This game didn’t have much significance, but in the 2011 season the Diamondbacks pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks against a hated division rival. Having already clinched the National League West division title the weekend before, they were jockeying with the Brewers for home field in the Division Series. At the time, the D-backs had a small mathematical chance to open that series at Chase, but needed to win out with the Brewers also losing out.
Both the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers had played to a stalemate through 9 innings, going into extra innings tied at 1-1. Turning to long man Micah Owings, in his second stint with Arizona, the Dodgers scored 5 runs and held a 6-1 lead going into the bottom half. The first two batters made easy outs and it looked to be a quick inning when Cole Gillespie chopped a ball down the 1B line that Dodgers 1B James Loney was able to get to. All that was necessary was for pitcher Blake Hawksworth to cover 1B to put the D-backs away for the night. Except that didn’t happen, as Hawksworth forgot to cover the base.
After that miscue by the Dodgers, it opened up Pandora’s box as all kinds of lucky breaks went Arizona’s way. Miguel Montero chased an eye-high fastball and not only somehow managed to make contact, but hit a hard single up the middle. A walk to Chris Young would load the bases for John McDonald, who hit a line drive at 3B Aaron Miles, who booted the ball and allowed McDonald to reach. At that point, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly brought in his closer because the inning got too interesting with 2 outs. After running a full count, Aaron Hill drew another walk and got the potential winning run to the plate in the form of Ryan Roberts.
Here’s what happened next:
Jumping on a first pitch slider, Roberts roped a line drive that carried all the way to the second row of the left field stands at Chase Field. When Gillespie came up to the plate, the Diamondbacks had a 0.3% win expectancy according to Fangraphs. Even as the D-backs scratched their way into a puncher’s chance, they only had a 9.7% win expectancy when Roberts was settling into the box. The grand slam had a win probability added of 90.3%, easily the largest total in franchise history.
As he was rounding first base, Roberts starts mimicking his manager’s iconic home run celebration from the 1988 World Series with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen from a baseball player. In the NLDS against Milwaukee, Roberts went 7 for 20 with a pair of home runs, including a huge grand slam in the first inning of Game 4. Roberts quickly developed into a fan favorite as a player, earning the nickname Tatman due to his love for tattoos, who overcame the odds despite average physical tools and carved out a nice career. From 2009-2012, Roberts produced 5.3 bWAR with the Diamondbacks in 372 games and produced positive value in nearly every aspect in the game.