This is also the only time since the 2001 campaign where the Diamondbacks have won three post-season contests in a row. Our play-off record since then is an underwhelming 6-13, so the four-day period of this series represents half of Arizona’s postseason victories in the last 18 years. All three games were quite glorious in their own way, but it was the D-backs’ pitching which proved key, holding the Cubs to a sub-Ueckerian .194 average, with a series OPS of only .562. The bullpen was particularly nails, tossing 8.1 shutout innings across the three games, on five hits with eight strikeouts. But if there was an MVP, it would likely have been Stephen Drew, who went 7-for-14 with two home-runs.
[Note: despite the titles, the videos below are the English-language commentary. These unofficial uploads to YouTube were far better than anything available for the series from mlb.com. Which is kinda sad...]
Game 1: Cubs 1, Diamondbacks 3
The first game was notable for “Lou’s boner”. Carlos Zambrano started for the Cubs and matched Brandon Webb through six innings, each man allowing only a single run. Zambrano was only at 85 pitches, but Lou Pinella had a quick hook - apparently wanting to keep his starter fresh for a possible Game 4 outing. It backfired: Carlos Marmol allowed a go-ahead home-run to Mark Reynolds, and the second-guessing was immediate and very loud. Webb only threw 89 pitches, but that got him through seven innings, and Drew also hit the first of his series home-runs. Conor Jackson added a sacrifice fly, and Arizona won the opening game, as Jose Valverde closed things out, in front of legend Muhammad Ali.
Game 2: Cubs 4, Diamondbacks 8
This game already appeared on this list, thanks to Ted Lilly’s glove slam, after giving up a three-run home-run to Chris Young. That cost the Cubs a 2-0 advantage, and they would not see a lead for the rest of the series. Drew and former Cub Augie Ojeda each had two hits, and Doug Davis got the win. He wasn’t at his best, allowing four runs over 5.2 innings on five hits and four walks. But it was enough, as the D-backs plundered Lilly for six runs in just 3.1 innings, helped by Ojeda bunting for a hit to lead off the fourth. Drew following with a two-run triple. Valverde closed this one out too, striking out the side in a non-save situation as the D-backs pushed the Cubs to the edge of elimination.
Game 3: Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1
I recall being at my step-daughter’s house for a birthday party, and kept sneaking out of the house to listen to the car radio (Kids! Ask your parents!). Even though Chris Young led off the game with a solo homer, and Justin Upton doubled the advantage later the inning, it was a fraught affair. For Livan Hernandez was having the most Livan Hernandesque of Livan Hernandez outings. There wasn’t just traffic on the bases, there was gridlock: through five innings, there had been 12 Cubs aboard, on five hits, five walks a hit batter and an error. That’s normally a recipe for disaster, but Livan dialled up a trio of double plays to limit Chicago to one run, and keep Arizona ahead.
None was bigger than the one in the fifth. He loaded the bases with one out on three walks, and fell behind 3-1 to the next batter. The Cubs and their fans could smell Cuban blood in the water. But to quote Livan, “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.” Mark DeRosa duly hit a tailor-made groundball to Ojeda, then Drew and Jackson completed the inning-ending double-play. As I wrote in my recap, “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?’”
Arizona got their third run across on an Eric Byrnes groundout in the fourth, and he added a solo homer in the sixth. Drew followed suit, going yard in the top of the ninth to make the score 5-1, and set the stage once more for Papa Grande. Valverde struck out Jason Kendall and Daryle Ward, then Alfonso Soriano lifted a fly-ball to Jeff Salazar in right, as the Wrigley faithful made their feelings felt. To quote Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune, “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.” And it was quite, quite glorious.
The D-backs had pulled of an upset over the much more highly-favored Cubs - Jayson Stark of ESPN had predicted them to win the whole World Series. And not just an upset, a sweep, in what remains the most dominant performance over a playoff series in Diamondbacks’ history. Of course, things didn’t go quite so well in the National League Championship Series. Arizona were embarrassingly swept away by Colorado, managing to score only eight runs over the four games. But for this one night, all was as right as it possibly could be in the world of baseball.