Destiny in the Desert: Diamondbacks a Team Nobody Wants to Face in October
I don’t throw the word “Destiny” around very often. But the Arizona Diamondbacks might just be a team of destiny in 2011.
At the beginning of the season, nobody predicted that the Arizona Diamondbacks would be any good. In fact, most of the "experts" predicted a last-place finish in the NL West. After an 11-15 April, it appears that would be the case.
Sitting at 15-22 on May 13, the Diamondbacks began to turn it around. They won eight of their next nine, and 16 of 19. The D-backs continued to play solid baseball, and found themselves near or at the top of the NL West the rest of the way.
One problem stood in their way, and that was the defending champion San Francisco Giants. Arizona and San Fran went back and forth over the summer.
In mid-August, Arizona ran off seven straight wins, culminating in a ninth-inning comeback against Roy Halladay. However, they then lost six straight and questions began to circulate about whether Arizona was actually for real.
On August 23rd, Sean Burroughs got Arizona’s season turned around for good. He homered against the Washington Nationals, his first homer since 2005. Arizona went on to win that game 2-0 and 18 of their next 21, including nine straight. Arizona never looked back and won the NL West.
There is no doubting the talent that the Diamondbacks have. They are 10th in baseball in runs, play excellent defense, have the most improved bullpen in baseball and have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Ian Kennedy. Kennedy finished the season 21-4 with a sub-3 ERA.
The theme with the Diamondbacks this season has been winning late. They lead all of baseball with 48 come from behind wins. That is more than half of their wins.
Comeback wins are impressive, but what about large comeback wins? Arizona has a handful of comebacks of five runs or more.
They trailed the Reds 5-0 earlier this year, and won 10-8. In Houston, they trailed 6-0 and came back to win 7-6. Then, later in the season against the same Houston Astros, they trailed 7-1 and won 11-9. Two nights later, they trailed 4-0, and won 8-5. Against the Marlins, they trailed 4-0 in the 6th, and scored runs in four straight innings and won 6-5. Against the Tigers, they trailed 4-0 and won 7-6. Against Milwaukee, they trailed 6-1, and won 8-6.
You get the picture; the Diamondbacks are never out of a game.
But no game exemplified that like their 161st game of the season. Arizona is fighting with the Brewers to get that No. 2 seed and host a first-round playoff series.
Milwaukee began the day with a one-game lead, and had already won their game with three home runs from Prince Fielder.
Arizona battled all game long with the Los Angeles Dodgers, going to the 10th inning tied at 1. The Dodgers capitalized on an error and scored five runs to take a 6-1 lead. Arizona came up in the bottom of the 10th, and their first two men were quickly retired.
The third batter, Cole Gillespie reached base on what appeared to be a harmless mental error by the LA pitcher, who failed to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side. With one on, and two out, trailing by five, LA seemed to be in firm control.
Then Miguel Montero singled to center. Then Chris Young walked. Then pinch hitter John McDonald reached on a hard hit ball to third, which was ruled an error. Then Aaron Hill walked.
At this point, five straight men have reached, but LA still led 6-3 with two outs. Then, on the very first pitch to Ryan Roberts, who had previously been 0-4 on the night, hit a walk-off grand slam to left field, and Arizona completed its 48th and most unbelievable comeback of the season. Arizona kept its hope for home field in the first round alive with the win.
So who are these guys?
Sean Burroughs was out of baseball for five years.
Lyle Overbay was sitting at home midseason, cut by the Pirates.
Ryan Roberts made the team only because Geoff Blum began the season on the disabled list.
Paul Goldschmidt spent the year tearing up AA pitching, socking 30 homers.
Miguel Montero is the best catcher nobody has heard of, hitting over .280 with 18 homers, 86 RBI and leads all catchers in doubles. And oh yeah, leads all catchers in throwing out potential base stealers.
Gerardo Parra is one of the best outfielders in the game, with possibly the best arm in all of baseball. His .295 batting average in nearly 140 games doesn’t hurt either.
Aaron Hill and John McDonald were late-season acquisitions, brought over from Toronto for Kelly Johnson.
Willie Bloomquist is the ultimate team guy, who got a lot more playing time than expected when everyday shortstop Stephen Drew was lost for the season with an ankle injury.
David Hernandez is one of the best setup men in all of baseball, and he was acquired for slugger Mark Reynolds during the offseason.
The Arizona Diamondbacks lost 97 games last season, and 92 the year before that. They will finish this season, however, with no less than 94 wins. Arizona has received almost no national attention all season, and heading into the postseason, appear to be the underdogs again.
Whether or not they host a first-round playoff series, or travel on the road to face the Phillies, they will give any team everything they can handle.
“Destiny in the Desert” was a title given to Arizona’s ’01 championship team, and it appears that 10 years later, that team from Arizona might just be "destined" for greatness once again.
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