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Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1 - The Night Chicago Died

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Post-season victories: 3. Wins remaining: 8

Quotes of the day

  • "The Cubs have the much better offense, and frankly if Jason Marquis is excised, their edge in the rotation might be nearly as large. Even the D'backs' home-field advantage is questionable" -- Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus

  • "The Chicago Cubs are going to win the 2007 World Series... From lovable losers to World Series champions? Good things come to those who wait. Their pitching was so good and so deep, they allowed the second-fewest runs in the National League (behind only San Diego) and the third-fewest in baseball (behind Boston and San Diego). That's how you win in October, isn't it?" -- Jayson Stark, ESPN

  • "Considering Livan Hernandez's recent struggles, predicting good things for the guy is an at-your-own-risk kind of endeavor. But I can see him doing well against this free-swinging Cubs lineup today... Maybe this Cubs lineup, which drew the second-fewest walks in the league, goes after some pitches that other teams might not. Maybe this works to Hernandez's benefit." -- Nick Piecoro

  • "Like my family told me a lot of times, pressure is nothing. I got more pressure when I lived in Cuba and I got up in the morning looking for something. It's a lot of pressure when you don't find nothing... On the ride to the stadium, a lot of people tell me, 'I got your back. You the man.' You come into the stadium and try do something special because you've got a lot of people watching on TV, and my family, my daughter told me, 'You the man.' It's something great, and you feel great and come to the stadium and try to do the best for your team, the best for my people. It's another family you have here, young guys. Everybody knows I love these guys." -- Livan Hernandez

  • "There are all kinds of silences. Embarrassed silences. Uncomfortable silences. Stunned silences. There was some of all that at Wrigley Field on Saturday night. But there really is only one kind of booing. That would be angry booing." -- Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune

With apologies to Bjørge Lillelien, "Harrison Ford, Benny Goodman, Cindy Crawford, Raymond Chandler, David Mamet - we have beaten them all, we have beaten them all. Al Capone, can you hear me? Your boys took a hell of a beating. Your boys took a hell of a beating..." What can I say? It's not so much the fact of the victory which amazes me, it's the scope and manner of it: we outscored Chicago 16-6, and they led any game for precisely one-half inning of the 27 played. Even after the first two wins, I would not have been surprised to see it go five. Though the fact the Cubs lost goes a long way to point out how deficient the so-called "experts" are: eight of ten on ESPN took Chicago - despite them having a worse regular-season record, in a much-weaker division. Only one went with the D-backs in four; none got it right.

Some credit, however, to a peninent Stark this morning, for revising his position: "That's the beauty of those improbable Arizona Diamondbacks. They're a reminder to all of us that there are no magic formulas in this game they play. They remind us that you don't need a bunch of old guys with October experience to win. They remind us that you don't need to lead the league in numbers -- any numbers -- to win. In this sabermetric age we live in, we forget that teams like this are possible -- teams that are more than the sum of any of their statistical parts. But they are possible, all right... And yeah, that's the same Cubs team that all of us ESPN know-it-alls predicted would win this series without taxing its sweat glands."

Last night was a sight to behold. Livan Hernandez delivered perhaps the most masterful performance ever. Outside the leadoff man in each inning, he faced only two hitters with the bases empty until the sixth inning - there, he retired the rapidly-deflating Cubs in order, for the sole time in the game. In those front five frames, he put twelve men aboard, yet only allowed one run, an RBI groundout in the fourth. Houdini-esque doesn't even begin to describe it. This escape was plucked straight from the lower end of Victorian literature: "with one bound, Livan was free."

No better example than the bottom of the fifth, with Arizona clinging desperately to a 3-1 lead. Why bother making the opposition hit the ball when you can just load the bases with one out, by giving them three walks, and then falling behind 3-1 to the next hitter? With everyone in the state of Illinois screaming at the top of their lungs, Hernandez did exactly what he had been doing all day, getting Mark DeRosa to ground into a inning-ending, threat-ending, basically game- and series-ending, double-play. That pitch alone was worth about 23% worth of Win Expectancy. Sitting in the car outside my step-daughter's house, I let out a whoop that frightened the small children arriving for the party, who no doubt asked, "Why is that man thrashing around and shrieking, mommy?"

The game could not have got off to a better start for Arizona, as Chris Young crushed a first-pitch fastball from Hill into the bleachers, stunning the Wrigley crowd. Drew then doubled, and when he came home on Upton's first post-season RBI, it turned out we had all the offense we would need before the Cubs even got to the plate [though the way Livan was pitching, we could have done with, oh, ten or so insurance runs, just for the sake of my blood-pressure.] Eric Byrnes just legged his way out of a double-play in the fourth to make it 3-0, and that may have sparked his post-season, as he followed with a solo homer in the sixth, then a single and stolen-base in the ninth.

while I believe there isn't a formal MVP for the NLDS match-ups, I think consensus would have to go with Stephen Drew, who went 7-for-14 with two homers and four RBI. Taking in the regular-season, he has now had seven multi-hit games in the past eight, batting .459 (17-for-37) in that time. But credit also Chris Young, whose four RBI came at crucial moments; he remains the master of the three true outcomes, going 3-for-11 with two homers and all eight outs in the series being K's. Then there's the bullpen: 8.1 scoreless innings, with five hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. Or any of the starters. Together, they restricted Chicago to a .197 average, with sluggers Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez going a combined 6-for-38 with zero extra-base hits. Doug Davis had more runs batted in that that trio. As Dayn Perry noted, "When Carlos Zambrano is your most productive hitter in a series, you're probably headed for defeat."

This was a simply phenomenal performance throughout by the D-backs, who outplayed Chicago in every way, and there's no denying that. A raucous Gameday Thread (which continued over at Purple Row!): present were Devin, DbacksSkins, soco, Muu, Melvin (welcome!), snakecharmer, dbackerinparadise, azdb7, TwinnerA, hotclaws, bjn, nihil67, DiamondbacksWIn, Wimb, AZDarkKnight, Stile4aly, Vimes (welcome!), Peachy, Silverblood, oklahomasooners, westcoastbias (welcome!), unnamedDBacksfan, seton hall snake pit, potterhead4 (welcome!), VIII, monica in el paso, Dr Robert, 4CornersFan, RBooth (welcome!), Tom, Adam, Russ, Englishdback, MattTheRock and icecoldmo. It was particularly nice to see fans from other teams popping in to say hello and offer good wishes: Rockies, Red Sox and Angels were all represented. No Padres' fans though: wonder why not? :-)

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Livan Hernandez, +25.7%
God-emperor of suck: Nobody. They were all brilliant.
Honorary goodness: Chris Young, +11.2%

My only regret is, the lack of a game four means I won't get to use a nugget of trivia I'd been sitting on for the occasion. Oh, what the hell. Let's pretend we'd lost yesterday, and Carlos Zambrano was starting this morning on short rest - rather than Opening Day next year, on very, very long rest... I just want to point out, that there are three players on the Cubs today whose salary this year is more than the entire Arizona Diamondbacks starting lineup combined. For Chicago, you have Lee ($13.25m), Zambrano ($12.4m) and Soriano ($10m). Meanwhile, here are the bank accounts of your Arizona Diamondbacks:

  1. Young: 380K
  2. Drew: 1,500K
  3. Byrnes: 4,575K
  4. Clark: 1,034K
  5. Reynolds: 380K
  6. Salazar: 380K
  7. Snyder: 400K
  8. Ojeda: 395K
  9. Owings: 380K

I haven't been able to confirm exact salary figures for Salazar or Reynolds - but I suspect league minimum is probably in the right ballpark for both. That gives us a total of $9.42m - so as well as funding the entire lineup, Derrek Lee could also splash out and cover the costs of all the relievers we used in the series bar Valverde: Famine (1,438K), Pestileñce (381K), and War (1,500K). Money is clearly no match for hustle, heart and talent.

We now have five days to prepare for the National League Championship Series against the Colorado Rockies, who similarly swept the Phillies out of the playoffs, leaving the NL West with a 6-0 record against the best the other two divisions had to offer. Now, is there any doubt this division is the best in the league? Congrats to them: it's their first playoff series victory in franchise history, so it must be tremendously exciting for their fans. The Rockies are red-hot right now, having won 17 of 18 - though I have to point out, the one defeat came against Arizona, in the only game of the series when we were actually trying... It won't be easy, but it should be a lot of fun.

That delay will allow both teams to get their rotations aligned as they want, though the period may also be detrimental to both, who after their dominating performances in the NLCS, could well be happier to get things started tomorrow. No doubt Webb will start Game One for Arizona: perhaps the more interesting question is, will he also start Game Four? That would be on short rest, but would also allow him to start Game Seven, on regular rest - there's a completely pointless day off on Tuesday, during the Colorado leg of the series. Dare we do that, and risk pulling a Piniella? [As yanking your starter too early will henceforth be known, just as leaving him too long is called "doing a Little"]. Discuss.

Till then, relax, enjoy a break from adverts for Frank TV, listen to the national media squirming in embarrassment at having been so horribly wrong, reconnect with your families, catch up on household chores, watch some DVDs, and revel in what has been, and what is yet to come. But I finish with a special shout-out today to Kaysie from Auckland, New Zealand; was checking the fan map yesterday, and she has become our first from Oceania - cool pic of her at Chase Field, presumably on a trip earlier this year. Now, we just need someone in Africa, and we'll be represented on every continent now. Er, well, save Antarctica. But I imagine the only Sedona Red seen down there involves a penguin, a leopard seal, and is a very apt metaphor for the series we just polished off...