Seven out of seven.
It is the seventh time in their history that the Diamondbacks reach the National League Division Series. If you know that the Diamondbacks are in the play-offs for the seventh time, then it is a small calculation to find out that they have a 100% success rate in their battles to advance to the NLDS.
Just twice had the Diamondbacks to play a Wild Card. One in this new format and another one the last time they reached the post-season: the unforgettable 11-8 scoring party versus the Colorado Rockies in 2017.
Of the 6 times we have played thus far in the NLDS, just twice did the team advance to the NLCS. We can at least hang on to the thought that if we make it to the NLCS, the past shows us that there is a 50% we can make it all the way to becoming World Series winners.
Let’s take a look back at what happened in the past.
1999 NLDS: Mets beat Diamondbacks 3-1.
The best Diamondbacks team in history if we look at the win-loss percentage (no other Diamondbacks team has reached 100 wins in the regular season), played Wild Card winner New York Mets. The Mets reached the Wild Card after playing a tiebreaker game against the Cincinnati Reds, because both teams had finished with 96 wins. With eventually 97 wins, it is hard to say that the Mets were a shabby team. Still, the Diamondbacks were probably favourite for this one, after beating the Mets 5-1 over the season and seeing the Mets struggling late in the season.
Buck Showalter took a gamble in the first game, when he had Randy Johnson pitch almost the entire game. The future Hall-of-Famer gave up 4 early runs after which he settled in and pitched 4 scoreless and saw Luis Gonzalez and Erubiel Durazo making it a 4-4 ball game. Despite Johnson reportedly saying he was running out of gas, Showalter kept him in, and saw how the lefty loaded the bases before pulling him out. Bobby Chouinard would come in and give up a grand slam and Arizona lost the first game 8-4. Randy Johnson was, at that moment, “holding the major-league record for consecutive playoff losses with six”.
Just like lefties hurt Randy Johnson in his appearance, so would lefties hurt a pitcher in the second game of the series, although this time it was the Mets’ Kenny Rogers. Todd Stottlemyre surprisingly pitched game 2 of the series, but kept the Mets limited to just 1 run in almost 7 innings. Stottlemyre threw an astonishing 124 pitches (Johnson threw 135 the night before) and was believed to “be the only pitcher to come back from a serious rotator cuff injury to pitch again without surgery. He tore 70 percent of his rotator cuff in San Francisco May 17.” Big man was Steve Finley though, who knocked in 5 RBI and led the Diamondbacks to a 7-1 win.
But that would be the final joy for the Diamondbacks in the series. In New York Omar Daal couldn’t tame the Mets, who were without Mike Piazza. But John Olerud took care of what was important and guided the Mets to an early lead and they never looked back, winning 9-2. 3 errors and 8 walks allowed certainly didn’t help, as Buck Showalter confirmed: “It certainly wasn’t characteristic of the way we’ve been playing”.
But the Mets had to go a bit deeper in the final match of the series. Back-up catcher Todd Pratt became the focus of celebrations when he hit a solo walk-off homerun in the tenth inning. It was a remarkable conclusion of a game that had it all: a New York Mets lead, Steven Finley swatting the Diamondbacks to a 3-2 lead and then a dropped ball by Tony Womack that would allow the Mets to tie the game again. Even the walk-off homerun was a moment of its own, travelling 411 feet, where many thought Steve Finley had caught the ball, even the player himself: “I thought I had it. I felt it in my glove. It took me a second to realize I didn’t catch it. I still don’t believe it.”
While Tony Womack certainly wouldn’t like to be reminded of this series, there are a lot of great names for the baseball fans on the Mets’ side to remember: a beautifully packed Shea Stadium, Rickey Henderson had a hot series (.400 BA) and stole 6 bases. John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo had 12 RBI combined, more than 50% of the Mets’ runs. On the mound appearances of Al Leiter, Kenny Rogers, ... even Orel Hershiser pitched an inning.
The Mets would lose the NLCS against the Braves (4-2), while the Braves themselves got swept in the World Series by the Yankees.
2001 NLDS: 10 runs will do against the Cardinals: 3-2.
Now with Bob Brenly leading the team, the Division Series matchup against the Cardinals was supposed to be an interesting one. The Cardinals had tied first in their NL Central with the Houston Astros, but were doomed with the Wild Card and thus had to face the Arizona Diamondbacks. It would become a very tight series, where the Cardinals actually outscored the Diamondbacks 12-10 but still came up short due to two excellent performances from Curt Schilling.
The first one was in game 1 where Schilling pitched an entire shut-out game with just 101 pitches, allowing only 3 hits and a walk. That was necessary as the Diamondbacks couldn’t take advantage of 12 hits, knocking just 1 run in, a Steve Finley 2-out RBI in the 5th inning. A young Albert Pujols made his post-season debut as a rookie for the Cardinals.
In game 2 Randy Johnson would continue his losing streak in the play-offs despite going 8 innings. Once again the Diamondbacks’ batting lineup wasn’t able to do much, although this time they were outhit by the opponent. Johnson unlike he walked Edgar Renteria before allowing a homerun to Albert Pujols. It was a 2-0 deficit the Diamondbacks wouldn’t overcome, going down 4-1. Woody Williams had a terrific pitching performance for the Cardinals, and also had a double and a run, before handing the ball over to Kevin Kline to shut things down.
The series moved to St. Louis where the Diamondbacks would once again take the lead in the series after knocking in 5 runs, the only time they would score more than 2 runs in the series. Miguel Batista kept the Diamondbacks in the game, giving up 2 runs over 6 innings before being pulled for Greg Colbrunn in the top of the 7th with 1 out and 2 on. It was a bright move from Bob Brenly who saw Colbrunn knock in Finley to make it a 2-2 game. Womack hit a grounder to second, preventing Miller from scoring but in the following at bat with two outs, Craig Counsell slugged a homer to score 3 more and lead the Diamondbacks to a 5-2 lead. After that Kim got the save with a 5-3 lead, but not without providing some juice to the game: the Cardinals flirted with a comeback, but couldn’t get any runs in. Opposing starting pitcher for the Cardinals in this game was the late and beloved Darryl Kline, who would suddenly pass away because of a heart attack the following year during a series in Chicago.
In game 4 the Diamondbacks’ starter Albie Lopez struggled with his control and allowed 4 runs over 3 innings and the Diamondbacks couldn’t come back from that, going down 4-1. So they had to play a fifth all-or-nothing game and got such a performance from Curt Schilling. He once again pitched an entire game, giving up just 1 run, a homer to JD Drew, in the 8th inning. Schilling knocked out 9 and needed 123 pitches to come out as a victor, thanks to a 9th inning walk-off single from Tony Womack that saw pinch running Tony Bautista speed terrifically towards the NLCS.
2002 NLDS: Cardinals leave Diamondbacks no chance: 3-0.
A year and a World Series Championship later the Diamondbacks once again faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, but this time they came up short. After winning a Triple Crown and an ERA below 1.00 in September, once again Randy Johnson couldn’t propel the Diamondbacks to a victory in a NLDS game: “My slider was flat. My fastball fell on the middle of the plate. Going up against probably the best lineup in the National League, the two don’t mix.’’ Johnson gave up 10 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings of work. The Diamondbacks were in the game until the 4th inning but faced a terrific Matt Morris, who had 7 strong innings, and gave up just 2 runs, wearing a number 57 and the initials of his late teammate Darryl Kline on his hat.
In game 2 the Cardinals got a strong performance from 40-year old Chuck Finley, in what would be his last season in the Major Leagues. He kept the Diamondbacks scoreless in 6.1 innings. The Diamondbacks also got a great performance, from Curt Schilling, who gave up one homerun in 7 innings of work. The Cardinals won on some small-ball tactics that cost Mike Koplove the game in the 9th inning and sent the Diamondbacks to St. Louis with the tough task of extending the NLDS there. That didn’t happen as the Cardinals rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to a 4-3 lead, adding a couple of insurance runs more off Kim in the 8th. The bats seemingly never came to life in the series, without an injured Luis Gonzalez, but also absences from Counsell and Bautista in the final game: “It puts a strain on the offense. It gives the opposition the opportunity to pitch around the hitters they think can hurt them the most. It started to show up at the end of the season, and really here in the playoffs.’’, said Bob Brenly.
The Cardinals would lose the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants (4-1), who would lose the World Series against the Anaheim Angels (4-3).
2007 NLDS: Diamondbacks wipe out the Cubs.
The young 2007 Diamondbacks were one of the biggest surprises that season when they won the NL West, without Randy Johnson and a negative run result. The Diamondbacks didn’t have much of a slugging squad, but got useful contributions from young kids like Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Miguel Montero and even Justin Upton. The future looked bright. But the team was really carried by some strong pitching performances from Cy Young Brandon Webb, and bullpen figures like Jose Valverde, Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena, combined with some excellent defence. Bob Melvin led the team.
The Diamondbacks faced the NL Central champions Chicago Cubs and easily rolled over to the NLCS. The Cubs were limited to 1 run each in game 1 and 3, when Webb and Livan Hernández pitched respectively a strong 7 and 6 innings, after which Valverde, Lyon and Pena shut the door down for 3-1 and 5-1 wins.
Only in game 2 the Diamondbacks had to come up big, but when necessary the team delivered. After trailing early 2-0, the Diamondbacks immediately struck back in the 2nd inning with a 3-run homer and a triple to take a 4-2 lead and never look back, eventually winning 8-4.
“It was rewarding to get here. Now that we’re here and now that we’ve got a couple under our belt, our expectations keep rising, and that’s the way it’s been all year.”, said Bob Melvin. Thus the harder was the shock when the Rockies swept the Diamondbacks 4-0 in the NLCS. The Rockies would later lose to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series (4-0).
What NLDS brings back most memories?
This poll is closed
1999: you never forget your first time.
2001: is it possible to remember any other year?
2002: it seemed the end was nearer than expected.
2007: it was a fun season.