Final post-season victories: 3.
Quotes of the day
"It simply reaffirms this group and the dedication they have to playing 27 outs. Nobody hung their head. Nobody blamed anybody else. I think it simply reaffirms what we've done all season long and that's battle from start to finish... We don't listen to the skeptics. We battled right down to the last out, so we have nothing to be ashamed of. The adjustments were made. The attitude and perseverance that we showed all year was still there, even down the stretch." -- Tony Clark
"If you're looking for someone to blame, start here. I had a terrible series. It was too bad. Obviously, it wasn't for a lack of effort." -- Eric Byrnes
"It was a routine play. I (expletive) it up. What can you say? Cost us four runs and it was pretty much the ballgame after that" -- Conor Jackson
"We believed in ourselves the entire season, and we ended up being one of the last four teams playing. So no doubt it was a successful year. There's nothing to hang our heads about. We lost tonight and we lost the series, but overall it was an amazing year." -- Chris Young
Congratulations to the 2007 National League pennant winners, the Colorado Rockies, who finished off the sweep of Arizona last night, and will go on to face either Boston or Cleveland in the World Series. I can't, in all honesty, begrudge them their victory. My main regret is that we did not play the way we have shown, so often this year, that we can. The sweep does not reflect the actual difference in quality of the two teams - but it does reflect the Rockies' vast superiority in the clutch, particularly with two outs.
Arizona ended the series just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position, so it's not as if we had no chances. We had a higher batting average than the Rockies (.254/.222) and our OPS in the series was 43 points better too. Yet, they outscored us over the four games, 18-8. As we've been telling the world the entire season, that is, in the end, what matters. There's something ironic that we die, in much the same was that we lived this year: in the face of the statistical evidence.
The final game was, in many ways, a microcosm of the series, with the Rockies taking full advantage of their opportunity in a six-run fourth. Outside there, they had only two at-bats with a man in scoring position the rest of the game. We were 1-0 up in that fourth, thanks to an RBI single from Jackson but, inevitably, a two-out bloop turned the tide, with Smith getting jammed but somehow lobbing the ball, just fair, down the left-field line for a double. Even then, it was still a one-run game, but Jackson turned from villain to hero, inexplicably muffing an easy grounder by Taveras, which should have ended the inning. Instead, Matsui singled, and Holliday unloaded to center-field, a three-run homer that made the score 6-1 to Colorado.
Typically, our offense arose too late. With just four outs left, Snyder hit his own three-run shot, and Upton followed with a triple to bring the tying run, improbably, to the plate. However, after Clark worked the count full, Corpas got him with a slow slider. Young doubled to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth too, with one out, but Drew popped up on a 3-0 pitch. Them, fittingly, Byrnes grounded out weakly to end it, leaving our $30m man 3-for-17 in the series and 6-for-29 in the post-season. I really hope this is just his usual last-season slide, not an omen of things to come for the next three years.
One wonders whether Micah Owings was, perhaps, banged up earlier in that fourth inning. He ended up on the ground after fielding a tapper back to the mound, saying afterwards, "My back stiffened up a little bit. But the main thing was it just knocked the breath out of me." With hindsight...who can say. The bullpen was perhaps at their finest ever: Cruz and Lyon through 4.1 innings of no-hit ball, striking out nine of 14 batters. Whatever our issues this post-season, our relief corps was not it; here's their playoff line:
Bullpen: 24 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 32 K, ERA 0.28
The Four Relievers of the Apocalypse were particularly...er, apocalyptic. Brandon Lyon pitched six innings, allowed one hit and struck out five; Juan Cruz 4.1 innings, one hit, with nine strikeouts; Tony Peña 5.1 innings, three hits, seven K's; Jose Valverde, 4.2 innings, two hits, fanned eight. No question, our bullpen was the collective MVP of our October.
And that was it. The final Gameday Thread of the year was sad, but largely philosophical. I think we had already passed through most of the five stages of grief in the previous three games, and the eventual loss was met with resigned acceptance. Thanks to everyone who turned up: Devin, snakecharmer, DbacksSkins, soco, Adam, bitterfan, azdb7, Dr Robert, TwinnerA, CA SnakesFan, 4CornersFan, oklahomasooners, westcoastbias, batster, dahlian, venomous1987, peeklay, IndyDBack, emilywebs [welcome!], VIII, monica in el paso, Silverblood, dbacksfan55555, Wimb, Pigpen Fan, nihil67 and cavscout. And thanks to everyone who has helped the threads explode this year. If you'd told me at the start of the season we'd pass 400 comments seven games in a row and come close to a thousand, more than once...
And now, the off-season begins. I think there'll be plenty to talk about here, but there'll be time enough for that in the long, dark, cold (well, slightly less warm, here in AZ) winter evenings. For now, I'll just refer you to the post below, and let's remember the 2007 season not for the way it ended, but for what it brought us.