Commentary

Daunting task awaits Diamondbacks

Originally Published: October 13, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

PHOENIX -- For nearly all summer and early autumn, the Diamondbacks maintained an improbable run in which they won their division and defied nearly all statistical odds.

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Now more than ever, the numbers are clearly not in the D-backs' favor after the Colorado Rockies continued their assault on any team in their path, winning 3-2 on Friday night for a 2-0 series lead in the National League Championship Series.

Now, both teams head to chilly Denver to play Sunday night in front of what likely will be a raucous crowd cheering on a home team that never seems to lose, with 19 wins in its past 20 games. What's even worse: Since the LCS went to a seven-game format, no team has come back to win a series after losing the first two games at home.

Even some of the Diamondbacks players themselves, who had to battle until the final weekend of the season to win the NL West, were wondering how they will respond.

"We'll wait and see, our group will determine whether or not it's difficult," said Tony Clark, D-backs first baseman and veteran leader.

It sure should be, since the forecast at Coors Field on Sunday night is for rain and temperature in the 40s. And not only will Arizona have to contend with the climate, it will also have to head into a place where it went 4-5 this season and where the Rockies had the second-best home record in the NL at 51-31.

"It's going to be loud," said Friday night's starter Doug Davis. "They were loud when we were there the last three games [the teams played in the regular season]. It's not going to be easy; it hasn't been all year. We're going to go in there and give it our best shot."

Only two teams in the NL had a lower batting average at Coors Field this year than the Diamondbacks did. And of all NL West teams, the D-backs hit the fewest home runs (four) in Denver. The lone bright spot? The one Rockies loss in the past three weeks was to Arizona, at Coors Field on Sept. 28, the last weekend of the regular season.

But there's still the pesky problem of Arizona's offense; it was much maligned this entire year for its statistical ineptitude, and this series has put an exclamation point to its woes. The D-backs must figure out a way to drive in runs, having stranded 17 runners in the first two games of this series.

Bob Melvin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireDiamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, left, is searching for the right formula to get his team on track in the NLCS.
"You know what? We've come back from difficult circumstances this year," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's two games. The team has to win four before it's over. We'll go into Colorado and focus on winning one."

Which is exactly what Clark said would need to happen for the D-backs to have a chance of salvaging the series.

"We've got to win one, not two, three or four," said Clark, who clearly was suffering from a nasty head cold. "It's when you throw in the towel when those breaks don't happen."

It might seem impossible, but second baseman Orlando Hudson said his team was in a similar situation earlier this season, albeit in the regular season, when it lost eight of nine games heading into the All-Star break.

"We've been down before," said Hudson, who is out for the season after undergoing ligament surgery in his left thumb and has become a de facto cheerleader. "There was a time this season when we couldn't string together the big hit, we couldn't string together the big run and nothing was going right for us offensively.

"We bounced back, and now we're in the second round of the playoffs."

They might not be for long, though, unless some Rockies magic can rub off on them.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

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