Bloomquist thrown out at the plate, while Sean Burrough's bloop in Game 5 could only move Gerardo Parra from second to third. The one which actually did score a run was the flimsiest of them all: Bloomquist's attempted safety squeeze, that brought Parra home to tie the game at two - charitably labeled as a "bunt single" by the friendly Milwaukee scorer.
All told, Arizona had seven at-bats with runners in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings alone, but only managed to score one run. The eighth was perhaps particularly crucial. With the tying run at third, and one out, Paul Goldschmidt couldn't put bat to ball, and went down swinging. Then, after a Chris Young walk, Ryan Roberts grounded out with the bases loaded. Another key at-bat was Aaron Hill's failure in the ninth to move the runners up, in a first and second, no outs situation - he also struck out, immediately after we had tied the game. The pair of infield groundouts which followed defused our final chance.
Ian Kennedy was good, Yovani Gallardo was better
Though he threw a lot of early pitches, I think Gallardo has now officially taken the mantle of snake-killer away from Randy Winn. Let's just hope the Brewers don't trade him to one of our rivals in the National League West, because I'd hate to see him four or five times in a season. That's seven times in a row we've faced him, and he still hasn't received an L - however, he still trails Tim Hudson, whom we've yet to beat in eight contests [and the all-time record holder, Jason Schmidt, who went undefeated in 16 consecutive starts against us, between 2003-06, winning eleven of them, with a 2.93 ERA]
Kennedy gave Arizona just about everything they could have hoped for, especialiy over the first three innings, when he allowed one-base runner [a base-hit by Braun, naturally]. He was pouring strikes in there too - only eight of his first 38 pitches were called as balls. He also threw first pitch strikes to eight out of the ten batters faced over that time, correcting a problem from Game One.
I'm not sure what happened in the fourth, as in the course of just nine pitches, Kennedy gave up a lead-off double, uncorked a wild pitch, walked a batter, got Fielder to pop out and then seriously plunked Weeks. That's the last thing you want to do, to someone who finished the series having hit at a .056 clip (going 1-for-18). With the bases loaded and only one out, it could certainly have gone horribly wrong, but Kennedy only allowed a sacrifice fly - and not a deep one at that, just hit in an awkward spot, where Aaron Hill had to make the catch, while his momentum took him away from home-plate.
Kennedy relied a good bit more on his two-seam fastball yesterday, throwing it 65% of the time, compared to 55% during Game 1. He threw some more curves, but both his four-seam and change-up were less common..Here's the full break-down:
|Game 1||Game 5|
Unlike most of the proceeding games, there didn't seem to much to complain about on the managerial or umpirical (is that a word? It is now...) fronts - which does make for a pretty difficult post-mortem. What the heck do I write about when. both managers pushed the appropriate buttons, without seeing things blow up in their faces? Bo-ring! In particular for Gibson, I note that after lead-off doubles in the fourth and sixth (both coming on the first pitch, the Brewers apparently using Kennedy's fondness for Strike 1 against him), Braun and Fielder respectively were both "intentionally unintentionally" walked. That made full use of the open base presented - lesson learned.
I was glad to see J.J. Putz used in the tenth inning, even though he took the loss. It somehow feels better to have your best on the mound when you lose a game - it would have been less satisfactory if we had lost the contest, with Putz ending his season sitting in the bullpen. Said J.J. afterward, "Had the speed guy on second base. I was concerned about him and I made a bad pitch to Morgan. He's a good hitter and unfortunately it got through. I just didn't get the job done. It's going to hurt for a little bit. It was a good year. We had a lot of fun this year. I just wish we could have given our fans a little bit more baseball."
Much credit also to Bryan Shaw and David Hernandez, who were excellent, and Chris Young for his running catch in deep center, which certainly stopped the game fro being blown open. Loved Jerry Hairston's reaction: "I don't think I've ever cried on a baseball field but when Chris Young made that play...he broke my heart."
We've come a long way. We set goals in the beginning of the year; unfortunately, we didn't get all the way there. We talked about changing the culture and what does it mean to be a Diamondback. And I just told these guys that they should be proud, because they've set the stage and the standard for how we want to play and they've done it all year.
-- Kirk Gibson
My hope coming in was that if it was to be a defeat, it would be because Milwaukee would win it, rather than us losing it somehow. Mission accomplished, I think - and it's nice to have lasted longer into October than the Yankees! Whatever the Brewers and their fans may have thought coming in to this match-up - or even after the first two games - they know they were in a ferocious battle, down to the bitter end. The Diamondbacks did not go gently into the good night of their off-season, but raged, raged against the dying of their season's light. That has been their way all year, and if defeat was inevitably disappointing, the way it happened seems a fitting full-stop to the year.