Diamondbacks Look For Gibson's Grit and Toughness

Mykael WrightContributor IAugust 4, 2010

PHOENIX - JULY 19:  Mark Reynolds #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by teammates Miguel Montero #26 and Adam LaRoche #25 after hitting a 3 run home run against the New York Mets during the sixth inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on July 19, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Monday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks were manhandled by Livan Hernandez and the Washington Nationals losing 3 to 1.  Tuesday, it was a different story though.  Behind a complete game by lefty newcomer Joe Saunders, as well as homeruns by Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew, the Dbacks beat the Nationals 6 to 1 in Phoenix.

Notes from the first two games of the 4 game series:

Game 1:  Every team has 27 outs in a game, but some outs are bigger than others because of their timing.  The key moment in Monday night’s game came with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th.  The Diamondbacks were trailing 3-1, and Justin Upton, the star and future of the franchise was at the plate.  With runners on 1st and 2nd, he represented the go ahead run.  He showed great patience and self-control working the count on to 3-0.  While most players are taught to take that pitch, he swung and grounded into the force play inning over.  Along with the inning, as well as the Dbacks’ best chance to pull ahead, Upton’s 17 game hit streak (then the MLB long) was also over.  My first thought was perhaps he was just selfish.  A walk at that moment helps the team, but still ends his hit streak.  Then I thought perhaps he was just undisciplined at the plate.  After watching the post game show, I realized it was neither.  His manager, Kirk Gibson, gave him the green light.  It had nothing to do with is decision making or discipline, but rather he simply didn’t execute what was expected of him-to come up for his team in a big spot and make the big play.

After thinking more about his at bat, I realized he did exactly what we want stars to do.  You don’t want Kobe Bryant passing the ball for the last shot.  You don’t want Peyton Manning handing the ball off on 4th and goal.  Stars are stars because the step up in big spots.  Look at Robert Horry’s career numbers.  They are far from overwhelming, but people talk about him possibly being a Hall of Famer because he made such big shots.  Any who thinks Horry is a HOFer is delusional, but the point still remains.  People remember players who step up in big spots for their teams.

Look at who gave Upton the green light for crying out loud.  I have no idea what Gibson did in his career other than hit the homerun with one good leg off Dennis Eckersly in game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  We’ve all seen the video of him hobbling around the bases doing the reverse fist pump countless times.  Without any sense of ego or self-awareness, you think a guy with a rep like that is going to take the bat out of his star player’s hands?  It didn’t work out well, but we should applaud the decision itself.

Game 2:

This was a much better show for the few fans in attendance (17,164).  Although he was literally crying in his press conference announcing he was leaving LA or Anaheim or wherever Art Moreno’s team plays, his introduction to his fans here in Arizona was much better than his exit from California.  A complete game, 5 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts is a pretty nice home debut I’d say.  What’s more, the day after Rodrigo Lopez pitched well enough to win, but was forced to take the loss, it was great to see a Dbacks pitcher get some run support and get the W.  Way too early to tell for sure, but if Saunders keep pitching like this, we might even see some “Dan who” signs despite all the hoopla about Haren being traded.

To be fair, it’s unrealistic to expect Saunders to throw complete games every time he’s on the bump, but if you take what he did Tuesday night and add it to what Hudson did Sunday night; maybe the last part of this season won’t be too bad for Dbacks fans after all…