Commentary

Failed opportunities and a hot Rockies team doomed D-backs

Originally Published: October 15, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

DENVER -- When it came time to actually win a ballgame, what happened to the Diamondbacks was what had befallen them all series: poor timing at the plate and an inability to overcome a ridiculously hot Rockies team.

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And that is how the 2007 season ended for Arizona; a frustrating lack of not coming through when needed most, after its 6-4 loss to Colorado in Game 4 of the National League Championship series on Monday night. The Rockies completed the sweep and made the NL West division winner look far inferior to their lethal combination of clutch hitting, happy bounces and stellar pitching.

"It's really a remarkable run these guys made," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said of the Rockies. "They haven't lost in a month. They're on quite a confidence roll."

So too were the Diamondbacks, after completing a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the first round. But they went 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position during the NLCS, and finished 8-for-58 in that category during the playoffs. They were held to just eight runs, the fewest amount scored in a NLCS of at least four games since the Pirates were held to 12 in the 1991 series against the Braves.

"We were in every game, we had great pitching the entire series," said catcher Chris Snyder. "A couple of hops here and there you never know what happens."

The doubters were there all year. What team could be outscored, 732-712, during the regular season and still win 90 games to win its division title? What team could not have one .300 hitter on its roster during the regular season and then sweep the Cubs in the first round? What team could still win despite one of its best hitters and defenders (second baseman Orlando Hudson) out for the season after ligament surgery in early September?

"There was too much of the young team that can't hold its own on a stage like this," Snyder said. "The young team that was inexperienced and can't hit with runners in scoring position.

"We thrive off of that when we hear that stuff. We keep grinding and we keep fighting. ... Nobody expected us to be here. They expected us to be out of it at the All-Star break. By no means did we do that."

Chris Young
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesThe Diamondbacks are the first team to get swept in the NLCS since 1995.
They did not, but they also couldn't catch a break. Even though they were in every game in the NLCS, they only had the lead in just two of the 38 innings. The team's pitching staff went 0-4 despite having a 3.00 ERA during the series, and the D-backs outhit the Rockies, .254 to .222, only not when it counted.

"We definitely had our doubters this year," third baseman Mark Reynolds said. "It's been a microcosm of this whole series: We haven't been able to get the big hit when it counts. We had our chances, every game we weren't out of every game, I left a small village on bases tonight myself.

"You can't win in the postseason without clutch hits and we didn't do that by any stretch of the imagination."

Yet the team with 90 wins and that swept the Cubs in three games could not build on its momentum. Colorado had too much of that and helped give Arizona the distinction of being the first NL team to get swept after sweeping a series since the 1995 Reds. Melvin said that his team lost together, and too much focus was put on its woeful numbers.

"It's something to write about," Melvin said. "Our offensive numbers weren't unbelievable as a whole. But there were two teams left in the National League and we were one of them."

In fairness, the Diamondbacks staged their last rally of the season, still trying to prove to the end that they would not roll over.

Down 6-1 in the eighth inning, Stephen Drew led off with a single and one out later, Conor Jackson singled to center. Snyder then crushed a pitch to left field, just hugging the foul pole for a three-run homer. It suddenly was a two-run game. Right fielder Justin Upton then tripled to center field.

You can't win in the postseason without clutch hits and we didn't do that by any stretch of the imagination.

--Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds

That knocked former Rockies closer Brian Fuentes out of the game for Manny Corpas, Colorado's current closer. Tony Clark then pinch hit for Jeff Cirillo and drew a full count before Corpas threw a 76-mph slider to retire him on a swinging strike three.

In the ninth inning, Chris Young hit a one-out double but was stranded there after after Drew popped up to second base and Eric Byrnes grounded out to shortstop to end the game.

It was the last time a Diamondbacks player was in scoring position this season, and the final time that player failed to be driven home. Perhaps that is what will stay with the D-backs throughout the winter and into the early spring, until it's time again to start anew. And you can be sure that higher expectations will be ready to greet Arizona next season.

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

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